For the second time on Bill Belichick’s watch, the Patriots have been punished by the NFL for illegally videotaping an opponent.
The league took away a third-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft and fined the team $1.1 million, ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported Sunday. It also banned the person who shot the illegal footage, David Mondillo, from NFL facilities indefinitely. In addition, the Patriots’ television crews will not be allowed to shoot any games in the 2020 season.
This punishment comes 12 years after the Spygate scandal, an incident in which New England’s signal-stealing was discovered during a regular-season game against the Jets. The NFL in that case docked Belichick the maximum amount under NFL bylaws ($50,000), fined the Patriots organization $250,000 and took away a 2008 first-round draft pick. No one was suspended.
The latest Patriots-related videotaping incident is similar. During a Browns vs. Bengals game in Cleveland on Dec. 8, a Cincinnati staffer in the press box at FirstEnergy Stadium noticed a cameraman, reportedly clad in Boston Bruins gear, recording the Bengals’ sideline. Cincinnati was scheduled to play New England the following week.
A source told ESPN “a Bengals employee was watching the videographer/cameraman who identified himself as a Robert Kraft employee. The Bengals employee kept an eye on that monitor, (and) the shot was of the Bengals coaches and staff on the sidelines for the entire 1st quarter.”
Alarmed, the Cincinnati staffer notified Bengals and NFL security, who confronted the cameraman and a producer who was with him.
Video of the confrontation between security and the two taping suspects was recorded, and Fox Sports aired the footage before the Bengals played the Patriots on Dec. 15. “I don’t know why you would think you could tape that,” a Bengals security guard can be heard saying.
“I didn’t know,” a videographer responds. “I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
According to multiple reports, the NFL confiscated the footage the videographer in question had recorded, immediately taking it out of the hands of the Patriots and launching an investigation. The Bengals also kept a copy of the tape.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the Bengals believed the Patriots were stealing signals.
On Dec. 9, the day after the incident, the Patriots released a statement admitting what they called “an unintended oversight.” They claimed they were shooting background footage for a video about the day-to-day work of an advanced scout for an installment of a “Do Your Job” documentary feature. The team said it informed the Browns of the plan, but neither the Bengals nor the NFL were made aware of the three-person crew, all of whom were independent contractors, according to the Patriots.
“In addition to filming the scout, the production crew — without specific knowledge of league rules — inappropriately filmed the field from the press box,” the statement read in part. “The sole purpose of the filming was to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road. There was no intention of using the footage for any other purpose. We understand and acknowledge that our video crew, which included independent contractors who shot the video, unknowingly violated a league policy by filming the field and sideline from the press box. When questioned, the crew immediately turned over all footage to the league and cooperated fully.”
Soon after the team released that statement, Belichick during a radio interview said he and his coaching staff “100 percent have zero involvement with” the team’s video production staff, which functions in a department separate from football operations.
Mondillo, the producer from Kraft Sports Entertainment who was on site with the videographer in Cleveland, was suspended by the Patriots. On Dec. 15, he released a statement that explained his role in the incident.
“I had no intention to provide footage to football operations,” the statement read in part. “I did not provide any footage, and I was never asked to do so.”
Reiss noted in his story Sunday that the Patriots fired Mondillo before the NFL handed down its punishment.
According to The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr., who cited sources who have seen the footage, “it shows about eight minutes of footage focusing on recording the Bengals’ sideline. It’s a direct view of the sideline as coaches make signals for plays. This isn’t an over-the-shoulder of the advanced scout who is doing his job stuff. This is shooting the sideline. For an extended period of time. The egregious nature of the video is why it set off the firestorm it did during the game with the Bengals executives in the press box.”
Source: Read Full Article