New substance-abuse policy could trigger investigation of McClain confidentiality breach

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The Scouting Combine often becomes an informational free-for-all, with plenty of nuggets and rumors (often incorrect) floating around — and with plenty of swarming reporters who are looking to secure raises and/or better jobs tempted to apply a fire-aim-ready approach, all in the hopes of “being first.”

In most cases, the only risk is being wrong.  When it comes to certain topics, however, there’s a new concern, especially for those reporters employed directly by the NFL.

On Saturday, reports emerged that Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain is facing a four-game fine for his third violation of the substance-abuse policy.  And there’s the problem.  The confidentiality provision of the substance-abuse policy is supposed to prevent the public from knowing that a player is facing a fine for violation of the substance-abuse policy.  Technically, nothing can be disclosed by the NFL until a suspension has been finalized and announced.

The fact that the latest positive puts McClain within one strike of a suspension could supply the motivation for the Cowboys or another team to leak the news that signing the soon-to-be free agent entails additional risk.  Regardless, the information shouldn’t have been disclosed by whoever disclosed it.

And here’s where it gets interesting.  The new substance-abuse policy permits the retention of an independent investigator where confidentiality has been breached, along with stiff penalties that may be imposed by the NFL or the NFLPA, from fines up to $500,000 to termination of employment.

And here’s where it gets even more interesting.  One of the breaches came from an NFL employee, through the NFL-owned website and the NFL-owned network.

“NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Saturday that the Dallas Cowboys linebacker is facing a four-game fine for a third failed drug test, per sources informed of his situation,” the article at NFL.com currently states; “LB Rolando McClain faces four-game fine after failing third drug test, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports,” the scroll at the bottom of NFL Network currently declares.

The leak didn’t come from McClain’s camp.  Sources close to the situation tell PFT that some members of the media got wind of the fine before McClain’s representatives even knew about it.

If the confidentiality provision of the substance-abuse policy is to have any validity or credibility, an investigation will occur.  And that investigation necessarily will include an interview of any and all relevant NFL employees.  While other reporters are beyond the scope of the NFL’s ability to compel them to disclose sources, NFL Media reporters work for the league.  Which gives the league the right to press them for information in the same way any other employer would press an employee for information when conducting an internal investigation.

So what would the league do if Rapoport refuses to disclose his source(s) for the violation of McClain’s confidentiality?  On one hand, it would be wrong for the NFL to expect a reporter to violate journalistic principles in the name of an internal investigation.  On the other hand, journalistic principles become blurred (at best) when a reporter accepts employment with the entity the reporter will be covering.

31 responses to “New substance-abuse policy could trigger investigation of McClain confidentiality breach

  1. The NFL will never hire another good reporter if he/she knows they will be handcuffed in their reporting in the future.

  2. If he doesn’t disclose his source, he may be fired. Then he could work for espn, where false information and ruining a players reputation is accepted.

  3. Sounds like a civil suit could be coming up where McClain sues for lost income and emotional damages
    Another demonstation of life in the reign of Roger the Weasel

  4. Since he is an NFL employee and he disclosed it, what difference does it make what his source was? He should be subject to the rule and its consequences.

  5. If Goodell’s office was a ship it would long ago have sunk from the thousands of leaks.

    This is what happens when the league employed media thinks they’re not actual league employees and that various aspects of the CBA and NFL rules do not apply to them.

    Which unless the CBA provisions specifically exclude NFL employed media, they apply to Rapport just as much as any other NFL employee.

    What a hot stinking mess the league office is.

  6. Throw this nitwit out of the league and do the same with any other player caught doing drugs.

    I have to laugh when commentors in forums like this think the breach of confidentiality is more newsworthy than the fact that this guy is a 3 time loser with drugs.

    Yes, the breach of confidentiality is important and wrong — but we’re talking about a guy who’s obviously got a serious problem and could end up dead if he doesn’t straighten himself out.

    Someone even said that ESPN ruins players’ reputations! What a stupid statement that is! The players ruin their reputations all by themselves because they’re too stupid to understand that we all have to live by rules and that their behavior is self destructive.

    I drive a school bus every day and I wish everyone who thinks drugs are okay would take a hard look at this generation of young people and really look at what they’re being told is acceptable behavior. Maybe it would make people understand that there’s a lot more at stake than meets the eye.

    In my lifetime, I have seen the morality in this country get worse with each passing decade. The 60’s were the beginning of it all to me, and they pale in comparison to what I’m seeing today.

    Drug abuse (including alcohol and cigarettes) has ruined millions of peoples’ lives. My question is, when will we humans ever learn? My answer is, never.

  7. Hmmm… An NFL owner, who is also the team’s GM walks into the teams party bus… you finish the rest.

  8. ‘Journalistic principles’ are a crock because they only apply when it is convenient to the journalist. How do the principles apply to divulging a source but are not mentioned when providing information the journalist knows he shouldn’t have received in the first place? The general public has no need to know much of the junk that comes out but scandals sell. Being first to report something is far more important to most ‘journalists’ than accuracy or ethics. Journalists should have the integrity to police themselves but very few will do that today.

  9. “NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport” is a snake that will do anything to get his name mentioned in the media over and over again, including guessing at stories that may or may not come to fruition…according to my sources.

  10. It’s an enormous conflict of interest, isn’t it? If the NFL doesn’t let their own reporters leak news, they’ll lose web clicks (and advertising revenue) to sites that will leak news. If they continue to do so, they’ve violating their own rules and principles.

  11. The case against Goodell and his slipshod NFL administration mounts. This may not be the most spectacular slippage considering the multiple FrameGate (formerly DeflateGate) fiascos and leaks but this adds to evidence of a rudderless, leader-less organization. Could be worse: try to obstruct Kronke from moving Rams to Hollywood Park, and the antitrust genie comes out again. Just goes to show you: can’t get good staff for less than $20M per year these days.

  12. Businesses don’t hire “reporters” to cover themselves. They hire media relations people.

    Calling Rappaport a “reporter”? I think no.

  13. “Drug abuse (including alcohol and cigarettes) has ruined millions of peoples’ lives. My question is, when will we humans ever learn? My answer is, never.”
    ——

    So Mr. Saint, what’s your vice?

  14. Good luck to the NFL finding out where the leak came from. These are the guys who couldn’t find out who their employee was that acknowledged receiving the Rice tape.

  15. On Saturday, reports emerged that Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain is facing a four-game fine for his third violation of the substance-abuse policy.

    ———————————————

    On a side note;

    Steelers RB Le’veon Bell is facing a 2 game suspension for his pot thingie…can anyone please explain to me how someone who is on his 3rd time, only loses cash, but Bell loses games and $$?

    Thanks.

  16. The league office loves to ‘leak’ items it wants the media to report, but when real news leaks out they get upset.

  17. oldtrafforddevil says:
    Feb 22, 2015 2:41 PM

    Steelers RB Le’veon Bell is facing a 2 game suspension for his pot thingie…can anyone please explain to me how someone who is on his 3rd time, only loses cash, but Bell loses games and $$?
    ___________________________

    I believe the fact Bell was driving under the influence may have something to do with it.

  18. On a side note;

    Steelers RB Le’veon Bell is facing a 2 game suspension for his pot thingie…can anyone please explain to me how someone who is on his 3rd time, only loses cash, but Bell loses games and $$?
    =====

    Bell was caught WITH it. McClain failed tests.

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