There hasn’t been any winners in the bounty mess down in New Orleans. Gregg Williams is a sleazeball who may never be employed in the NFL again, the Saints and their fans have lost a head coach, an assistant coach, a general manager, and a middle linebacker for all or parts of next season. And Roger Goodell continues to look like the all-seeing, unquestioned dictator due to his unwillingness to show definitive evidence to the public, and more importantly, the four suspended players.
But now one of those players looks like a colossal jerk.
Meet Scott Fujita, everyone. You know him as the former Saint and current Browns linebacker who’s been suspended for three games for his alleged bounty involvement. Sean Pamphilon knows him as someone who can’t handle the truth.
In a long-winded, 10,000 word essay published late Thursday night that was graciously summarized by Deadspin, Pamphilon shares the story of how the infamous audio of Gregg Williams in which the former Saints defensive coordinator tells his players to rip off ACLs, heads, and other important body parts was released to the public.
Turns out Fujita played a significant role in the decision, and the NFLPA was involved quietly too, according to Pamphilon. To review, the tape came into existence because Pamphilon had become close to Steve Gleason, the former Saint who has ALS. Pamphilon was documenting Gleason’s life and his struggle with the disease, and since Gleason is still strongly connected with the Saints, the filmmaker was granted access to the team’s private meetings, which included Williams’ speech prior a playoff game this past January against San Francisco.
Once Williams’ frothy, hate-laced rant was on tape, it became a hot potato of sorts, as Pamphilon describes it. He had a short list of journalists whom he felt comfortable enough with to hand the tape over, but he wanted to do it anonymously, fearing his motives would be questioned if his name was publicized. He eventually chose a journalist (Yahoo’s Michael Silver), but Pamphilon’s name remained attached.
Fujita’s involvement came when he allegedly acted as a middle man between Pamphilon, Gleason, and the NFLPA through his teammate and player rep Drew Brees.
According to the filmmaker, Fujita indicated to him on numerous occasions that Brees and the NFLPA supported the decision to release the tape—and the linebacker, who is a close friend of Gleason, cast the decisive vote when the production team made the final call.
Over the phone this morning, Fujita says he had no idea there was any language in the production agreement that gave him that authority. Gleason’s lawyer, Thomas McEachin, confirmed that was true in a subsequent interview. “Sean and Steve both told me they didn’t convey that to Scott,” McEachin says.
Pamphilon’s accusations are a little murky, but bountygate has been a filthy mess all along, so that’s expected. The mere fact that Pamphilon is writing with so much conviction regarding Fujita’s involvement is damning, and he also includes screen caps of texts he exchanged with the linebacker discussing plans to release the tapes.
This is bad. Really bad, and if even a fraction of what Pamphilon alleges is true, then there’s far more paint slopped on the brush that’s tainting the players and everyone involved with the Saints during the bounty years as a bunch of serial deniers who want to cast Williams as a rogue coach.
Fujita repeatedly (and allegedly, the 22nd time that word has been used in this post) communicated with Pamphilon, most notably on April 2nd, when he asked the filmmaker about his “vision for the release of the Saints’ meeting.” When Pamphilon was hesitant, Fujita pushed him by sharing some rather interesting information in a phone call the next day.
Pamphilon wrote about it in his essay:
Scott calls me in the late morning and tells me that NFLPA lawyer, Heather McPhee had asked him if his “filmmaker friend” was still interested in releasing the audio. They weren’t going to tell me to do it, but If I were still considering this, I might want to do it “the sooner the better.”
The paint on that brush just turned black if there’s a shred of truth to this claim. Now it’s more than the Saints wanting Williams to appear as a rogue lunatic. It’s the NFLPA too.
In a response to an interview request from Deadspin, Fujita said only this…
“I shared very private and personal feelings with someone I believed was a friend. I am disappointed he chose to share those private thoughts publicly. I believe he is a talented filmmaker and wish him well.”
Pamphilon has taken a beating since the tape was released, and his apprehension about his motives being questioned was warranted. Public scorn has cast him as a self-promotional, self-serving artist looking to pump his latest project titled “The United States of Football.”
In truth, there may have been far greater forces at play here, and they were rooted in an organization associated with the NFL that’s much larger than a meager artist.