The Bills and the Buccaneers have separately referred to NFL Security the fact that a phone conversation between Buffalo G.M. Buddy Nix and Tampa Bay G.M. Mark Dominik was recorded by a pair of 20-year-old “pranksters.”
The NFL has confirmed that it is reviewing the situation.
“NFL Security and our attorneys are looking into it,” league spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT by email.
The facts are fairly straightforward. On Thursday, March 7, two men called Nix’s office, pretending to be Dominik. The call was transferred to Nix. They hung up before Nix got on the line.
Nix called the men back. And Nix kept calling, thinking he was returning a call from Dominik.
On Friday, March 8, the men called Dominik’s office, hoping to spark what Deadspin calls a “phantom game of phone tag.” While the men were on the phone with Dominik’s assistant, Nix called again. Seizing on the opportunity to secretly monitor a conversation that neither man intended to have, the calls were patched together and recorded.
With the launch of free agency less than two hours away, I don’t have the time to research the nooks and crannies of federal and state wiretapping law. But I recall the basics pretty clearly; most importantly, there need not be any actual tapping of wires. The secret recording of conversations in any setting is covered.
Thus, those kids have reason to be nervous.
Not that they’ll be sent to prison. But they could be in for weeks and/or months of worry and hassle and expense, if there’s a prosecutor who decides to use what could be an open-and-shut set of facts to send a strong message of deterrence to the general public.
Of course, the NFL could choose to take the high road and not press charges. In the end, the decision could be influenced by the extent to which Nix and/or Dominik are publicly ridiculed for falling victim to the “prank.”
They shouldn’t be. Nix believed he was calling Dominik, and Dominik believed he was taking a call from Nix. Still, if they’re criticized for what ensued, either or both men may be more likely to pursue the matter.
In the end, that may not matter. An overly zealous prosecutor won’t need anyone to press charges, if the prosecutor decides to make an example out of the “pranksters.”