IX AT 50: KMBC’s Kornacki breaks barriers as first woman in Chiefs, Royals locker rooms

“Women are strong. Women are wonderful. We have a lot to offer and a perspective to give that people like in sports.”
13 NEWS at 10 p.m.
Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 5:21 PM CDT
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June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law, prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Title IX has largely been considered the springboard for high school and collegiate women’s sports to get where they are today — but the fight for equality is far from over. Every Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. leading up to the 50th anniversary of the law’s passing, 13 Sports will honor the women who changed the game for girls’ and women’s sports in Kansas.

“IX at 50: The Trailblazers of Women’s Sports in Kansas”

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WIBW) - The post-game locker room interview is a staple of sports reporting — but when Karen Kornacki started her career, it was a space reserved only for men.

“There was a time when the locker room was a crass, gross place that women did not wanna be part of. Now it’s not like that at all. Not in any way, shape or form,” Kornacki said. “And locally, I feel like I helped that change.”

It started in her first TV market in Columbus, Ohio.

“They were looking specifically for a woman sports reporter,” she said. “It just so happened the climate was that a woman was thrown out of the locker room with the New York Yankees. They thought it would be a novel idea to hire a woman in sports.”

Kornacki flourished in the role, using two key principles to guide her:

“First of all, to be yourself,” she said. “Second of all, to treat people with respect.”

That mantra, paired with her talent as a broadcaster, took her to groundbreaking milestones.

“I was the first woman in the Bengals locker room,” she said. “I was the first woman in the Cleveland Browns locker room. I was the first woman in Cincinnati Reds locker room, in the Royals and the Chiefs.”

Kornacki came to KMBC9 in Kansas City in 1983.

Years later, she did a story on women in the locker room.

“I had to ask guys about me here, the Chiefs, the Royals, and one thing George Brett said to me, he said, ‘Karen, I’ve always appreciated the way you handled the locker room and treated everyone with respect. So everyone gave you respect,’” she remembered.

It wasn’t just athletes. Kornacki often had to prove herself among her male colleagues.

“I was judged within the first six seconds of the question whether I knew what I was talking about, whether I would be taken seriously,” she said.

Today, it’s commonplace: wherever male reporters are granted access, women are welcome too.

“It’s just so common now, which is what I wanted. I never wanted to be told I was a great sportscaster for a woman. I just wanted to be told I did a good job,” Kornacki said. “Women are strong. Women are wonderful. We have a lot to offer and a perspective to give that people like in sports.”

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