Film about women sports writers fighting for equal access to locker rooms to debut at Tribeca Film Festival

An earlier version of this story incorrectly implied that Olson was the main feature of this film. As it now states, Olson did not cooperate with the filmmakers.

In 1990, 25-year-old Boston Herald reporter, Lisa Olson, was sexually harrassed in the locker room by New England Patriots players. In an interview later with People, Olson said at the time: “I must have been going 100 miles an hour. I was weaving in and out of traffic, banging my hand on the steering wheel, shouting, ‘How dare they? How dare they?’ ‘Give her what she wants!’ they yelled. What I wanted was an interview. What I wanted was to be treated as a professional.’’


The debate around women sportswriters in the locker rooms of professional sports teams is the subject of a new film called “Let Them Wear Towels’’ that will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival next month. Olson, whose lawsuit against the Patriots was eventually settled, did not cooperate for the film. The film, directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, explores the issue of equal access and the history of women reporting in locker rooms, through interviews with women sports writers. Several segments of the film were shot in Boston. It is one in a series of ESPN films called “Nine for IX.’’

Here is the film synopsis:

During the 1977 World Series, Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke was denied access to the players’ locker room. After a very public fight, the door was opened, but the debate about female journalists in the male sanctum of the clubhouse remained. Through interviews with pioneering female sports writers, Let Them Wear Towels captures the raw behavior, humorous retaliation, angry lawsuits and remarkable resolve that went into the struggle for equal access for women reporters.

Stern and Sundberg received acclaim recently for another sports-themed Boston film, “Knuckleball,’’ which focused on several baseball players, including retired Sox knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield.


A 2005 American Journalism Review story said that “Olson reported receiving 100 obscene phone calls and 250 pieces of hate mail from Patriot fans after the news broke. When the tires on her car were slashed, the perpetrator left a message that threatened, ‘The next time it will be your neck.’ When her apartment was burglarized, a note ordered her to ‘leave Boston or die.’ Then-Patriots owner Victor Kiam publicly labeled Olson ‘a classic bitch’.’’

The NFL investigation found that Olson had been “degraded and humiliated,’’ and after a national debate, her legal case opened the locker room door for women reporters to do their jobs without harrassment. Olson is currently an AOL FanHouse Columnist.

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff as part of an effort to breathe new life into Lower Manhattan after the attacks on the World Trade Center. This year’s festival runs April 17-28.

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