Maybe it really wasn’t Anthony Hargrove’s voice saying, “Give me my money.”
The video/audio of a comment supposedly made by the former Saints defensive end during the third quarter of the 2009 NFC title game provides further proof of Drew Brees‘ point (even if it wasn’t articulated the best way possible) that the media has more power than anyone realizes.
The NFL, however, fully realizes.
And the NFL used the power of the media to make millions believe on Monday that Saints defensive Anthony Hargrove said, ‘Bobby, give me my money’ after being told by assistant head coach Joe Vitt that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre may have suffered a broken leg in the 2009 NFC title game.
The seed was planted and fertilized when a dozen members of the media covering Monday’s appeal hearing received an invitation to witness an encore performance of former prosecutor Mary Jo White’s summary of evidence. The relevant excerpt from the transcript of the media session contains White’s explanation, comments from NFL Security chief Jeff Miller, comments from NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, and two of the members of the media — Peter King and Jim Varney.
White initially explained that the video contains Hargrove’s “voice and picture.” After the video was shown once to the members of the media, Aiello suggested that the media pay attention to Hargrove winking and smiling after hearing that Favre broke his leg. White later claims that Hargrove “smiles and winks and states, ‘Bobby, pay me my money.’”
Varney asks White, “How do you know it’s Hargrove’s voice?”
White, perhaps not recognizing in that moment the ironic link to a very common lawyer joke, says, “Because you can see his lips moving.”
But here’s the problem, and I didn’t notice this the first time I saw the video.
When Hargrove’s lips can be seen moving, his voice can’t be heard.
Only after Hargrove’s face is fully obscured by the head and shoulders of defensive tackle Remi Ayodele are the words “give me my money” audible.
No one has questioned this because the media present at the session was told — and in turn told the rest of us — that Hargrove said, “Bobby, give me my money.” Even Peter King, who seemed curious and a bit skeptical in the transcript, affirmatively stated twice in his article following the media session that Hargrove said what the NFL claims he said.
Watch the video. At most, Hargrove is the one who says “Bobby.” By the time “give me my money” comes out, Hargrove’s mouth and face and head are obscured by Ayodele.
Also, don’t forget that Hargrove didn’t apply the hit that resulted in Favre possibly having a broken leg. Instead, Favre had been hit low by McCray and high by Ayodele. So why would Hargrove be asking for any money at all?
None of this changes the fact that, barring evidence that the phrase was added artificially after the fact (I’m not saying it was . . . yet), someone said “give me my money.” Which supports the conclusion that there was a bounty on Favre.
But I don’t believe the video shown by the league to the media shows that Hargrove said it. And I can’t believe that the NFL presumes conclusively that he said it. And I can’t believe the NFL sold it as fact to the media. And I can’t believe the media swallowed the hook.
And I can’t believe I didn’t pay close enough attention to figure it out before today.
And given Hargrove’s passionate denial that it’s his voice, I believe him.
This serious flaw in the presentation of the evidence necessarily undermines the league’s entire investigation, further reinforcing the importance of asking tough questions about the proof, the process, and all other aspects of the case. Regardless of whether the players are guilty or innocent, the NFL has peddled to the public, via the media, a stream of inconsistencies, mischaracterizations, and embellishments that raise legitimate concerns about the competence and/or the motives of everyone whose fingerprints are on the file.
UPDATE 8:44 p.m. ET: A prior version of this item explained that, when Hargrove’s lips are moving, his words aren’t audible. I’ve studied the video several more times, and it now appears to me that Hargrove is the one who says, “Bobby.” However, by the time “give me my money” is uttered, Hargrove’s face and head and mouth are obscured. Thus, the video doesn’t prove who said it. It could have been Hargrove. It could have been Ayodele. (It would make more sense if the league were claiming it was Ayodele, since he hit Favre high when “Bobby” hit Favre low.) It also could have been someone outside of view of the camera, talking about something completely unrelated to Favre’s apparently injury.