NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced yesterday that he will appoint a special counsel to investigate the Sept. 17 harassment of a woman reporter for the Boston Herald in the New England Patriots locker room.
Lisa Olson, the reporter who said she was sexually harassed by several Patriots players as she tried to interview another player, said of Tagliabue's action: "I have no doubt he's going to do the right thing when the Patriots did not do the right thing."
Patriots owner Victor Kiam, who was quoted by at least two reporters as calling Olson a "classic bitch," and then denied it, said his team would cooperate fully. Tagliabue's action came three days after Patriots General Manager Patrick Sullivan said the club had closed its investigation by fining a player identified by the media as tight end Zeke Mowatt $2,000. Mowatt makes $630,000 a year.
Olson said she and Tagliabue spoke for an hour on the telephone Wednesday, but she said they agreed not to discuss their conversation in public.
"As part of my review of the Sept. 17 Patriots locker room incident and subsequent events, a special counsel will be retained by this office to conduct a thorough investigation of the matter," Tagliabue said in a statement. "This special counsel will interview all parties involved, including Patriots players and club officials."
Tagliabue has not yet named the special counsel.
The commissioner also sent a message to all 28 teams that the league policies of equal access and treatment of all accredited media "will continue to be vigorously enforced and that no violations of this policy will be tolerated by this office."
Olson said Mowatt stood close to her, exposed himself and made lewd remarks. She said several other players she could not identify made similar comments. She said she hoped the issue would be solved without fanfare, but the story broke in the Boston Globe a few days later.
"I'm exhausted, I'm not eating, I can't sleep, but I'm not going to stop talking about it," Olson said. "This is wrong and we don't want it to happen again."
Olson said she is considering legal action against the players.
Last Saturday, five days after the incident, Kiam said in an interview with the Herald: "I can't disagree with the players' actions. Your paper's asking for trouble sending a female reporter to cover the team. Why not stand in front of her if she's an intruder?"
Kiam faxed an apology to Olson, she said, but she refused to accept it.
"He's a joke, obviously," she said on CBS's "This Morning."
In a written statement yesterday, Kiam said, "We look forward to the opportunity to present the facts as we know them to the independent investigator. I repeat my apology to the reporter, Lisa Olson, and regret any remarks which I made which may have been misconstrued as having condoned the locker room actions. I am truly sorry that any offensive incident occurred. We have a wonderful team and organization comprised of many outstanding individuals."
Said Olson: "I don't believe him. He is making up all kinds of lies."