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Friday, February 1, 2008

Once Again Our Government Feels The Need To Interfere With Sports

First, it was steroids in baseball. Now, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) wants to call NFL commissioner Roger Goodell before Congress to talk about the purging of evidence in the infamous Patriots "Spygate" case.

Now this is a very good question...but I find it suspicious that this question concerning the New England Patriots had to be asked on the weekend of their Super Bowl. I thought the whole Spygate scenario was over. That was 20 weeks ago.

Then again, if there is nothing to hide, why destroy the tapes?? The Patriots' incident with the Jets was not just a one time issue. The Packers and Lions also complained about the Patriots spying on them. We're talking about 19-0; We're talking about history. Who knows how long the Patriots have been spying on teams. Therefore, if Congress feels the need to "cleanse" the game of baseball with their steroid investigations, then they have every right to investigate why the NFL would burn tapes of the Patriots if supposedly there is nothing to hide.

Then again, this is just another example of how when an athlete or a team rises and defies odds, right away everyone becomes suspicious that there is something unnatural about that athlete or team.

With the Super Bowl fast approaching, a senior Republican senator says he wants the NFL to explain why it destroyed evidence of the New England Patriots cheating scandal.

"I am very concerned about the underlying facts on the taping, the reasons for the judgment on the limited penalties and, most of all, on the inexplicable destruction of the tapes," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., in a Thursday letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The story was first reported by the New York Times.

Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the matter could put the league's antitrust exemption at risk. In a phone interview with the Times on Thursday, he said the committee at some point will call on Goodell to address the antitrust exemption as well as the destruction of the tapes.

"Their antitrust exemption has been on my mind for a long time," he said in a Capitol Hill news conference Friday.

Goodell, in his previously scheduled news conference Friday from Phoenix, said, "I am more than willing to speak with the senator. There are very good explanations why the tapes were destroyed by our staff -- there was no purpose for them."

There were six tapes, according to Goodell -- some from the 2007 preseason, and the rest from 2006. Another reason he had them destroyed was one tape was leaked to the media just after the Patriots-Jets game. "We wanted to take and destroy that information," he said. "They may have collected it within the rules, but we couldn't determine that. So we felt that it should be destroyed."

The matter may not compare to the CIA's destruction of interrogation tapes, Specter said Friday, but he added, "I do believe that it is a matter of importance. It's not going to displace the stimulus package or the Iraq war, but I think the integrity of football is very important, and I think the National Football League has a special duty to the American people -- and further the Congress -- because they have an antitrust exemption."

"It's a league matter," New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday during his news conference. "I don't know anything about it."

Matt Walsh, a former Patriots video assistant and now a golf pro at the Ka'anapli Golf Resort in Lahaina, Hawaii, has suggested to ESPN that he has information that could have exposed the Patriots prior to the Jets' allegations which ended up with the record fines.

"If I had a reason to want to go public, or tell a story, I could have done it before it even broke," he told ESPN.com's Mike Fish. "I could have said everything rather than having [Eric] Mangini be the one to bring it out."

Walsh, who worked for the Patriots from 1996-2003, also suggested to ESPN that he has information that could be embarrassing for the NFL and the Patriots.

"If their doing a thorough investigation ... they didn't contact me, so draw your own conclusions," Walsh told Fish.

Walsh said he hasn't made a decision on whether he'll talk to Congress if asked, though he's considering it.

The Patriots play Sunday in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants.

The Spygate controversy surfaced in September 2007, when NFL security confiscated a video camera and tape from a Patriots video assistant during New England's 38-14 victory over the New York Jets at Giants Stadium.

I do believe that it is a matter of importance. It's not going to displace the stimulus package or the Iraq war, but I think the integrity of football is very important, and I think the National Football League has a special duty to the American people -- and further the Congress -- because they have an antitrust exemption.

--Sen. Arlen Specter

The assistant was accused of aiming his camera at the Jets' defensive coaches as they signaled to players on the field.

After a league investigation, Goodell fined Belichick $500,000, the maximum amount, and docked the team $250,000 and a first-round draft pick. It was the biggest fine ever for a coach and the first time in NFL history a first-round draft pick has been confiscated as a penalty.

After its investigation, the NFL said it destroyed all materials, including six tapes, it received from the Patriots.

In a Jan. 31 letter to Specter, which the senator released Friday, Goodell said the tapes and notes on the investigation were destroyed to ensure that the Patriots "would not secure any possible competitive advantage as a result of the misconduct."

Specter said the explanation "absolutely makes no sense at all," and blasted the commissioner for failing to respond to his inquiries on the matter for more than two months. His initial letter to the league is dated Nov. 15, 2007; the follow-up letter is dated Dec. 19. Goodell said in his letter to Specter that he just became aware of Specter's questions Thursday.

"There's a credibility issue here," Specter said.

Specter, a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan who still calls sports radio stations on Monday mornings, said he was concerned about the integrity of sports.

"I don't think you have to have a law broken to have a legitimate interest by the Congress on the integrity of the game ... What if there was something on the tapes we might want to be subpoenaed, for example? You can't destroy it. That would be obstruction of justice," Specter said to The Times.

There is no timetable for when the committee would call upon Goodell.

The possibility exists that Patriots employees or other NFL personnel would have to testify before the committee.

"It's premature to say whom we're going to call or when," Specter said. "It starts with the commissioner. He had the tapes, and he made the decision as to what the punishment could be. He made the decision to destroy them."

He stopped short of charging a coverup, but warned that the judiciary panel may want to probe the matter.

In the meantime, Specter said he might miss Sunday's big game.

"I may play squash while it's on," Specter said.

Oh, and don't expect Bill Belichick to give you any answers.

1 comment:

Alex said...

Hey Pats fans!

I found a video (Super Bowl Radio Row) on Boston.TV thought you'd like to see it:

http://www.boston.tv/clips/631741639.html

enjoy!