The NFL Players Association suggested yesterday that all members of the news media -- male and female -- be barred from locker rooms and separate interview areas be set up to assure privacy for players.
"NFL players should be afforded absolute privacy in their locker rooms," Gene Upshaw, NFLPA president, said in a statement from the decertified union's Washington headquarters. "They should not be expected or required to participate in media interviews unless fully clothed." Upshaw did not specify if he wants the ban to be restricted to the day of a game or to also include weekday practices.
His statement, which conflicts with the league's five-year policy of open locker rooms, follows two incidents involving female sportswriters covering NFL teams.
Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson said she was sexually harassed by New England tight end Zeke Mowatt and several other Patriots Sept. 17 as she conducted an interview in the locker room. Cincinnati Bengals Coach Sam Wyche barred USA Today's Denise Tom from entering his team's locker room after an Oct. 1 loss to Seattle. Wyche was fined a reported $30,000 by the league.
Upshaw said female reporters must have the same access to players as male reporters. As a possible solution, he suggested "a separate area, removed from the locker room, where all players would be available on an equal basis to all accredited media, male or female."
Though Upshaw's statement did not directly say all news media should be barred from locker rooms, an NFLPA official told United Press International that would be the result of a separate area for postgame interviews.
The official said some players have expressed concern to the NFLPA following the Patriots and Bengals incidents.
Comments have ranged from "those who are very concerned about the lack of dignity and privacy all the way to the players who really don't care one way or another."