One of the biggest developments in the sports world yesterday was the release of an audio tape featuring remarks from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, in a defensive meeting leading up to the team’s playoff game against the 49ers in January. Williams, of course, was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for his role in the Saints’ bounty program on defense, and the contents of the tape made him look even worse.
But thanks to an item today on nola.com, someone else might not come out of this looking too good either: documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon. Pamphilon is the one who released the tape to begin with – he possessed it because he had access to the Saints last season, thanks to his involvement in a project with former Saints defensive back Steve Gleason, who now suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gleason didn’t expect Pamphilon to release any recordings he took of the Saints – and wasn’t happy he did it:
The Saints trusted me and gave us unlimited access in filming, and I, in turn, trusted Sean Pamphilon.
Sean Pamphilon and I have an agreement that all recordings ultimately belong to me and my family. Nothing can be released without my explicit approval. I did not authorize the public release of any recordings.
A multitude of feelings have passed through me. I feel deflated and disappointed. I feel frustrated and distracted. Nevertheless, these feelings will pass, and I will continue steadfast in my mission.
Certainly, this casts the release of the tape in a different light. Pamphilon defended the release of the tape yesterday, denying he did it “for fame or money” and saying that had the bounty scandal not become public, he wouldn’t have released the tape at all. His motives, as he described them, sound noble: “the fact I feel deeply that parents of children playing football MUST pay attention to the influence of men who will sacrifice their kids for W’s.”
But now, a man with a serious, terminal illness feels betrayed. And that’s probably going to outweigh anything Pamphilon can say defending himself. The tide’s already turning against him – not without reason. If his motive was to expose Williams for what he was, then why wait until after the bounty story broke? If there’s a situation under which he wouldn’t have released the tape and shared it with everyone, why should we believe his ultimate motivation is to share this story with everyone?
And it’s not like we didn’t know Williams was crazy to begin with – in the long run, how much more insight did the tape provide? Hearing both sides to this story, it’s hard not to sympathize more with Gleason. We don’t feel bad for Williams that his nuttiness was broadcast to a huge audience, but if Gleason had every reason to believe Pamphilon wouldn’t release that tape without his consent, and considering the Saints organization has been as good to him as it is? Then yeah, we feel bad for him. This scandal was bad enough without making him into collateral damage.