The decision of the NFL Network to retain Warren Sapp as an analyst despite his on air reckless indictment of Jeremy Shockey as the “snitch” in the Saints bounty scandal is cowardice in it’s purest form.
Shockey has been cleared of any involvement in Bountygate by Sean Payton, his former coach with the Saints and by the NFL league offices, but none of that matters. In the world of broadcast journalism the first word is perceived as truth, all the follow ups are just white noise.
In discussing the decision with Mike McCarthy of USA Today, Mark Quenzel, senior vice president of programming and production at NFL Network used the fine print as an excuse to retain Sapp:
- “We’ve reminded him he’s an analyst, not a reporter”
- “He used his personal twitter account to report this”
- “He is an independent contractor and not an employee of NFL Network”
Let’s break this down shall we.
“We’ve reminded him he’s an analyst not a reporter”
Sapp retired from the NFL in 2008 and has been on air with the NFL network ever since. He has never been a reporter, has never broken news and has never had to do proper research into sourcing stories. Why is “reminding him he’s not a reporter” a valid punishment for his actions?
So if my son punches my daughter I should just remind him he isn’t a boxer? Case closed – father of the year here I come!
“He used his personal Twitter account to report this”
Now we get to the real root of the issue. He initially broke the story on Twitter, BUT was asked to come on the NFL Network to elaborate.
“My source that was close to the situation informed me that [name omitted] is the one that was the snitch initially,” Sapp said. ”I trust my source unequivocally.”
”I did not call anybody at the league and I did not receive any information from the league,” Sapp said. “That’s the information that I got and I trust my source, I was given that information, and I went with it, by a reliable source.”
Four times he mentions his source, but any first year journalist knows you need multiple sources to break a story of any consequence, especially one that is potentially libelous or could violate “whistleblower” protection.
Whoever decided to put Sapp on the air to elaborate on his Twitter convo I am sure is in some pretty hot water. If they are, this further proves the double standard regarding treatment of on air talent versus those behind the scenes. For example, ESPN writer Anthony Federico published a racially insensitive headline on ESPN.com and loses his job, while ESPN anchor Max Bretos uses the same language on air and gets suspended 30 days. Double standard.
Don’t paint me as naive, I have made those difficult decisions in my career so no one needs to explain why the double standard exists, but they do need to explain why Warren Sapp is considered a talent at all. His on air analysis is about as over-blown as his contribution to the Raiders. He’s adds nothing. He is neither insightful nor predictive. He’s a blowhard bully, known better for calling Keyshawn Johnson a “bitch” on air than ever adding real analysis or acumen.
“He is an independent contractor and not an employee of NFL Network”
This is where the real cowardice comes to the forefront. So they won’t fire Sapp because he”s an independent contractor not an employee? Sapp has been on the air at NFL Network since 2008, label him however you want, he is one of the faces of NFL network. When he speaks, he represents the NFL network views. When he accuses, the viewing audience perceives this as having the endorsement of the league. He is you and you are he.
Also, if Shockey decides to file legal suit against Sapp, the network or the league for any number of potential offenses, do you think saying Sapp is an independent contractor, not an employee, will hold up in court?
I will give the NFL Network some credit, they provided themselves a nice out clause, they did not say when Sapp would be back on air, they just said they haven’t fired him. If they’ve decided the quietly suspend him, or he just never returns to their airwaves, I’ll gladly eat my words. But I have a hard time believing that will happen.
Why Did NFL Network Cave?
One of the hardest decisions to make as a manager is one that could incite dissension amongst your staff. Maybe the network execs were fearful that if they fire Sapp they’ll have a hard time recruiting and maintaning their stable of NFL talent.
Would Deion, or Irvin, or Faulk be so enraged by Sapp’s firing that they leave themselves? Would the next wave of retiring NFL talent choose ESPN, CBS or Fox instead of NFL Network? Possible, but that is managing by fear.
If the NFL followed the same logic they wouldn’t have suspended Sean Payton for one year out of fear no one would want to coach in the NFL anymore. Sounds preposterous, right?
Sometimes doing what is right can be a hard, but necessary, road to follow. This was one of those times.