Lisa Olson brings suit vs. Patriots

April 26, 1991|By Ron Borges | Ron Borges,Boston Globe

BOSTON -- Boston Herald sportswriter Lisa Olson has left the city and, at least temporarily, will leave her position at the newspaper. Yesterday she filed suit in Suffolk County Superior Court against the New England Patriots, owner Victor Kiam, three players and two front-office employees, charging sexual harassment and violations of her civil rights.

Olson's suit also charges intentional infliction of emotional distress and interference with advantageous relations by the defendants, who include former general manager Patrick Sullivan, former public relations director Jimmy Oldham and three players -- present Patriots Zeke Mowatt and Michael Timpson and former Patriot Robert Perryman.

The suit and Olson's departure are the latest chapters in the episode that for three months drew the attention of national and local televison and radio talk shows as well as local and national newspaper coverage and ultimately resulted in an unprecedented NFL investigation into the allegations.

Herald sports editor Bob Sales said Olson "would return in the appropriate time." When asked whether she had left Boston, Sales said, "for a period of time. She's been through an ordeal. She is still going to work for us."

The suit stems from an episode last Sept. 17 when, Olson alleges, Mowatt, Perryman and Timpson approached her in the Patriots locker room at Foxboro Stadium while she was attempting to conduct an interview with Maurice Hurst and made lewd remarks and displayed their genitals.

In a new allegation leveled publicly at Mowatt for the first time, the suit alleges that two days later, as Olson again entered the locker room to conduct post-practice interviews, "defendant Mowatt made disparaging remarks about the plaintiff, including, 'Oh, look, my baby's back for more. She couldn't get enough Monday.' "

Mowatt, Perryman and Timpson have all denied the extent of the episode, but following a league investigation conducted by Harvard Law School professor Philip Heymann, the three were fined by the NFL. The Patriots were fined $50,000, Mowatt $12,500 and Timpson and Perryman $5,000 each.

The suit goes on to say that "defendant Kiam has continued to publicly humiliate and disparage the plaintiff," citing Kiam's actions Feb. 4 when, while speaking at a banquet in Stamford, Conn., he told an off-color joke about Olson that was widely publicized.

"Here's a woman with a very successful career, a dream job in some respects, and the actions of the Patriots have ruined that," said Michael Avery, a civil rights attorney who will be handling the case along with Boston attorneys Norman Zalkind and Elizabeth Lunt.

The final straw for Olson's decision to file suit was Kiam's Feb. 4 comment in Stamford.

"Lisa probably wouldn't have filed suit if Kiam hadn't made his remarks of Feb. 4," Avery said. "That took away everything he previously said."

It would be at least a year before the suit would reach trial and could take two to four years at the present pace of cases in Suffolk Superior Court. The case has been assigned to Judge Hiller B. Zobel.

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