Everything about Sunday’s 50th anniversary of the Ice Bowl is positive and nostalgic and worthy of fond memories. Everything except one intriguing wrinkle, as explained by Paul Scrubas of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The game included the NFL successfully excluding a female reporter from the sidelines.
While it was apparently a coincidence that the refusal of access happened in connection with a game known for its sub-zero conditions, the full story of the Ice Bowl can’t be told without sharing the experience of Carolyn Stewart Dyer. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ensures equality in the workplace for characteristics including gender and race, the team and the league refused to grant her a pass.
She pressed then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle for an explanation during a press conference. Rozelle said the league didn’t want to put women in harm’s way. So Dyer and a colleague picketed at the league’s temporary headquarters for what was then the NFL Championship game. “NFL SIDELINES WOMEN!” the signs declared. “UNFAIR!”
She later wrote a column about it, but she opted to apply a lighter tone.
“Appearing really angry would not have served my everyday work,” Dyer told Scrubas. “I was really annoyed. I think it’s funny now, but it was a serious employment issue.”
Indeed it was. She filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She said that the complaint was dismissed on technical grounds, and at that point she let it go.
The story shows how much things have changed in the last 50 years. Still, it’s an unfortunate historical footnote for a football league that traditionally has a reputation for embracing change reluctantly.
And, yes, I made it through this entire item without making a pun about the league freezing her out of the Ice Bowl. You’re welcome.