The more I learn about filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, the less comfortable I feel with the contrived narrative that paints him as the “Deep Throat” of the NFL’s concussion-fueled culture change.
My first instinct was that Pamphilon is an opportunist who was willing to put his own interests above the wishes of the man without whom Pamphilon never would have been in position to capture damning audio from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. As time has passed, the feelings have grown stronger.
A recent item from Johnette Howard of ESPN.com pushes those sentiments to a new level, with Pamphilon unintentionally raising more questions regarding his failure to say or do anything for weeks, even though he was supposedly deeply troubled by what he heard.
“As I sat there, I thought, ‘Either this guy really doesn’t get what is so wrong about this or he doesn’t care,’” Pamphilon told Howard, adding that Pamphilon was “stunned” by what he heard.
Fine. So tell someone that night. Or the next day. Or the next day. Instead, Pamphilon filed it away and showed up at the game and rooted for the Saints to win and keep right on going without considering seriously the possibility of taking any action until the NFL announced in early March that the Saints had maintained a bounty system for three years.
And then Pamphilon saw an opportunity to generate publicity — and possibly a buyer — for his Steve Gleason documentary and, possibly, for Pamphilon’s broader look at the game, The United States of Football.
Thus, a dilemma that didn’t even register the faintest blip of Pamphilon’s radar screen from January 13 until March 2 suddenly became a crisis of ethics.
“And what do you do? What do . . . you DO?” Pamphilon said to Howard in justifying his eventual disregard for Gleason’s wishes. “What I thought releasing this audio would do is create a public dialogue that could not be ignored . . . something that’s going to make everyone think and talk. Because before this, people knew bounties existed. But nobody knew what a bounty actually sounded like. How disgusting it is.”
But why didn’t those questions arise before the bounty scandal became the biggest topic in the NFL?
This one is simple, folks. Pamphilon saw an opening to advance an agenda, even if it meant betraying Gleason — and in a roundabout way causing Gleason to betray the Saints.
Now that the story has died down, Pamphilon has re-inserted himself into it again, telling Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports that NFL Security is hounding Pamphilon for the “Gregg Williams tapes.” But Pamphilon, displaying what has been described by one person who knows him as a “warped sense of morality and self-importance,” wants Commissioner Roger Goodell to “answer real questions first.”
Yeah, with Pamphilon’s cameras rolling and his microphone taped to Goodell’s lapel.
Pamphilon should be careful about making demands. Though the league won’t comment on the situation, the NFL’s lawyers surely are churning up the billable hours scouring the statutes and common law in Louisiana (where the project originated) and California (where the Williams tapes were created) to find any plausible argument to support a claim that Pamphilon had a special license to attend otherwise secret meetings, and that this special license includes turning over any materials generated to the entity ultimately responsible for the meetings that Pamphilon had a special license to attend. (Apparently, legal precedent arising from past disputes known as “common law” in 49 states is known as “jurisprudence” in Louisiana.)
Putting unreasonable conditions on giving the tapes to the NFL after Pamphilon already has made 12 minutes of audio publicly available serves only to cement the notion that Sean Pamphilon is all about Sean Pamphilon — and to stir up the tank of blue-suited sharks who soon could be forcing Pamphilon to spend money he doesn’t have to defend his legal right to avoid doing something that, if he’s truly committed to doing the right thing, he should do without hesitation.