SBD/April 25, 2012/Franchises

La. State Police, FBI Now Investigating Saints' Alleged Superdome Phonetapping

Saints officials say legal responses to ESPN report are being considered by principals
Louisiana state troopers have now "joined the FBI in an investigation into allegations” that Saints GM Mickey Loomis had his Superdome booth rewired so he could listen to opposing coaches, according to James Varney of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Saints officials, in response to the allegations from an ESPN report, said that they “regard the story as so scurrilous that legal responses were being considered by the principals, but there did not appear to be any movement on that front Tuesday, and officials offered no answer to a question about lawsuits.” Varney writes the scandal now surrounding Loomis is “just one of those with which the team must cope on the eve” of the NFL Draft. Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday said that the punishments for players involved in the team’s bounty scandal “are coming ‘soon,’ and hinted they may be severe” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/25). ESPN.com’s Jeffri Chadiha wrote it is “hard enough to imagine" any NFL owner accepting what happened in the bounty scandal, especially because Saints Owner Tom Benson "looked both disconnected from his team and easily dismissed by his subordinates.” But two “highly public controversies surrounding your executive vice president in less than two months?” Chadiha: “It would be best if Benson started thinking about new candidates for the most powerful position in his organization” (ESPN.com, 4/24).

NOT A GOOD LOOK: ESPN’s Michael Smith said the eavesdropping allegations “paint the Saints as this rogue organization.” When combined with the bounty scandal, this is “just not good for their image or the image of the NFL” ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 4/24). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, “The problem with the denials, strong though they are coming from the Saints, is they’re coming from people who are banned from the league for lying” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 4/24). ESPN’s Michelle Beadle said for the “next couple of generations of football fans that are playing ... this is going to be the punchline for quite some time.” ESPN's Colin Cowherd said, “In my heart, I like the Saints, but now all this stuff -- there’s a kind of a skeevy feel to it.” However, Cowherd said the Saints brand is not “permanently tarnished” and in the “world of social media and blogs and ESPN and all the media and sports radio, there’s another controversy virtually every day” ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 4/24). ESPN’s Marcellus Wiley said “it’s perfect timing to go out there and stop the bleeding” and sign QB Drew Brees to a contract extension (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 4/24).

BURDEN OF PROOF
: PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Mike Florio noted the ESPN report against Loomis “comes several months after the media giant clumsily compensated for its failure to contribute anything meaningful to the Penn State scandal by stirring up a mess at Syracuse that, to date, has failed to stick.” ESPN and “its army of reporters also whiffed on the Saints’ bounty scandal.” Florio wrote ESPN has “an obligation to do more than drop on the audience the notion that Loomis had the ability to monitor conversations among opposing coaches.” The network “needs to explain how that information turned into a tangible strategic edge for the Saints.” Still, that is “not to say the league should ignore the situation,” as the “NFL, or someone, needs to investigate” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 4/24).
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