NFL Should've Known Better Than to Release Hargrove's Name with 'Declaration'

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2012

Repercussions of the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal continue to be felt across the league, with the latest victim being Anthony Hargrove, a former Saint and current Green Bay Packers defensive end.

Did I just call Hargrove a victim?

Yes, I did.

Of course, to some extent he's not going to get our sympathy given his involvement in the bounty program in the first place. Perhaps many also wouldn't have any sympathy for him since he was involved in covering it up—he may have been told by Joe Vitt and Greg Williams to lie to the NFL, but ultimately he chose to go along.

Grownups get grown-up consequences for grown-up idiocy.

That he eventually admitted to it is all well and good, but perhaps it's too little, far too late. Plus, "I was just following orders" never worked as an excuse for anyone.

Yet, I do indeed call him a victim.

Hargrove is upset the NFL leaked his declaration—his admission to and explanation of the events around the bounty program—and the fact that he wrote it to the world this week.

Nobody was expecting that—not even Hargrove.

The bounty scandal has set off some pretty strong opinions among media, fans and players alike. Some angry words and some pretty severe things have been said on both sides of the issue.

It's easy to see why the NFL released the statement. It makes it look good. It lets us all see that, yes, the league is indeed doing its due diligence and see, it was right to suspend the coaches and players involved.

So what if one man gets thrown to the wolves over it?

Hargrove's rep just took a huge hit and he just got opened up to a ton of grief from fellow players.

Think I'm overreacting?

Might I remind you of the reaction of many when former NFL Network "analyst" Warren Sapp incorrectly outed former Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey for being "the snitch" who got the Saints in trouble?

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 18:  Jeremy Shockey #80 of the Carolina Panthers at Reliant Stadium on December 18, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

I say "former" because it cost him his job. Some pretty awful stuff was said of Shockey both by fans and by players.

So after all that—after we saw the knife sharpening and venomous reaction by plenty of people—the league decides that this time it's OK to out a guy?

We're against naming names unless we're the ones naming and it gets us solid PR?

I haven't heard the same garbage about Hargrove that we heard in regards to Shockey, which may only mean the garbage just gets said in back rooms, on phone calls and not on social networking sites.

It's really besides the point.

Given what happened to Shockey and given that Sapp lost his job over it, the NFL should have known better. It should have known protecting the identity of a guy who just verified events that got a franchise sandblasted for 2012 might be more important than scoring PR points with the press.

I can't imagine other Saints players—former and present—of fans are too pleased.

Maybe Hargrove never thought to ask if it would be released. Maybe it never came up. Clearly he never thought in a million years it would come out. If he had, my suspicion is he wouldn't have written it out.

And there's the final injury done here. If you're a player seeing something shady or involved in something you rethink and want to expose, would you trust the NFL to keep your name out of it if it's damaging to have it known you did it?

If there is a risk to being a whistle-blower in any way shape or form, would you trust the league to protect you?

I have to wonder how many players might believe the answer is "no."

Certainly Hargrove's would be.



It has been pointed out to me that it is just as likely the NFL Players Association released it as the NFL. I lean more towards the NFL because I don't see the same mileage for the NFLPA in releasing it. Ultimately, it makes their efforts on behalf of the suspended players that much more difficult. Maybe they're playing both sides of the fence.

If that's the case, they knew better as well.