We kept hearing that Spygate was going to get more interesting, not less. Others, including Chris Mortensen, said the Patriots problems could be “bigger than spygate.” Here is what we meant.
The takeaway: a lawyer for Matt Walsh, the former New England Patriots employee who is alleged to have videotaped opponents on behalf of the team, says his client has copies of the tapes. Here is lede: “The lawyer for former New England Patriots employee Matt Walsh said his client is willing to turn over videotapes he made for the team if the NFL guarantees Walsh protection from lawsuits or other legal action. Attorney Michael Levy said that to date, the NFL’s initial proposals are not sufficient protection for Walsh, who is said to have taped the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough practice the day before they played the Patriots in the 2002 Super Bowl. The Patriots won 20-17.”
The NFL’s official stance is that Walsh might have interesting information to provide and that they are interesting in hearing it. But they are showing that interest in strange ways. According to Walsh’s lawyer, the NFL has launched an investigation of his client. “Sending a former FBI agent to investigate his professional and personal life has not left Mr. Walsh feeling confident that the National Football League simply wants to encourage him to come forward with whatever information he has,” Levy said.
The NFL’s interest in Walsh is new. Although many in the media knew about Walsh and what he claimed to know (indeed, he had been interviewed numerous times by reporters before his name surfaced publicly), the NFL never sought to talk to him in its initial “investigation” of Spygate. The league has acknowledged that it had heard “rumors” about Walsh before, but never followed them up. Now they’re investigating his personal and professional life? Curious.
As it stands, Levy and the NFL are wrangling over how much protection Walsh will get if he shares what he know — and has — about the Patriots’ videotaping practices. (See the guys at PFT for more on the legal angle.)
I’m a fan of the NFL and I think it’s been the best-run professional sports league in the last twenty years. But this is starting to smell funny. And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may have given a hint about how the NFL will treat Walsh when he said that Walsh must tell the truth and “return anything he took improperly.” It may be the case that Walsh shouldn’t have taken tapes with him, but if they show what some people have suggested, taking them “improperly” will be a non-issue. If we start hearing that Walsh has “credibility problems” or owes back rent or sleeps with prostitutes or once killed a hamster, it’ll be a good sign that he’s got the goods.
As they say, stay tuned.