Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Lisa Olsen Redux

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Lisa Olsen Redux

Article excerpt

After more than six years of silence, former Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson has told her side of the infamous New England Patriots sexual harassment incident that came to symbolize--and ensured an end of--the male sports world's resistance to women journalists reporting from the locker room.

In an account written exclusively for the Chicago Sun-Times and published Jan. 19, Olson recalls in painful detail the death threats, home invasion and vandalism that followed the revelation--not by Olson, but by the Boston Globe--of the Sept. 17,1990 incident.

The savage reaction eventually forced Olson to flee the country. She writes that she was offered a transfer to another Rupert Murdoch-owned paper--and she chose the one farthest away from Boston--in Sydney, Australia.

With the Patriots--under new management--playing in the Super Bowl Jan. 26, Chicago Sun-Times deputy sports editor Ron Rappaport asked her if she wanted to write an account of her ordeal.

"She had to think about it long and hard," said sports editor Bill Adee. "She has totally avoided anything like this.... l felt a lithe funny, a little bit like Oprah, asking for this piece. She wrote it really quickly, worked on it overnight, faxed it and went to bed. I think it was really cathartic for her."

The Lisa Olson saga began with the young reporter--covering the Patriots season for the first time--asking defensive back Maurice Hurst to come to the media room for an interview.

"The player, however, insisted I come to him," wrote Olson, who in her article does not identify Hurst or any other player,"saying he was icing his knee or ankle or whatever it was that was ailing him. I did, and, as we sat on the bench in front of his locker, the prank began."

Olson gives a fairly circumspect account of the incident in the Sun-Times, referring to players who "approached me, flashed their genitals and tried to get me to look while other players egged them on."

According to accounts by Olson and others who witnessed it at the time, however, the players were aggressive, crowding within inches of the reporter's face and daring her to touch their genitals and making other lewd comments.

"Is this what you want?" one is reported to have yelled repeatedly.

Olson later identified one offender as tight end Zeke Mowatt. An NFL investigation later identified two other players in the incident: Robert Perryman and Michael Timpson.

Olson and her Herald sports editor, Robert Sales, intended to confront privately the Patriots management about the incident, but the item was published three days later by the Boston Globe.

While sports reporters, women's groups and others acted with outrage at the incident, Olson was attacked verbally by then--team owner Victor Kiam--who famously called her a"classic bitch"--and physically by "fans" of the Boston team.

Trash was thrown at her during Patriots home games--and fan harassment actually increased in intensity through the season as the then-woeful team went on a 14-game losing streak.

"After every loss [the Patriots] would blame it on the `Lisa Olson Affair,' never thinking that maybe it was the `Patriots Affair,'" Olson wrote.

At one game, Olson, a redhead, wrote, vendors sold "Lisa Dolls"--blowup sex dolls with red wigs.

Even the end of the season brought no relief, Olson writes. …

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