The NFL learned how hard it was to expose the bounty system the Saints used to help fuel their 2009 Super Bowl run by investigating the situation in 2010 and coming up with nothing.
Next time around, it could be even harder to get to the truth.
Here, the NFL was able to dust off a cold case because someone blew the whistle during the 2011 season. And, as we explained earlier this month, it’s critical that the NFL protect the whistleblower from any type of retaliation — including insults, threats, and/or specific acts of violence from an overly zealous fan who now thinks the Saints’ Super Bowl title has been tainted and/or that the team’s quest to play in the Super Bowl that will be hosted by New Orleans has now been derailed.
As it turns out, the NFL has outed the suspected whistleblower. On the network that the NFL owns.
Technically, the NFL didn’t directly out the suspected whistleblower. Instead, analyst Warren Sapp outed the suspected whistleblower on Twitter, and Sapp then was invited on air to elaborate. (We won’t use the name of the suspected whistleblower here.)
“My source that was close to the situation informed me that [name omitted] is the one that was the snitch initially,” Sapp said. “I trust my source unequivocally.”
Sapp emphasized that he didn’t get the information from the NFL. “I did not call anybody at the league and I did not receive any information from the league,” Sapp said.
Still, NFL Network put Sapp on the air and allowed him to disclose the name.
“That’s the information that I got and I trust my source,” Sapp said. “I was given that information, and I went with it, by a reliable source.”
It’s our understanding that Sapp’s source is wrong, and that the person he identified isn’t really the whistleblower. Still, it’s a topic that never should have been discussed on the network owned by the league.
No matter how the hairs are split, some people who heard what Sapp said will believe that the person he identified as the whistleblower was the whistleblower. And they won’t regard him as a whistleblower — they’ll regard him as, as Sapp called him, a snitch.
And snitches get stitches and the Saints’ Super Bowl win has indeed been tarnished and their shot at another Super Bowl win in 2012 has been significantly undermined and it only takes one crazy or otherwise unstable Saints fan to decide to do something crazy or unstable to the person identified as the suspected whistleblower.
So the next time the NFL is trying to crack the locker-room Omerta and someone is considering the possibility of doing the right thing and coming clean, that person should legitimately be concerned that his name eventually will be broadcast to the world on the TV network owned by the NFL.
One final point: This isn’t Sapp’s fault. This is a failure by NFL Network to understand the potential consequences of discussing on the air in any way the name of the person who did the right thing and exposed a bounty system that the Saints brazenly continued to utilize for two years after the NFL conducted a failed investigation into the question of whether the Saints were using a bounty system. Instead, someone at NFLN saw Sapp’s tweet and Sapp was brought on the air to discuss it and Sapp just answered questions that never, ever should have been asked.