Former Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey has been saying plenty of about Warren Sapp’s contention that Shockey blew the whistle on the team’s three-year bounty system. Shockey was scheduled to appear on Friday’s edition of the The Dan Patrick Show to talk about it some more.
When the time came for Shockey’s interview, the man described in the ESPN book as the best booker in the history of television, Todd Fritz, told Dan that Shockey is in a meeting and may not be available.
Ultimately, Shockey didn’t show. Ultimately, it was disclosed that Shockey was meeting with a lawyer. (We also made a request for an appearance from Shockey on PFT Live. We were told that Shockey would still be in his meeting.)
Whether or not Shockey actually was meeting with a lawyer, the fact that he has clammed up suggests that a lawyer has told him to clam up. It’s the first bit of advice any lawyer gives when a lawsuit is being considered, because anything the person filing the lawsuit says can be used against him in court.
Shockey faces an interesting dilemma, if he intends to sue. Although federal law protects whistleblowers from retaliation, Shockey has insisted that he’s not the whistleblower. So the first line of defense in any such whistleblower case he may file would be that he’s not protected. Moreover, even if Shockey were protected, he’d have to show that the league in some way retaliated against him, and it will be hard to show that a 31-year-old tight end with a reputation for being a bad guy was blackballed because he blew the whistle on the Saints.
Maybe it’s enough that his name was disclosed by the NFL on the league-owned network; maybe it isn’t. That would be a matter for litigation.
If he’s not the whistleblower, Shockey could sue Sapp and/or the league for defamation of character, since Sapp uttered facts about Shockey that aren’t true. The problem with a defamation of character lawsuit is that damages are determined by assessing the impact on the plaintiff’s reputation. This makes consideration of the player’s pre-existing reputation critical to the process. Which, in Shockey’s case, makes a defamation of character claim not extremely valuable — unless he can prove that a team would have signed him if he hadn’t incorrectly been identified as the whistleblower.
And that simply isn’t going to happen.
Still, regardless of how it all plays out, it looks like Shockey is exploring his options.