Has any team put themselves in a negative light in an offseason as much as the New Orleans Saints have in 2012? The latest news from the swamp is yet another punch to the stomach for the NFL, who has been trying to patch the damage from the Bounty scandal.
After that news was released, the common theme from former players is that it was not surprising to any of them, although some did take a stand against the organization.
Now it has been reported that Saints GM Mickey Loomis installed a recording device on the opponent’s sideline of the Super Dome so he could hear the visiting coaches from 2002-2004.
This news comes on the heels of the NFL denying the appeals of coaches Sean Payton and Joe Vitt, as well as Loomis.
According to the report by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Loomis “had the ability to secretly listen for most of the 2002 season, his first as general manager of the Saints, and all of the 2003 and 2004 seasons.”
A spokesperson for the Saints vehemently denied the clams, saying ”This is 1,000 percent false. This is 1,000 percent inaccurate.”
Not only are the Saints likely going to get the hammer for this if it is true, but Loomis could face legal issues from the state of Louisiana. Jim Letton, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, did not offer much to say but did say he has been made aware of the situation.
The decisions made by the Saints in both the Bounty scandal and now this are causing irreparable damage in the public eye. What was once a lovable franchise and biting at the heels of the Dallas Cowboys for the “America’s Team” moniker has now become the face of cheating and debauchery in the NFL.
Not only were they purposely trying to knock opponents out of games, but now Loomis is tied to eavesdropping on coaches during home games, which is not only cheating, but illegal.
I don’t think Loomis was looking for birthday gift ideas.
There is no way of knowing whether or not this actually helped the Saints; they went 12-12 in home games during that stretch. However the idea of someone spying on opponents is despicable.
Outside the Lines reported that there was a listening device installed in the GM suite for Randy Mueller, Loomis’ predecessor, but Mueller only listened to the Saints’ coaches. When Loomis took over in 2002, the device was re-wired so Loomis could hear opposing coaches.
Here is an excerpt from the OTL report explaining the device.
The sources said when Loomis took his seat during home games, then in the front row of box No. 4 in the 300 level of the Superdome’s north side, he was able to plug an earpiece into a jack that was under the desk in front of him. The earpiece was not unlike those used to listen to inexpensive transistor radios, the sources said. With the earpiece in place, Loomis could then toggle back and forth with a switch that he controlled, enabling him to listen to either the game-day communications of the opposing offensive or defensive coaches.
Also underneath the desk in front of Loomis, said the sources, was a metal box that contained two belt packs similar to those worn around the waists of NFL head coaches during games. The packs powered the listening device available to Loomis, which was, according to sources, hard-wired to the audio feed of the opposing coaches.
This violates a rule in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which makes it illegal to use a device to eavesdrop.
“The ECPA bars any person from intentionally intercepting wire, oral or electronic communications by using an electronic or mechanical device,” Emmick said. “The ECPA doesn’t make it illegal just to eavesdrop. You have to have used a device … Intentional interception by using the device is the key.”
In terms of the legal process hence forth, Loomis may be in the clear due to the statute of limitations, which according to the report would be five years. The source for OTL claims the device was removed in 2005.
That may put Loomis beyond punishment from the state, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will make his mark if this turns out to be true. This is similar to the Spygate scandal with the New England Patriots, which saw a bevy of fines but no suspensions from the NFL.
Given that the Saints have already inflicted damage to the NFL’s image, Goodell could strongly encourage Tom Benson to fire Loomis, as well as huge fines and the possible forfeiture of draft picks.
The Saints will move on and it may not even affect their play on the field, but they will have grown out of favor to the casual NFL fan, much like the Patriots have.
The Patriots are everyone’s team they love to hate, and the Saints could be joining them.