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Trailblazing sportswriter Jane Gross died Wednesday at age 75


Jane Gross followed in her father's footsteps when she became a sportswriter - right up to the locker room door.


Gross was covering the New York Knicks in 1975 when she became the first female reporter to get access to the locker room of a pro basketball team. Female reporters usually had to wait in the hall.

ILIANA LIMON ROMERO: Having access to the locker room is a big deal because that's where the real stories are told. Women who were left outside the locker room typically just had to catch someone as they were walking toward a bus or a car. And you would get very dismissive, quick answers and none of the insight that people tend to share when they have more time.

KELLY: That's Iliana Limon Romero, sports editor at the LA Times and president of the Association of Women in Sports Media. But being first had a downside. Throughout Gross' career, male athletes harassed her. She had to endure sexist phone calls, voicemails, emails.

LIMON ROMERO: She had a bucket of ice water thrown on her. She had spaghetti and meatballs poured on her head.

CHANG: But Gross' efforts to increase women's access to players inspired a whole generation, says Limon Romero.

LIMON ROMERO: I really feel like I stand on the shoulders of Jane Gross and so many other women who were of her era. I don't think my job is possible without her. I am the first woman to serve as a sports editor at the Los Angeles Times.

CHANG: Gross spent most of her career at The New York Times, where she wrote about subjects ranging from the AIDS crisis to abortion to Alzheimer's disease. When her mother's health began to fail, Gross pivoted to report on aging. She wrote about the difficulties of navigating the financial realities of end-of-life care and the emotional aspects of caring for a dying parent.

KELLY: Back in 2012, Gross talked with NPR about how her mother's slow decline in health changed their relationship.


JANE GROSS: I had a very difficult relationship with my mother, which - because of how long this lasted and because of how hard both of us worked at the relational part of it, we had a completely different relationship by the time she died. And it's those memories and sort of that mother that I take away with me.

KELLY: Here's her advice for anyone going through a similar experience.


GROSS: Be the son. Be the daughter. Get as much out of the time as you can. Give them as much pleasure. Give yourself as much opportunity to store up good memories because it's going to end the same way regardless.

CHANG: Jane Gross died on Wednesday at the age of 75. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kai McNamee
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.