MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Women sportscasters are heartened by the jury verdict this week that awarded their colleague Erin Andrews $55 million. Andrews was secretly videotaped naked by a stalker through the peephole in her hotel room door. Both the stalker and the hotel owner were found liable. The case highlights the security risks that are especially pronounced for women TV journalists covering sports. Among them, our next guest, Laura Okmin. She's a sideline reporter for the NFL on Fox Sports.
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LAURA OKMIN: It was actually four lead changes, three ties, six sacks to add to that. I know how...
BLOCK: Laura Okmin, welcome to the program.
OKMIN: Thank you, Melissa. Thank you so much for having me.
BLOCK: And first we need to give a tip of the hat to Sports Illustrated and a story by Richard Deitsch, which caught our eye. And it detailed the lengths that women sportscasters, like yourself, are going to try to protect their security on the road. One woman said she actually travels with Band-Aids to put over hotel door peepholes. Do you do the same thing?
OKMIN: No, and to be honest, I read that and went, oh, I had never thought about that and went wow, that's a pretty good idea. But before Erin, I had never thought about a peephole, period. And I'm guessing most women who travel, period, would say the same thing.
BLOCK: What are some of the protective measures that you do take when you're traveling to games?
OKMIN: It can be as simple as when I walk into an elevator, I never open the envelope that holds the card so anybody can look into it and see what room number I am. I'm very aware of making sure that I feel as protected as I can. One time I was in the elevator, someone walked in real close before it was shutting and kind of jumped in with me and didn't press a button and said, hello, Laura Okmin. And it could be as simple as just somebody who happened to recognize me and was going to the same floor, but I think my antenna was raised enough to just stand there. And then when I walked out, he walked out. I walked back in, and I went downstairs to the lobby and I switched my room.
BLOCK: You mention that these are security concerns that affect potentially any woman, not just a woman in journalism or a woman in TV journalism...
BLOCK: ...In particular. But I do wonder, given the intensity of male fandom in sports and a certain level of vitriol that accompanies that from time to time, whether that makes you especially at risk.
OKMIN: I don't know if I would say at risk. I would say where I do feel that, though - and I've talked to enough of my female peers to know that we all feel this - is when you're on a court, when you're on a field, it amazes me the things that men will yell at you. I used to just have one IFB, the earpiece, in one ear so I could hear the telecast going on. I now get two. Part of that's 'cause it's loud at a stadium and I want to hear better, but also a big part of it is to tune that out. And it gets ugly.
And I will say lately, more than, you know, 15 years ago, the ugliness and the venom that I hear is a lot more vulgar and is a lot scarier than it used to be. I'm always amazed the things that men will yell. And I always think, boy - and I said it a few times - you know, how would you feel if this was your mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, wife and you knew that men were yelling that kind of thing at her? - and usually that shuts them up kind of quickly.
BLOCK: Do you think the Erin Andrews lawsuit and what happened to her changes things as far as women traveling and security?
OKMIN: I hope so. And I really hope so in terms of women being more aware. I have a company that I do boot camps and workshops for young women who are going into sports, and this will be a big topic at the next boot camp. I think so many of us going into sports, you want to prove that you're one of the guys. And I think that's the younger me talking, but I know that anytime when I was younger and I didn't feel safe and I did have a stalking situation very early on in my career, I was almost embarrassed by it, Melissa, because I didn't want anyone to treat me differently. I didn't want to look like I needed extra care, extra handholding.
But I think what this does is absolutely makes women - again, who travel, period, not just sports, just who travel - think about their awareness, think about - is there any way they're vulnerable, and what can they do? What extra steps can they take to make sure that they feel safe? And even more importantly, again, not to be embarrassed or not to dismiss something by going, I don't want to look paranoid. I don't want to look high maintenance
BLOCK: So how are you going to incorporate that into your boot camp?
OKMIN: Talking about it and, to be honest, I don't know before Erin came out if I had really had a great honest conversation with any of my female peers about, hey, how do you feel on the road, safety-wise? You know, what are you doing with people who are calling at all hours? There's rules. Again, I'm very fortunate now. I travel with Fox Sports, and we have security, and I feel protected in the hotels that we travel in. But when I was a young reporter covering minor league baseball, much smaller teams, I did have some rules where I would ask our travel, please make sure every hotel, you have to go into an elevator to go up. I don't want anything that anyone can drive up to the street and get to my room. So there's things like that to make sure now, when I get the opportunity to be sitting with young women, really saying, OK, let's make a checklist of what you can do to make sure you feel safe.
BLOCK: Laura Okmin is a sideline reporter covering the NFL for Fox Sports. Laura, thanks for talking with us.
OKMIN: Thank you so much for having me, Melissa. I so appreciate it.
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