Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche doesn't think he did anything wrong when he barred a woman reporter from his locker room - even if the NFL does.
"I did everything I could to make sure that her rights weren't violated. The policy was not violated in this instance," Wyche said Tuesday of the incident involving Denise Tom of USA Today.Tom was barred from the Bengals' locker room following Monday night's 31-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks because, as Wyche explained, "I will not allow women to walk in on 50 naked men."
Instead, Wyche asked Tom whom she wanted to interview and she said quarterback Boomer Esiason. Wyche sent Esiason out to talk to Tom in the hallway outside the locker room.
Defending his action, Wyche said Tuesday:
"I don't think after last night that young lady has a complaint. I went out personally and made sure that she had every courtesy. I assumed she wanted to talk to me, but she said, `No, I just wanted to talk to Boomer.' She asked a question or two and she said, `I've got to go.'
"She went upstairs, and let's be honest, she reported the story that she wanted reported. She wasn't after anything with Boomer Esiason."
The NFL on Tuesday said Wyche will be heavily fined for barring Tom from the Bengals' locker room.
"It's a clear violation of a warning he received from Pete Rozelle two years ago and from me last year about such things," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said.
"If he wants to make a stand on the issue, he can make a stand on the issue. He will be fined very heavily for it. If he wants to quit, he can quit, because he has been warned twice already."
Wyche, known for often losing his temper after losses, was fined $3,000 by the NFL last season for barring all reporters from the locker room after a 24-17 loss to Seattle.
Tagliabue, commenting before Wyche made his statements, said he thought Wyche's actions Monday were "a product of emotion. Sam doesn't like to lose; none of our coaches do."
Gene Policinski, managing editor for sports at USA Today, said the newspaper protested Tom's treatment in a letter to Tagliabue and asked for written assurances that Wyche and the Bengals would never again attempt to restrict equal access. The paper also asked the league to "double its efforts" to assure that locker rooms are open to all reporters.
Wyche said he didn't think it was fair to his team to let Tom in the locker room.
"Last week we had a situation where a lady claiming to be a reporter came in and she was not a reporter," he said. "She just walked in and the players commented about it.
"I asked our ballclub. `How do you want to handle this? It's not fair to you to know that you can walk out of a shower naked and your wife can't come in.' That's our society. We don't take showers together, we don't walk around naked together," Wyche said.
"I don't think it's decent. I don't think it's right. You've got 50-odd naked men coming in and out of the shower. You would be offended if I stood here naked now."