Documentary film recaps the public fight for equal access for female sports reporters to the inner sanctum of the men’s locker room
ESPN Films and espnW will air the documentary Let Them Wear Towels, co-directed by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern, on Tuesday, July 16, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. This will be the third film to air in the Nine for IX series, currently broadcast every Tuesday night through July and August.
Let Them Wear Towels examines the obstacles that faced women sports journalists as they fought to break in to the “boys club” of the professional sports locker room. Lisa Olson was just trying to do her job as a reporter for the Boston Herald in 1990 when a group of New England Patriot players sexually harassed her in their locker room by exposing their genitals and making lewd and vulgar comments. Even though a subsequent NFL investigation concluded that Olson had been “degraded and humiliated,” the 25-year-old continued to be tormented by Patriot fans — so much so that she temporarily moved to Australia to resume her career.
The incident touched off a national debate about the presence of female journalists in the male sanctum of the clubhouse. That debate should have been settled 12 years earlier, when Melissa Ludtke of Sports Illustrated successfully challenged Major League Baseball after she was kept out of the New York Yankees’ locker room.
Why has equal access for women reporters remained such a hot-button issue? That question is asked in Let Them Wear Towels,” a history and examination of females working in the man’s world of the locker room. Through interviews with such pioneer women as Ludtke, Claire Smith, Lesley Visser and Christine Brennan, you’ll hear stories of raw behavior, retaliation, angry lawsuits and remarkable resolve.
Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg are critically acclaimed producers and directors known for crafting deft and cinematic journeys through unexpected territory. Each film tracks new landscape—from the brotherhood behind baseball’s most fickle, to criminal injustice in the American South, to Darfur, to stand-up comedy and celebrity culture; but all are centered on unforgettable people and dynamic personal journeys.
The remaining films in the Nine for IX series on ESPN will air 8 p.m. ET as follows (Digital screeners available upon request):
July 16: Let Them Wear Towels
July 23: No Limits
July 30: Swoopes
August 6: The Diplomat
August 13: Runner
August 20: The ‘99ers
August 27: Branded
Films that have already aired in the series are Venus Vs. and Pat XO. All Nine for IX films will be available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon the day following air. A collectible DVD gift set with all films will also be available on October 15, 2013.
Follow the Nine for IX series on twitter at @30for30 and @espnW. Fans can join the conversation with the hashtag #LetThemWearTowels
About Nine for IX
ESPN Films and espnW present Nine for IX, executive produced by Robin Roberts and Jane Rosenthal, featuring nine documentary films about women in sports directed by Oscar-nominated, Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning female filmmakers. Inspired by the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the series will air over nine consecutive Tuesdays on ESPN at 8 PM ET beginning July 2, 2013. Stories include Venus Williams fight for equal pay at Wimbledon, the largely unknown history of Katarina Witt and her link with East Germany’s secret police, an intimate look at Pat Summitt—college sports’ most successful coach ever, and the business of sex in the marketing of female athletes. For more information and summaries visit: Nine for IX Media Kit