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Broncos disclose violation of integrity-of-game policy

  • By National Football League
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Broncos fined $50,000 for violation


Head coach Josh McDaniels fined $50,000 for failing to report prohibited videotaping of opposing team practice


The Denver Broncos discovered and disclosed to the NFL a violation by a club employee of the league's integrity-of-the-game policy involving the improper videotaping of a six-minute portion of the San Francisco 49ers' October 30 practice at Wembley Stadium in London the day prior to the Broncos-49ers game there, the Broncos and NFL announced today.

Team video director Steve Scarnecchia took the video and presented it that day to head coach Josh McDaniels, who declined to view it, the investigation by the Broncos and NFL has determined. However, as a result of failing to report the incident as required by league policy, McDaniels has been fined $50,000 by Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Broncos also have been fined $50,000 by Commissioner Goodell because clubs are ultimately accountable for the actions of their employees.

The Broncos have terminated Scarnecchia's employment for cause. In addition, Commissioner Goodell has notified Scarnecchia that, as a repeat violator of league rules relating to the integrity of the game, he will be the subject of a hearing to determine whether he should be barred from the NFL for conduct detrimental to the league under the commissioner's disciplinary authority in the NFL Constitution and Bylaws.

The investigation found that Broncos executives were made aware of the apparent improper videotaping on November 8 following the team's return from London.

After conducting an internal review, team executives contacted the NFL office on November 12 and requested a meeting to report the apparent violation. On the morning of November 16, Broncos executives, including owner Pat Bowlen, met with NFL staff in New York to disclose Mr. Scarnecchia's actions.

Based on the report, NFL Security promptly began an investigation, which included interviews of Broncos personnel in Denver on November 18 and 19. In addition, they arranged for a forensic analysis of the laptop computers used by the video department, which confirmed that the Saturday practice had been recorded. NFL Security has retained the tape.

Following are excerpts from Commissioner Goodell's letter to Broncos owner Pat Bowlen:

» "The investigation was conducted with the full cooperation and support of the Denver Broncos. Your entire organization has fully responded to our requests for information and access to individuals, and provided exemplary assistance to our investigators.

» "The investigation disclosed that on October 30, the day before the Broncos played the 49ers in London, Steve Scarnecchia, Denver's video director, was present in Wembley Stadium. He was properly at the stadium, along with players, coaches and other club staff, to prepare for the October 31 game. During this time, the Broncos conducted their final walk-thru. After the Denver players and most of the other team staff left Wembley, Mr. Scarnecchia remained behind to continue setting up his equipment for the next day. At one point he noticed that the 49ers were conducting their walk-thru practice, and he surreptitiously recorded a portion (approximately six minutes in length) of that practice.

» "When he was interviewed by NFL Security, Mr. Scarnecchia admitted that he had recorded the practice. He maintained that he had not previously recorded a walk-thru or other practice or engaged in any other improper videotaping (such as recording coaching signals of an opposing team) since joining the Broncos; that he knew that what he did in London was wrong; that taping the walk-thru was his decision alone; and that nobody had instructed him to record the practice.

» "Mr. Scarnecchia also stated that while he offered to show the tape to head coach McDaniels, the coach had no interest in the material and did not in fact watch the tape. He said that Coach McDaniels responded to his offer by saying, "No, I'm not doing that," at which point Mr. Scarnecchia left. He also said that he did not show the tape to any other member of the coaching staff, and our interviews do not disclose that any member of the coaching or football staff viewed the recording.

» "Our investigators immediately and independently interviewed Coach McDaniels and did so under circumstances that would have made it impossible for him to have spoken to Mr. Scarnecchia in advance. (It is also significant that your staff had not previously discussed the matter with Coach McDaniels; thus, his meeting with NFL Security was the first time that he had been questioned on the matter.) Coach McDaniels recounted essentially the same sequence of events as Mr. Scarnnechia had previously disclosed -- namely, that Mr. Scarnecchia had come to him and advised that he had recorded the walk-thru, and that Coach McDaniels told Mr. Scarnecchia that he was not interested in watching the tape and did not do so.

» "Based on our investigation, we have found no evidence to suggest that Coach McDaniels or any other member of the coaching staff watched the tape. Nor have we identified any evidence to suggest that any member of the coaching staff or club management directed Mr. Scarnecchia to record the practice. We are aware of no evidence that would indicate the recording of any other opposing team practices or walk-thrus, or the like. And there is no reason to believe that the improper videotaping in London had any competitive effect on the October 31 game between the Broncos and 49ers.

» "There is no question, as you and your executives recognized, that Mr. Scarnecchia's actions are prohibited by league rules. Even Mr. Scarnecchia acknowledged this. You initially placed Mr. Scarnecchia on administrative leave and have advised me that he now has been discharged for cause.

» "Although I find no fault with the way the club handled this matter once you and your executives became aware of it, I nonetheless believe that some penalty must be imposed. We have no more important responsibility than preserving the integrity and competitive fairness of the game and avoiding any implication that games are decided by anything other than what takes place on the field. In the only prior case of improper videotaping, the penalties included fines on the club and the head coach, as well as loss of a first round draft pick. For many reasons, there is no basis here to consider discipline at anywhere close to those levels: this appears to be a single incident by an employee who acted entirely on his own; there was no competitive effect; and, most importantly, the Broncos promptly took the initiative to report the violation. Had any of those factors not been present, I would have almost certainly imposed much more substantial discipline on the club. But because clubs are ultimately accountable for the conduct of their employees, I have determined that a sanction on the club is appropriate, and have therefore imposed a fine on the Broncos of $50,000.

» "With respect to Coach McDaniels, I have reached the conclusion that disciplinary action is appropriate for him as well. While he apparently declined to look at the tape, I also believe that he should have immediately advised you or one of your senior executives when he learned what Mr. Scarnecchia had done. The coach's failure to do so is inconsistent with the Policy on Integrity of the Game, which imposes an obligation on executives, head coaches and others with knowledge of violations to report them promptly. Because Coach McDaniels failed to do so, I have decided to impose a fine on him of $50,000. I have also, as you know, personally discussed this matter with Coach McDaniels, and have emphasized his critical role in fostering and maintaining a culture of integrity within the football organization. I believe that he now understands his responsibilities in this respect, and am hopeful that he will live up to those responsibilities in the future.

» "As part of an effort to confirm that that the violations do not extend beyond Mr. Scarnecchia's actions in London, a significant number of club employees have signed a certification confirming that they are aware of no further violations of the Policy. The signatories include you, Joe Ellis, Rich Slivka, Coach McDaniels and his staff, and the remaining members of the club's video staff. Although we believe that our investigation has thoroughly addressed the matter, I should also add that if further information comes to our attention, we will reopen the investigation and, if the facts warrant, will impose additional discipline as appropriate."

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