MEXICO CITY — The Mexican sports reporter who's at the center of a sexual harassment scandal with the National Football League says those who promoted her case are setting back the cause of equal treatment for women.
Ines Sainz, the 33-year-old reporter for the TV Azteca network, also said she was taken aback by how the media focus has turned to her wardrobe and appearance.
"I was really surprised when they start to criticize me and my image and everything, and I said, 'C'mon, it's not the first time you've seen an attractive woman doing her job,' " she said in an interview with McClatchy.
Sainz offered her thoughts about the case, which she said had made her "the most popular journalist right now in Mexico and Latin America."
She spoke from the office of her production company after a whirlwind 10 days of television appearances and interviews to discuss accusations that she was the subject of sexually charged comments and behavior while she was covering the New York Jets on the practice field and in the locker room.
A law school graduate, Sainz might seem perfectly cast to press the issue of equal rights. Instead, she's turned against fellow female sports reporters who took the matter to the NFL. In a column Saturday in Mexico City's El Universal newspaper titled "My Sept. 11 in NY," Sainz wrote that her colleagues "have turned back at least 50 years" in seeking equal rights for women.
She voiced annoyance that those who were coming to her defense never contacted her before complaining to the NFL.
"I really feel very disappointed because I really think that the first step they needed to do is to call me," Sainz told McClatchy. "They only want some kind of attention."
The president of the Association for Women in Sports Media, Amy Moritz, a sports reporter for The Buffalo (N.Y.) News, took issue with Sainz's assertion that the group didn't try to communicate with her.
"On our part, AWSM made numerous attempts to get in touch with Ines Sainz in a variety of ways, but we never received a response," Moritz said in an e-mail.
Sainz is one of Mexico's most experienced sports reporters, and her TV network has sent her around the world. She's interviewed some of the biggest names in sports, including tennis stars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Kobe Bryant in basketball and baseball's Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
She entered the New York Jets locker room after a game to interview quarterback Mark Sanchez, a Mexican-American, and later Tweeted that she was "dying of embarrassment" because some players had whistled and hooted at her.
The Association for Women in Sports Media lodged a complaint with the NFL, which last Friday reaffirmed an equal-access policy to locker rooms for female reporters, in effect since 1985, and announced a training program for all 32 NFL teams on respectful and professional treatment of female journalists.
When the scandal erupted, Sainz was in New York City with her husband, Hector Perez Rojano, the owner of a television production company. She appeared on a flurry of U.S. television news shows.
How many? "I can't even count," she said. "On one day, I was on 22 shows. The next day, I was on 10."
Sainz said her post-game entry into the Jets' locker room was only the fourth time she'd gone into a men's locker room for an interview.
"It's not my favorite place," she said. "It's a private place. . . . Believe me, I don't want to go back."
She said she'd be happy if post-game interviews were limited to "mixed zone" areas outside locker rooms where journalists can mingle with players.
Sainz, who has a 6-year-old daughter and twin year-old sons, said she wouldn't change what she wore for her interviews, and that TV Azteca supported her.
"I choose my clothes. It depends on my audience," she said.
A former model, Sainz often wears tight-fitting attire, and for her website, www.inessainz.com.mx, she's chosen photos of herself in a bikini. FHM men's magazine listed Sainz last year as one of the "five sexiest sports reporters in the world."
Sainz wears the attribute with ease. In fact, her tight jeans and low-cut blouses are tame by the standards of many television broadcasts in Latin America, where former models often appear as journalists to boost ratings.
If the Sainz incident is as much of a culture clash as it is an equal rights issue, American sports leagues may find more such obstacles as they seek to expand overseas.
The National Basketball Association has a strong presence in Asia and Europe, and the National Hockey League is opening its season in Europe for the fourth year in a row, sending a record six teams to play in Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.
A regular-season NFL game in Mexico City in 2005 drew more than 103,000 fans, and this year the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers will play a regular-season game Oct. 31 in London's Wembley Stadium.
Sainz said she was glad that the dust-up with the NFL was dying down.
"For me, it's enough," she said. "I really don't want trouble with the NFL."
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