As Rosenthal pointed out last night, Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis faces serious consequences for lying to both his in-house and out-of-house (“out-house” just didn’t sound right) bosses regarding the presence of a bounty program within the organization. But the league’s well-timed, late-Friday-afternoon, bad-news dump regarding the bounty system strongly implies that others lied, too.
“Our security department interviewed numerous players and other individuals,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the release. “At the time, those interviewed denied that any such program existed and the player that made the allegation retracted his earlier assertions. As a result, the allegations could not be proven. We recently received significant and credible new information and the investigation was re-opened during the latter part of the 2011 season.”
In other words, everyone interviewed about the situation initially . . . wait for it . . . LIED about the existence of a bounty program. All of them. Even the person who blew the whistle . . . wait for it . . . LIED by retracting the allegations.
In a prior life (which at times like this I’m reminded I don’t miss at all), I handled plenty of internal investigations regarding various types of employee wrongdoing. And when conducting internal investigations, it’s essential that the persons being interviewed tell the truth. In one specific case I handled, the person who did the thing he shouldn’t have done ultimately was fired — not because of the thing he did but because he lied about it, forcing the investigation to consume far more time and resources than required, and but for dumb luck nearly allowing him to get away with it.
When U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald explained to the media his decision to prosecute former Vice Presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby, Fitzgerald compared Libby’s efforts to conceal the “outing” of CIA agent Valerie Plame (who perhaps had been working undercover with the name “Peyton Hillis”) to throw dirt in the eyes of an umpire who is trying to determine whether a runner made it safely to home plate. That’s precisely what Loomis and every single member of the organization who lied did to the league.
So why didn’t Goodell and the NFL make a big deal about the lying committed by everyone else? Anyone who met with NFL security and imitated Sgt. Schulz should face serious consequences for impeding, and nearly frustrating, an official league investigation.
While the league can only do so much to its players in light of the CBA, the NFL can come down hard on Loomis and everyone else who lied to the league, including (presumably) former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Saints coach Sean Payton, former Saints defensive backs coach (and current Raiders head coach) Dennis Allen, and any other non-player who knew damn well what had been happening and . . . wait for it . . . LIED to the league about it.
And so at a time when Bountygate has given rise to plenty of questions regarding what the league will do in response to the fact that coaches and players were collecting and distributing money to those who successfully injured opponents, there’s a bigger question for the league: What will you do to those who lied to cover it up?
While the NFL has no obligation to answer that question if/when asked by the media, this particular rabbit hole eventually could capture the curiosity of those with the power to force people to talk, including but not limited to Congress, the FBI, and various local law enforcement agencies.
Does it sound a little crazy to think a criminal investigation is in the offing? Maybe. But if we remove from the equation the fact that these actions occurred within the confines of a football field, it also sounds a little like The Sopranos.