The reason why our system doesn’t allow the same person to be cop, prosecutor, judge and appeals court judge became painfully apparent last week when the NFL went on a orchestrated media campaign to hang Anthony Hargrove with what it claims were his own words. Only problem was the video “evidence’’ provided to 12 selected reporters not only proved no such thing, it seemed to indict previously unindicted Remi Ayodele.
Or maybe not, which was the problem with the “evidence’’ in what is becoming an ugly looking case of pin the felony on anybody and let’s move on.
Before we go any further, let’s make two things clear. First, something is not only rotten in the state of Denmark, something was rotten in the state of Louisiana. That Gregg Williams would institute a bounty program, which he admitted to running between 2009-11, and stand in front of his team advocating torn ACLs and shots to the head of previously concussed players was, in a word, shameful. So, too, was the fact not a single Saint, including NFLPA executive committee member Scott Fujita, stood up to protest.
Second, the reason commissioner Roger Goodell is serving as cop, prosecutor, judge and appeals court judge in “Bountygate’’ is because the players, in their greedy, single-minded pursuit of money, GAVE HIM THAT AUTHORITY in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. They are the ones who agreed to a system long rife with conflict of interest at best and absence of justice at worst, and now are being hoisted on their own petard.
Having said that, to use a video that shows Hargrove wink and say “Bobby’’ before his face disappears as Ayodele leans toward Bobby McCray calls into question just how much real evidence the NFL has in this ugly case of testosterone madness.
When former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, who examined the evidence for the NFL, was asked by a reporter from New Orleans how she knew it was Hargrove’s voice, she said, “Because you can see his lips moving.’’ I think that’s normally what’s said when one asks how you know a lawyer is lying, is it not?
Actually the only time you see Hargrove’s lips moving is when he winks and says “Bobby…’’ After that his head disappears as Ayodele leans toward McCray. At that moment Ayodele’s neck muscles appear to move. Might he not have been the one talking?
Circumstantial evidence would argue so, because it was Ayodele and McCray who put the hit on Brett Favre that, at that moment, the Saints believed had broken his leg. So it would have been Ayodele and McCray who would be shown the money. Why then would Hargrove say that?
If an example of how the alleged mountain of “evidence’’ is being viewed is to conclude someone guilty of making a statement because you can see his lips moving when you can’t even see his head is, well, why the judge, jury and prosecutor shouldn’t be the same person. In a real court, the NFL couldn’t get away with such tactics, but suspended players like Hargrove and Jonathan Vilma aren’t in court and may never get there because they agreed to this kangaroo court system.
Were Williams and his players guilty of seriously warped thinking? Yes. If you watch that game and conclude otherwise you are either blind or from New Orleans. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to claim “evidence’’ — as nearly all those hand-picked reporters claimed they’d seen — just by saying it’s evidence, it didn’t prove anything except that Hargrove and his teammates were pretty happy Favre was out and somebody thought he was going to get paid because of it.
Was it Hargrove? Maybe, but that video didn’t prove it. In fact, if you had no dog in the hunt, it looked like Ayodele may have said it, although the video didn’t prove that either.
All it proved was the framers of the Constitution knew what they were doing when they separated the cops from the judges. Too bad NFL players weren’t smart enough to do the same.
Ron Borges is a columnist for the Boston Herald and Pro Football Weekly.