A special counsel for the National Football League will investigate a locker room incident in which several New England Patriots players allegedly sexually harassed a reporter, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said.
Patriots owner Victor Kiam said Thursday the team would cooperate fully with the independent counsel, who will be appointed by the league.The action came three days after Patriots general manager Patrick Sullivan said the club had concluded its investigation by fining an unidentified player an undisclosed amount.
The reporter, Lisa Olson of the Boston Herald, said she was harassed as she sat on a bench interviewing defensive back Maurice Hurst on Sept. 17, a practice day.
She said tight end Zeke Mowatt stood close to her, exposed himself and made lewd remarks. She said several other players whom she couldn't identify made similar comments. Reports indicated Mowatt was the player fined, and the amount was $2,000. The Herald said five players were involved.
Earlier, Tagliabue ordered Mowatt to report to the NFL office in New York by today. The commissioner may suspend, fine or reprimand the player next week after meeting with him, NFL spokesman Joe Browne said Wednesday.
Tagliabue said he sent a message to all NFL teams reiterating that "the longstanding league policies regarding 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."
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," he said.
After Sunday's 41-7 loss in Cincinnati, Kiam called Olson "a classic bitch," according to at least two reporters standing near him in the Patriots' locker room.
In a written statement Thursday, 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."
Condemnation of the incident and of Kiam's remarks came from several sources Thursday.
The Associated Press Sports Editors, an organization representing newspapers, wrote to Tagliabue urging that "appropriate action" be taken.
The National Organization for Women condemned the players' behavior as "intolerable and illegal" and called for them to issue "a formal and substantive apology."