Kurt Warner, Spygate and the NFL's transparency problem

Christian Petersen

The former Rams quarterback has things to say about the NFL's proclivity for destroying evidence.

Kurt Warner has never shied away from expressing his feelings publicly about the St. Louis Rams' loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI and Spygate. He shared those feelings again this week making the rounds publicizing his entry into the reality television canon.

Warner talked about it with 411Mania.com (H/t to Mike Freeman at CBS):

Being that it was a part of the history of our game and it was directly part of my history, part of the history of my organization and my teammates, and possibly could have affected my career long term, you have a question; did something go on? But I don't allow that to taint or affect the way I look at it. The Patriots beat us in that game - they outplayed us, they deserved to win - but it's hard to just let it go by saying, 'Oh, I don't know if anything happened.'

That's been Warner's standard line in the years since, and it's a reminder about what an all-around class act the guy really is.

He also added:

I still have a question on what exactly when down in that whole time period; did they get some kind of advantage? Maybe it wasn't in our game but did they get some kind of advantage in any game?

We'll never know because the league destroyed the tapes. Warned talked about that too, very directly.

I simply say that because to know that there was evidence out there, that there were tapes out there, but no one ever got to see the tapes - the commissioner or whoever decided they were going to destroy them from what I understand - and so it continually leaves the question.

Last year's Bounty fiasco was another reminder about the NFL's curious, almost Soviet-esque relationship with information and discipline. The league was very careful about what evidence got out related to the Saints, selectively releasing much of it.

With the Saints bounty incident, there really wasn't a question about whether or not it happened. Existing in the gray area, actually living in the dark, was a broader view of it, things like how involved the coaches were and just how formalized the bounties were.

It was similar with the Spygate tapes. The league had a problem on its hands, a big one that impacted competitiveness and the integrity of the game, and it moved quickly to hand out discipline and burn the evidence.

I'm not of the mind that there's some grand revelation in the tapes. In fact, they probably just are what they are: an illegal video tape of another team's practice. But again, we don't know. To me, the larger issue here is the league's ham-fisted approach to transparency.

And it's not just transparency with regards to disciplinary matters. During the lockout, the NFL lawyers fought tooth and nail to keep from opening the books. We're seeing the same thing in the concussions lawsuit, as the league presses the motion to dismiss in part to avoid what will be a very thorough discovery phase if the case goes to trial.

There aren't too many multi-billion dollar industries in the US that operate with less regulatory structure than the NFL. However, for me, it's a troubling paradox for a business model that depends heavily on federal protection for its monopoly, a non-profit status that exempts it from taxation and hefty contributions from local taxpayers for stadiums.

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