Last week NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced that the league will investigate the sexual harassment of a female Boston Herald reporter in the New England Patriots locker room (SI, Oct. 1). Pats owner Victor Kiam announced that the team will cooperate fully with investigator Philip Heymann, a Harvard law professor. Given Kiam's actions throughout this episode, the NFL has reason to look closely at the owner.
After a New England practice on Sept. 17, Herald beat reporter Lisa Olson was allegedly approached in the Patriots locker room by five naked players who directed lewd gestures and comments at her. Two male reporters—Tom Archdeacon of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News and Glenn Farley of the Brockton, Mass., Enterprise—say that after New England's game in Cincinnati on Sept. 23, they overheard Kiam say of Olson, "What a classic bitch. No wonder none of the players like her."
Kiam denies having made the comment, but last week he conceded that he did say something about Olson. "What I said was, 'She sure is aggressive,' " said Kiam.
Early last week Kiam sent Olson an apology for the players' actions and later said, "I repeat my apology...and regret any remarks which I made which may have been misconstrued as having condoned the locker room actions." The "misconstrued" remarks, which Kiam made to the Herald on Sept. 22, were, "I can't disagree with the players' actions. Your paper is asking for trouble by sending a female reporter to cover the team."
The NFL announced its own investigation after New England's pitiful probe resulted in one player, tight end Zeke Mowatt, being fined a reported $2,000 of his $650,000 salary. An outcry ensued from the Sept. 17 incident and from the Pats' self-serving reaction to it. The clamor included a call by the Herald for Kiam's suspension from the league and threats from women's groups to boycott shaving products made by the Kiam-owned Remington Products Inc. Kiam's response to all of this was to hire the high-powered New York public relations firm of Howard Rubenstein Associates to improve his image.
Kiam's media blitz was immediate. In a full-page ad in Sunday's editions of The New York Times and Boston Globe, and in Monday's Herald, he offered testimonials from three people "who were by my side the entire time I was in the locker room." All three denied that Kiam said anything unkind about Olson. On Sunday, Kiam met with Olson, and then appeared on the NFL pregame shows of both CBS and NBC to finger unnamed Patriots front-office types for not having filled him in on how his players had behaved toward Olson in the locker room. "I apologize to Lisa," Kiam said. "I apologize for the misinformation I have been given by the Patriots' management." Kiam also said "there will be changes" in his front office, but Tagliabue then told him not to dismiss anyone until the league finishes its investigation. Nonetheless, Kiam immediately announced that he was bringing in an executive from Remington to oversee the Patriots, an action that apparently left general manager Pat Sullivan with a job in name only.
Earlier in the week, before their meeting, Olson said of Kiam, "He's a joke, obviously." And while the joke isn't funny, Olson is right.
WE'RE NOT MAKING THIS UP
Evel Knievel was called to testify recently on behalf of a motorcycle accident victim in Deer Lodge, Mont., who is suing the manufacturer of the bike. Alas, Judge Ted Mizner ruled that Knievel, who broke various bones a total of 433 times in his 15-year career as a motorcycle daredevil, cannot be considered an expert witness on the subject of motorcycle crashes.
NOT ABOVE THE LAW