NFL Net Says Warren Sapp Will Not Be Fired For Calling Shockey Bountygate "Snitch"
NFL Network's Warren Sapp was "close" to losing his on-air gig after calling free agent TE Jeremy Shockey a "snitch" in the Saints' bounty scandal, and the net's execs on Friday afternoon "were blunt about it," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. NFL Network Senior VP/Programming & Production Mark Quenzel said, "We decided not to fire Warren." Deitsch noted the net "certainly had cause for discipline," after Sapp tweeted last week his thoughts about Shockey was an informant in the Saints' bounty scandal. Quenzel said that he spoke with Sapp on Thursday and "made clear to the analyst that he is not a reporter." He would "not say if Sapp is facing specific discipline outside of saying he remains employed by the network." Quenzel said, "Our reporters are held to a very specific standard as to what needs to happen before they report the news. Warren went into an area where he is not an expert." Shockey Friday said of Sapp, "He lost all credibility when it comes to his fan base and regarding what he comes on the air and says. When he gives his judgment or speech on the NFL Network, I think he will lose a lot of credibility when it comes to the fans." Shockey said that several attorneys "have contacted him, and he'll speak on that subject at a later date." Sapp will be "back on the network's air, but there is no specific date for his next appearance." Quenzel said that no one from the league office "ordered him to discipline Sapp." Deitsch asked, "Does it matter that Sapp tweeted this on his personal account?" Quenzel "made the distinction that it did." He said, "Warren tweeted the information he tweeted on his personal Twitter account, not on NFL Network or any platform related to NFL Media. I don't consider it to be an NFL Network report" (SI.com, 3/23). ESPN BOSTON's Mike Reiss wrote, "Real poor judgment by Sapp." If the NFL "doesn't reprimand Sapp in some form, it seems like a double standard" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 3/25). In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote the NFL "should take action, either firing him or suspending him" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/25).
PARAMETERS OF THE PUNISHMENT: In N.Y., Judy Battista noted the Saints' penalties handed down by the NFL for the Bountygate scandal "was said to have stunned" coach Sean Payton, who was suspended for a year without pay, as well as the Saints. Payton, whose duties "include personnel matters and calling offensive plays, must stop working on April 1." A source said that the league’s edict "did not offer details but broadly prohibited Payton from being involved in coaching the team." Battista asked, "Could he buy a ticket to sit in the stands at a game? Probably. Could he have a three-hour phone call with Brees to discuss the game plan? No." The NFL has "no realistic way of monitoring Payton’s interaction" with QB Drew Brees or anyone else in the organization. But the "implication is that if the NFL finds out that Payton has violated the suspension, he will be in even deeper trouble." Meanwhile, reps for ESPN, NBC and CBS on Friday indicated that they "had no plans to hire" Payton. But Fox Sports, which carries NFC games during the season "is open to the possibility." Fox Senior VP/Communications Lou D'Ermilio said, "Our feeling about Sean is that he’s bright, articulate and obviously contemporary. Any network with NFL rights would have to consider it.” The league responded in a statement: “He is suspended from the NFL for the season. His involvement in any non-NFL employment or business matters is not our decision" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/25).
ON THE AIRWAVES? In N.Y., Bob Raissman cited a network exec as saying about Payton and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, "Putting one of these guys on, as a regular guest or analyst, would be a slap at the NFL. I don’t think that could happen. I also don’t know what’s in the language of the suspensions, but (the suspension) could be from any or all NFL-related participation. The decision may already have been made.” Raissman asked, "Who would be the better NFL analyst Payton or Williams?" A network exec said, "I don’t see Payton as a good TV analyst. He should lay low and go scout college games. Gregg Williams is the more intriguing pick. He’s got something different going for him. Now he’s viewed as a renegade, a sinister character. Younger viewers are attracted to that." Meanwhile, Raissman asked, "Will Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos be seen early on the NFL’s prime-time TV stage? Doubt it." Word is both NBC and ESPN "are concerned about Manning having a physical setback and not being able to play from the get-go." Then they would be "stuck with a game they feel will be unable to generate the kind of TV ratings a Manning-led Broncos team would produce" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/25).