In what has been discussed since Super Bowl Weekend, the rumored meeting between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania are finalizing the details in order to meet next week to discuss the Spygate controversy, according to Mike Fish of ESPN and verified by a spokesman for Specter. Specter, the leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been quite critical of the league’s handling of the controversy and wants to question the commissioner about the destruction of tapes that were turned over by the New England Patriots as part of a probe last September. Specter also expressed frustration over the time it took to receive a response from the league offices, inquiring about the league’s investigation. Specter also told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, “The commissioner’s explanation as to why he destroyed the tapes does not ring true.”
Goodell, who is going to Hawaii to attend the Pro Bowl, has already said that he welcomes the opportunity to sit down with Specter and explain his handling of the situation. That’s the meat and potatoes of this so far, but there’s some interesting tidbits: Specter also said that he may possibly be interested in talking to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to determine if Brady benefitted from any illegally gained material; Specter’s spokesperson said on Tuesday that depending on the outcome of the meeting with Goodell will dictate whether the meeting with Brady will happen.
A spokesperson for Specter – apparently he has more than one mouthpiece – also told ESPN that Matt Walsh, the former Patriots’ video assistant who has intimated that he may have information about the team’s videotaping practices that could potentially embarrass the Patriots and the NFL. There were discussions with Walsh’s attorney, but a meeting has not been scheduled; the spokesperson said that the discussions are continuing.
At his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference last Friday, Goodell said that the 6 tapes that were turned over by the Patriots and destroyed shortly thereafter by the league were from the 2006 season and the 2007 preseason; Specter described what the NFL did as a “very incomplete investigation”, noting that it failed to go back beyond the 2006 season and did not include the former video assistant (Walsh). Walsh couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday on Specter’s invitation to speak with him; however on Friday. Walsh told ESPN that he is uncertain if he will meet with a Senate subcommittee, if asked to. During a Sunday appearance on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning”, Goodell said that he reserved the right to reopen the investigation if new information surfaced, adding that if Walsh “has information that is inconsistent with what we have, we want to talk to him.”
This whole scenario is mysterious, through and through. I have no idea what the NFL’s protocol is regarding conducting investigations, but I suspect that it will be discussed when Specter and Goodell get together next week sometime. And not that it matters now, but typically when there are tapes that are compromising to a certain party or parties, do you not keep the tapes? In any case, I expect several things to happen: I think that after Specter and Goodell meet, there will be a grander stage for the NFL to state their case – at a Senate hearing where subpoenas will be issued. I also expect Walsh to be subpoenaed at some point in time. This isn’t just a minor faux pas by the league; on the contrary, this can quite possibly open up a whole bunch of other stuff not related to Spygate. And this is something that the NFL does not need, especially after all the good news about the Super Bowl.