Cincinnati Bengals Coach Sam Wyche barred a female reporter from his team’s locker room Monday night, just hours after the NFL named an investigator to look into the alleged sexual harassment of another woman reporter.
Denise Tom of USA Today was barred from the Cincinnati locker room after the Bengals’ 31-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Tom said a security guard blocked her from entering the room, telling her, “This is a very sensitive time. I don’t make the rules.”
In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Wyche admitted barring the woman from the locker room because “our guys don’t want a woman to walk into a situation like that.”
“I am not doing that to these guys,” Wyche told Enquirer reporter Tim Smith. “I’m not doing it to their wives. I’ll be out of this business before I do that.”
Earlier Monday, Harvard law Prof. Philip Heymann, who investigated the Watergate scandal, was named by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to investigate accusations by Lisa Olson of the Boston Herald that New England Patriot players harassed her by making sexually suggestive remarks.
Wyche said he extended every courtesy possible to Tom, even to the point of asking quarterback Boomer Esiason to come out of the locker room to do an interview with her. Esiason complied.
Smith said Wyche was told that a woman had been in the Bengals’ locker room last week.
“I wasn’t aware of that,” Wyche said.
There are no women regularly assigned to cover the Bengals, but women reporters covered the team without incident during the 1988 playoffs when it played in the Super Bowl.
Wyche was fined $4,000 by the NFL last season for barring all reporters from the locker room after a 24-17 loss to Seattle. Wyche, who has a reputation for losing his temper after losses, also refused to talk to the media after that game.
“We will be in touch with Cincinnati officials as soon as possible,” Joe Browne, league vice president for communications, said today. He said the league is looking into the facts of the case.
Tagliabue, who was at Monday night’s game, had met with reporters--including Tom--and repeated his earlier statement that the NFL’s policy is to give women reporters the same access as men.
A spokesman for USA Today said the newspaper plans to pursue the matter with the league.