Filmmaker: LB pushed to release tape
Sean Pamphilon, the filmmaker who released the infamous audiotape of Gregg Williams speaking to the New Orleans Saints' defense the night before last season's playoff game with San Francisco, said he consulted extensively with former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita and current New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees before going public.
In a lengthy post on his personal website, Pamphilon said Fujita at one point urged him to release the tape, saying the linebacker, now with the Cleveland Browns, said "sooner the better." Brees and Fujita both are members of the NFL Players Association executive committee.
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"Scott reassures me soon thereafter that Drew Brees agrees with the NFLPA lawyers that the audio should be released 'sooner the better,'" Pamphilon wrote.
Pamphilon also said the NFLPA, including executive director DeMaurice Smith, was aware of the existence of the tape before it was released.
"At 3:12 in the afternoon Fujita texts me right after a conversation with DeMaurice Smith and says Smith 'brought up the release of the audio and his only question was if it will be released raw or edited?'" Pamphilon wrote.
Pamphilon was given access to the Saints last season as he worked on a documentary with former New Orleans special-teams player Steve Gleason, who has been diagnosed with ALS. Pamphilon said he first contemplated going public with the audio after the NFL announced on March 2 it would be punishing the Saints for a three-year bounty program, in which the league said Williams and players pooled money to offer as incentive for injuring other players.
Pamphilon said Gleason and his wife, Michel, were opposed to releasing the tape because they didn't want to do anything to hurt the Saints.
"They were emphatic Steve wasn't willing to 'burn that bridge,'" Pamphilon wrote.
Pamphilon said Fujita began acting as an intermediary between him and the Gleasons.
"Steve tells me that the only way he would consider releasing the audio would be if not only the Saints were in favor of the release, but Scott Fujita and Saints superstar quarterback Drew Brees, as well," Pamphilon wrote.
Pamphilon said the Gleasons remained opposed to releasing the tape. At various times, Pamphilon said Fujita led him to believe that Brees was in favor of releasing the tape.
"Scott assures me that Drew Brees is fully on board with releasing the audio," Pamphilon wrote in what resembled a diary entry. "The game plan was Drew would be talking to Steve and Michel to let them know their interests are protected and he supports the move because it will help his Saints teammates. The theory was that the audio would pin everything on their former defensive coach and mitigate the player penalties."
But the quarterback left a message for Pamphilon as the tape was being released to voice his opposition to the move.
"In the voicemail, Brees never says NOT to release it," Pamphilon wrote.
The NFL suspended New Orleans coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season. Williams, who left the Saints for the St. Louis Rams immediately after last season, was suspended indefinitely.
General manager Mickey Loomis will be suspended for the first eight games of the season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for the first six games. The Saints also were fined and stripped of a second-round draft choice this year and another in 2013.
The league has announced that linebacker Jonathan Vilma will be suspended for the entire season. Fujita drew a three-game suspension. Current New Orleans defensive end Will Smith got a four-game suspension and former New Orleans defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, got an eight-game suspension.
All four players have appealed their suspensions to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the union has filed grievances that were heard by two separate arbitrators, but haven't been ruled on. Vilma also has filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell.
Pamphilon also expressed disappointment in Fujita. He said the linebacker, who encouraged him to release the tapes and advised him throughout the process, stopped communicating with him in the aftermath of the audio going public.
Fujita spoke to reporters in Cleveland recently and denied a bounty program existed and said there was no evidence. Fujita said the tape wasn't evidence of anything except a coach saying some inappropriate things.
"In no way is this intended to be a cheap shot, but there is no chance [in] hell I would allow [Fujita] to teach either of my sons, an ethics class," Pamphilon wrote.
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