As National Football League officials yesterday reviewed Cincinnati Bengals Coach Sam Wyche's decision to bar a female reporter from the team's locker room following its game Monday night, Wyche said his players will remain in uniform for 20 minutes after this Sunday's game, and then the locker room will be closed until the players have changed clothes.
An NFL spokesman expressed reservations about such an arrangement, but said league officials have not conferred with Bengals officials about whether it satisfies the league's policy regarding the media's access to players and coaches after games.
Denise Tom of USA Today was prevented from entering Cincinnati's locker room in Seattle Monday night even though male reporters were admitted. League spokesman Greg Aiello said Commissioner Paul Tagliabue likely would resolve the matter by the end of the week.
Tagliabue indicated Tuesday that Wyche will be "very heavily fined" for the incident, which occurred hours after Tagliabue named Harvard Law School professor Philip Heymann as special counsel to investigate Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson's allegations of sexual harassment by several New England Patriots players and the club's handling of her complaint.
Heymann, who is being assisted by several members of a Boston law firm, met with Olson for 6 1/2 hours Tuesday to discuss the incident.
Ironically, Wyche said the directive that Tagliabue issued after Olson's allegations became public helped set the stage for Monday night's incident.
"We got a letter from the commissioner in light of what happened in New England that said everyone had to have equal access," Wyche said during a conference call from Renton, Wash., where the Bengals are practicing this week. "After we got this letter, I went to our players and said, 'What do you want to do?' "
Wyche, who has said he opposes women being allowed in the locker room, also has cited several players' complaints about the presence of a female who he said was not a reporter in Cincinnati's locker room after its game Sept. 23 as a reason why he discussed the issue.
He said four solutions were discussed including a partition beyond which no reporter could go; keeping the players on the field to do interviews; or barring female reporters from the locker room, but making available any players they wanted. He said the configuration of the locker room at the Kingdome made a partition impractical. He also said the players chose barring female reporters from the locker room. Staff writer Christine Brennan contributed to this report.