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A "Let Them Wear Towels" tale from the Kingdome

Posted Jul 16, 2013

ESPN is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX with a Nine for IX documentary series. Today’s installment, “Let Them Wear Towels,” chronicles the trials and tribulations of those pioneers who were the first women to enter the ultimate man’s world – the locker rooms of professional sports teams.

It was a "Monday Night Football" game at the Kingdome on Oct. 1, 1990. The Seahawks had dispatched the Cincinnati Bengals 31-16 as running back Derrick Fenner scored three touchdowns and cornerback Patrick Hunter had eight solo tackles and a fumble recovery.

Noteworthy, to a point, in a season where the Seahawks would finish 9-7 – posting their last winning record until 1999.

It was what happened after the game that made national headlines. Denise Tom was covering the game for USA Today, but Bengals coach Sam Wyche would not allow her to enter the locker room. The fallout from the haven’t-we-moved-past-this gesture went viral, long before the term had been coined in this era of Twitter and Facebook.

The next morning, I got calls from Good Morning America and The Today Show. Why? Because my name is Clare, and the producers of the national TV shows wanted to fly me to New York – first class, no less – so I could be interviewed on what it was like to be a woman covering an NFL team.

Before I could decline the offer, my voice beat me to it. That’s when the voices on the other end of the phone slipped into beyond-apologetic mode.

Why is this relevant in 2013? ESPN is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX with a Nine for IX documentary series. Today’s installment – which airs at 5 p.m. PT – is “Let Them Wear Towels,” and chronicles the trials and tribulations of those pioneers who were the first women to enter the ultimate man’s world – the locker rooms of professional sports teams.

ESPN.com has a preview of the documentary in this article by Robin Herman, the first female sports writer at the New York Times who covered the NHL. Her story began in the 1970s, which made Wyche’s actions in 1990 all the more unbelievable.

But that Monday night tale from the Kingdome – and my unwitting role in it – only plays to the need to celebrate Title IX.

Game Rewind: Seattle Seahawks