Jets owner apologizes to Ines Sainz

Updated: September 14, 2010, 3:38 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, addressing the alleged harassment of a female TV reporter Saturday at practice, told ESPNNewYork.com Monday that the team will begin interviewing players as part of its investigation with the league office.

"Right now, we're working with the league and we're doing all the fact finding, checking the facts, doing the interviews," Johnson said. "Interviews with the players will start [Tuesday]. We've talked to some of the non-players, but [Tuesday] we'll get into it all."

The NFL is looking into a complaint made by the Association for Women in Sports Media against the Jets after Ines Sainz of Mexico's TV Azteca reportedly was subjected to footballs being thrown in her direction at practice and, later, players' catcalls inside the locker room.

Johnson said he called Sainz and offered an "open apology" to her. He also said he has interviewed "non-players" involved in the alleged taunting.

"I called her the minute I found out about it, and I finally spoke to her later on in the day," Johnson said. "We take this very, very seriously, as you can imagine. We want all of our reporters, female or male, to be comfortable wherever they are, on the sideline, in the locker room or at a game. We have to make the working environment professional, representing the New York Jets well."

The Jets opened the season Monday night with a 10-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at the New Meadowlands Stadium, and Sainz was at the game.

She said she accepted Johnson's apology.

"He said Ines I need to tell you that I am really concerned about a subject," she said. "It's for us very important that that kind of thing doesn't happen in our gym. So I really apologize in the name of the whole Jets and please accept my apologies and be sure that it's never going to happen [again].

"What I told him is OK don't worry. I don't want to make it as big as right now ... I think that what you decide to do with your team is perfect."

Sainz was asked if players' comments made her feel uncomfortable.

"Uncomfortable in the way that you know that you are in the focus," she said. "OK, it's not the best sensation. But not uncomfortable in the way that I feel danger or sexual aggressive. No."

Sainz added that she heard players say, "'Oh, look at that' and that kind of things that you know they are talking about you. But I never hear something sexual. I never hear something sexual. That part is important."

Sainz did hear some comments.

"They talked a little bit in Spanish -- Bonita senorita -- it means pretty woman," she said. "So, I ultimately hear but it's not uncomfortable in the moment I hear. Only is in the way that 'OK, I don't want to have too much attention at this time.'"

On Monday night after the game, Jets players declined to comment on the incident because it is being investigated by the league.

"Now, it's really not my place to talk about that," Jets fullback Tony Richardson said Monday night. "There's definitely an investigation going on and we just kind to have to see what comes out of the investigation."

Sainz said she would not enter the locker room after the game Monday night.

"Not because I am worried about harassment by the players," Sainz said. "But I don't want to be the center of attention with all of the media down there. Maybe another time, but for tonight, I decline."

She was not seen in the Jets' locker room after the game.

"No. 1, we never want anyone around our team to be uncomfortable," Jets coach Rex Ryan said after the game. "We're cooperating with the NFL and we'll get down to it, so I don't really want to comment more than that on it."

Sainz said before the game that she also felt uncomfortable being in front of undressed men in the locker room.

"Uncomfortable, yes," she said. "Because I'm very, in a conservative way. So I really don't like to be in a locker room for underdressed men. For me, it's difficult to be in the locker room, but it's part of our profession."

Sainz added: "What I tried to do is not to be provocative and not be, I don't know, the focus of the attention in the locker room. I only go straight to my object and stay there. I didn't move. I stay in front of the locker room and don't move."

[+] EnlargeInes Sainz
AP Photo/Bill KostrounInes Sainz worked as a sideline reporter for Mexico's TV Azteca during the Ravens-Jets 'Monday Night Football' matchup.

Johnson was asked earlier in the day if his players and/or coaches did something wrong.

"I've got to make sure I know all the facts," he said. "There are no surprises I haven't heard about. But after we get them all, I'll let you know.

"We'll have to look at what it all adds up to and how do we respond to it?" he added. "We certainly don't want any kind of allegations like this, or anything like this to happen. I apologized to her -- if anything happened, what happened, kind of an open apology."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league already has contacted the Jets.

Sainz attended practice Saturday as a working member of the media. According to an account in the New York Post, Jets defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman purposely overthrew footballs to players during a drill for defensive backs so that the passes would land near Sainz on the sideline. Linebacker Jason Taylor, who is not part of Thurman's unit, volunteered to take part in the drills, the Post said.

Ryan also got involved, according to the Post, when he had Thurman run a pattern near the sideline and intentionally overthrew the coach in Sainz's direction.

Afterward in the Jets locker room, Sainz was reportedly greeted by catcalls and hooting. When a reporter approached Sainz to see if she was OK, lineman Kris Jenkins yelled, "This is our locker room!"

Members of the Jets public-relations staff were present and did not discourage the behavior.

"Obviously, we know about it and I understand the league is looking into it," Taylor said after the game Monday night, "and we'll wait and see what they talk about."

When asked if he thought what occurred in the locker room was offensive, Taylor said: "We'll let the league figure this out and talk about it later. I really can't speak on it."

Sainz had written about the experience on her Twitter account on Saturday.

"I die of embarrassment!" Sainz wrote in Spanish. "I am in the locker room of the Jets waiting for Mark Sanchez while trying not to look to anywhere!"

In a later Twitter post, she wrote, "Thanks all for your support and concern. I already testified before the NFL, and now is up to them to decide whether or not there will be consequences!"

In comments published Monday by the Mexican newspaper El Universal, Sainz downplayed the incident.

"In my perception, at no moment I felt neither attacked, nor that something rude was being done about me," she said, according to the newspaper.

She indicated that she was not aware of the reported misconduct in the locker room.

"I went into the lockers and there were comments and games," Sainz said, according to the newspaper. "A fellow journalist told me that he was very sorry things like that were happening, in the surrounding areas where, evidently, there were jokes being made about me."

She did say that she spoke with NFL representatives and even shared what her crew had taped. But Sainz added that "at no time I even felt offended, much less in risk, or in danger of being in that place."

Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum called Joanne Gerstner, a board member of the AWSM, on Sunday to discuss the matter. The two organizations were working to schedule an educational and awareness session with the team, according to Jets spokesman Bruce Speight.

Speight added that he also addressed the situation at the team meeting Sunday in advance of New York's season opener.

Sainz said on Monday that she supports educating the players.

"What must happen is speak with them and say 'OK, when a lady came to the locker room or interview you or something you can't forgot that she is a professional and she is making it her job and she deserve to be treated as if she were a man," she said. "Only talk with them. I think they saw everything they did. I think they never going to make it again. They are going to be ... very concerned about it. Another punishment is I don't think is necessary."

The AWSM said in a statement Sunday night that both the NFL and the Jets were "responsive to our concerns." On Monday, the organization issued another statement saying it was working with the Jets and the NFL.

"If Jets players, coaches and staff allegedly involved in the incident are found to have acted in unprofessional and harassing behavior toward Ms. Sainz, we expect and demand reprimand and punishment by the NFL and Jets," the statement read.

Acknowledging that an educational seminar will take place, the group further said in the statement: "We remain vigilant in holding leagues, teams, athletes and the media accountable and we serve as an advocate for all women in the business. AWSM also wishes to strengthen dialogue with leagues and teams to help elevate standards and maintain a harassment-free work place."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley, ESPNDeportes.com's Mario Fraticelli and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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