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TV Sports Anchors Wary Of Changing Post-Game Access To Bengals

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Mark Heyne
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WVXU News

TV stations which loved the web traffic for the naked Bengals locker room video would hate losing unrestricted access to players immediately after games.

WCPO-TV’s John Popovich, WLWT-TV’s George Vogel, WXIX-TV’s Joe Danneman and Bengals announcer Dan Hoard do appreciate the concerns of Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth, who doesn’t like having media in the locker room while players shower and dress. He said the NFL’s policy “is dated, it’s old, and it needs to change.”

But local sports broadcasters are wary of any limitations or changes after the NFL’s own network crew positioned a camera to show naked men in the background while interviewing Bengals for the NFL Network Sunday.

Here’s what they say on:

POST-GAME LOCKER ROOM ACCESS

JOE DANNEMAN: “What makes a good postgame interview is the raw emotion of a huge win or a crushing loss. If a player has time to undress, shower, re-dress and compose himself, I'm afraid it’ll give them time to script answers, lose emotion and sanitize what they want to say. Good emotion makes good TV. A new policy might neuter good emotion.”

GEORGE VOGEL: “We do need the access and the ability to get to the players we need to talk with… I would hate to lose the access, and I think Andrew understands we need it. Another concern is practice day, when we hang in the locker room and talk with whoever happens to be sitting at their locker.”

(In addition to postgame access, the NFL provides access on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for at least 45 minutes.)

JOHN POPOVICH: “I like the system the way it is today and how it’s been for years.… I’ve always thought it’s helpful to get into the locker room as soon as possible after the game in order to get the best reactions to what happened.  I’m not sure I believe that anymore. I can see that quite a few guys are uncomfortable with being surrounded by reporters and photographers. Some might actually be better subjects if they had a chance to get dressed and answer question without a towel wrapped around their waist.”

DOING POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCES WITH PLAYERS, OR INTERVIEWS IN ANOTHER ROOM?

POPOVICH: “I wouldn’t want everyone to be brought up to a table for a news conference-like setting. That also scares a lot of athletes. If possible, I’d just like to have them brought into a separate room where they can be interviewed for a few minutes.”

DAN HOARD: “I would hate to lose locker room access. Podium interviews tend to be stilted and are almost never as good as locker room interviews. Additionally, I'm selfish and don't like to share my story ideas with every other person in the room. I like to do one-on-one interviews as much as possible."

DANNEMAN: “I’m fine with the idea to deny reporters and cameras access to the locker rooms, but the only way it works is if players fully cooperate. The idea of doing these interviews in a side room or hallway works only if all requested players are made to appear in agreed upon areas….

"On the college level, we’ll request players and those players won't always be made available (for postgame interviews outside the locker room). That can be quite frustrating…  I like what the NCAA tournament does. A 10-minute cool down period after the game and then open locker room. But they cap the amount of time we're allowed in the room at 30 minutes. So, every player is in the room, they stay dressed, they answer the questions and when 30 minutes is up and we leave, they are free to undress and change. I could see a scenario where something similar works in the NFL. However, that would lengthen the amount of time players would have to stay inside the locker room. So, it becomes this debate: What's more valuable, your time or your privacy?

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

DANNEMAN: “It’s Sports TV 101. All interviews are done at lockers with only lockers behind them and interviews are shot tight (shoulders, neck, head only). That’ll always prevent nudity from showing up in any shot.”

VOGEL: “I’m wondering if the guy who shot for the NFL Network was a freelance guy shooting in a locker room for the first time. Making sure the background in a locker room is G-rated is one of the first things photographers learn in there.  That is the reason you see almost all of our local interviews conducted with the locker in the background.  I would much rather show someone’s bottle of baby powder instead of showing the place where they might apply it! Yikes!”

POPOVICH: “When you’re shooting athletes in their home clubhouse, it’s easy to shoot them with their backs to the locker.  There’s a lot more room. But in the tiny confines of a visiting locker room, it becomes a lot more difficult.  Sometimes your only angle is within the view of other lockers. So you know, this is something I’ve had to mention to photographers over the years. When we used to do lengthy packages on ‘Sports of All Sorts,’ I’d occasionally get a call from women who told me they saw an athlete’s bare butt.  That goes back to the ’80s. WE never saw it on the air, but THEY spotted it in a hurry.  They weren’t complaining, usually they were laughing."

VOGEL: “Sam Wyche (1984-91) resorted to a screen at the end of the locker room by the showers, and guys could wear towels, robes, whatever, and get undressed behind the screen. It wasn’t a bad solution at the time.”

DOING YOUR JOB WHILE ATHLETES WALK AROUND NAKED

POPOVICH: “I appreciate the comments of Andrew Whitworth. I wouldn’t want to get dressed with a lot of reporters hanging around… Whitworth makes a great point. If we were talking about women, it would be a firestorm."

DANNEMAN: “I understand where Andrew Whitworth is coming from. It’s awkward for us as well to be in a room with so much nudity, but you ignore it and do your job. I'm open to listening to solutions and am willing to cooperate and compromise, but we would need players on board to make it work.”

VOGEL: “I’ve been sympathetic to the players over this for quite some time.”

HOARD: “Hopefully, ‘Butt-gate’ will die down quickly. I think it's highly unlikely that the NFL would change its policy. The league wants as much coverage and publicity as it can possibly get.”