When former NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp recently declared bankruptcy, he listed his income at $45,000 per month from NFL Network on a contract that expires in August 2012. Sapp said in the paperwork he’s not sure if the contract will be extended.
According to Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe, it probably won’t be.
Bedard reports, citing two league sources, that Sapp’s employment is “likely over,” and that Sapp has not been on NFL Network in the two-plus weeks since he went on the air and outed former Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey as the player who blew the whistle on the Saints’ bounty system in 2011.
NFLN Senior Vice President of Programming and Production Mark Quenzel previously said Sapp wouldn’t be “fired,” but if Bedard’s report is accurate that was just a matter of semantics. Like when the Steelers didn’t “fire” offensive coordinator Bruce Arians after his contract expired. Even though they didn’t offer him ongoing employment. (Maybe NFLN will claim Sapp “retired,” too.)
We’ve separately heard, though hadn’t confirmed to the point that we felt comfortable reporting it, that Sapp is indeed done at NFL Network. As one industry source explained it, opinions within the building were split on what to do with Sapp, and NFL Network chief Steve Bornstein made the decision to bench Sapp until his contract expires — and then to simply move on.
Though it was wrong for Sapp to “out” Shockey and label him a “snitch,” Sapp initially did so on his Twitter page. As we understand it, he was then invited by NFL Network to come on the air and talk about what he had tweeted.
What did they expect him to say at that point, “No way — it’s a trap”?
Moreover, the fact that NFLN said in the wake of the fiasco that Sapp has been told he’s not a reporter but an analyst implied strongly that he hadn’t previously been told not to report things he has heard. Indeed, the network happily embraced the fact that Sapp received a text message from former University of Miami teammate Ray Lewis during the season, indicating that Lewis would miss the first of four games with a foot injury.
But that’s the way the league usually operates. No one is fired with fanfare, and the official separation comes after the dust settles.
If that’s what the league-owned network chooses to do with Sapp, that’s fine. But the league-owned network shouldn’t have played word games with the public about it, and the league-owned network shouldn’t single Sapp out for something that arose from a much broader failure in TV production and sensitivity to potential legal problems.