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The National Football League has selected a Harvard law professor to investigate an incident of alleged sexual harassment involving several players on the New England Patriots.
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement yesterday that the league has appointed Ames Professor of Law Philip B. Heymann, a former Watergate special prosecutor, to conduct an independent "fact-finding" inquiry into the alleged verbal abuse of Boston Herald sportswriter Lisa Olson in the Patriots locker room two weeks ago.
Tagliabue cited Heymann's extensive investigative background, which includes a three-year stint as chief of the Department of Justice criminal division during the Carter Administration, as the reason for the choice.
"He was highly recommended and is an individual whose work I have respected for years," Tagliabue said.
On September 16, Olson told The Boston Globe that five Patriots had made lewd comments and gestures to her as she waited to conduct interviews in the team's locker room.
The situation was complicated last week when The Globe reported that Patriots owner Victor Kiam had referred to Olson privately as a "classic bitch." Kiam also told Channel 4 that Olson had wandered into the shower room in Indianapolis last year, a charge he later recanted.
On Sunday, Kiam placed full-page advertisements in both The Globe and The Herald, apologizing for the behavior of his players and denying that he ever called Olson a "b---h."
In several nationally televised interviews, Kiam also threatened to shake up the team's management for mishandling the situation. However, the commissioner has instructed him not to take any action until an investi- gation was conducted.
Tagliabue said that Heymann will interview allparties involved in the incident and report hisfindings to the commissioner, who will then takeany necessary disciplinary action.
Heymann declined to be interviewed yesterday,but said in a statement that he was confident theinvestigation will proceed smoothly.
"Commissioner Tagliabue has assured me that allNFL personnel will cooperate," Heymann said. "Iexpect that other involved parties will do thesame in order to conclude this matter as quicklyand thoroughly as possible."
Heymann's appointment as a special investigatoris grounded in recent sports precedent. Within thepast two years, baseball commissioners haveappointed special counsels to conduct inquiriesinto alleged wrong-doings by Cincinnati Redsmanager Pete Rose and New York Yankees ownerGeorge Steinbrenner.
But Professor of Law Paul C. Weiler, a sportslaw expert, said that to his knowledge Heymann'sappointment marks the first time a law professorhas been asked to investigate complaints involvingprofessional sports.
Weiler said he thinks Tagliabue's appointmentof a private investigator was appropriate giventhe commissioner's constraints.
"The commissioner can't run around talking toall the people," Weiler said. "He appointssomebody who has both the time and expertise to doit."
"I'm sure [Heymann] will do an excellent jobinvestigating what happened," Weiler added
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