We knew that the Gregg Williams story was bound to get emotional at some point. Whenever you have proof that a coach told his own players to intentionally injure their opponents, reactions are going to come as swift and hard as a Jonathan Vilma blindside hit. A new factor in this case is the reaction by former Saints player Steve Gleason, who facilitated the entry of documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon into the Saints' daily preparation for football -- including the team meeting before their divisional round loss to the San Francisco 49ers in which Williams told his defenders to go after 49ers players in several interesting and profane ways.
Gleason, who played defensive back for the Saints from 2000 through 2006, is suffering from ALS and responded to Pamphilon 's proposal that a film be made of Gleason's life as he fights the disease.
On Thursday, Gleason released a statement on NOLA.com, which reads in part:
In the spring of 2011, Sean Pamphilon approached me, and we agreed to collaborate to further document my family's journey.
I have a unique relationship with the Saints and the City of New Orleans. The Saints have been incredibly open and supportive of me and my family during my disease progression. From my perspective, the Saints have helped begin to shift the paradigm of how an NFL team should treat its players after retirement.
Since my retirement, and specifically this year, the Saints have opened their doors and included me in countless team functions. I included Sean Pamphilon in some of these activities, because I felt my relationship with the Saints was an integral part of my overall journey. 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.
It's a difficult situation for Gleason, for the Saints, and for Pamphilon. As Gleason wrote, the Saints have been very supportive of his efforts to live the best life possible. Pamphilon apparently acquired the audio that busted the Williams story wide open through ethical means, but the release of that audio has become far more complex. If Gleason has that release agreement in writing, Pamphilon is in more than a bit of trouble, but certainly not as much trouble as the Saints are currently experiencing.
The release of the audio, and Mike Silver's corresponding story for Yahoo.com on the subject, most certainly hindered the prospects for the three Saints employees in appeal hearings the same day -- head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis, and assistant coach Joe Vitt were each trying to get their suspensions reduced at the pleasure of the NFL.
Pamphilon released his own statement on the subject:
"If this story hadn't broken and been made public, I would not have shared this it. I would not have compromised my personal relationships and risked damaging Steve Gleason's relationship with the Saints. I would have crafted these words and sentiments for another forum, perhaps years down the road.
"If it weren't for 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, I would not have written this.
"Some will call me releasing this audio for fame or money grab. True haters will call it exploitation.
"People of character and conscience call it was it is: tru [sic]."
Character and conscience are two of the primary keys to this entire story. The extreme complication for Pamphilon is that the emotional aftereffects of this part of the tale will not treat him kindly; he's now seen by many as a once-trusted friend who broke a promise to a dying man. Whether that's true or not, it's unfortunate that this story may eclipse the real issue -- what Williams said, what Pamphilon recorded, and what it all means. But the ethics of content release are also important, no matter how off-topic they may seem in this case.
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- Steve Gleason
- Gregg Williams