New Orleans Saints Bountygate: Steve Gleason Remains Courageous

Clifton W. WilliamsContributor IIApril 8, 2012

Steve Gleason
Steve GleasonTom Berg/Getty Images

Steve Gleason played professional football for eight years for the New Orleans Saints. He played with passion—which is what you need to become a special teams standout.

Steve become famous for blocking a punt the first night the Louisiana Superdome reopened after Hurricane Katrina. It was one of the most emotional and memorable plays ever. (For those of us in St. Louis, the only thing that could compare emotionally was Jack Buck's poem at Busch Stadium less than a week after 9/11.)

Gleason had a passion for travel in addition to special teams. He didn't go for the run-of-the-mill touristy sites; he preferred to travel to third world countries. He set up a foundation that focused on environmentalism and literacy. After playing football he earned his MBA and worked as a consultant for Clean Energy Initiatives.

In January of 2011, just two months shy of his 34th birthday, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). According to the ALS Association (ALSA.org) the average age at the time of diagnosis is 55, not 34.

Gleason and his wife decided to have a child. Their son was born on October 19, 2011. Wanting to make sure he was able to pass on his thoughts on life to his son, Steve started, even before the child was born, to create a video library.

Sean Pamphilon who directed one episode of ESPN's 30/30 series approached Steve about documenting Gleason’s journey. According to a statement released by Steve, he agreed to this arrangement based on his understanding that, “...all recordings ultimately belong to me and my family. Nothing can be released without my explicit approval.”

The Saints, in an effort to support Gleason, opened their doors to him and invited him to several team functions. They also agreed to let Pamphilon in with his recording equipment as a favor to Steve.

On April 5th, Pamphilon released audio of a pregame speech delivered by Gregg Williams. (Gregg Williams was one of several members of the Saints suspended for Bountygate.)

It was either the same speech every coach gives before a game trying to get his players excited, or it was one of the most disgusting things you have ever heard come out of a coach’s mouth.

Pamphilon's stated reason in the New Orleans Times-Picayune for releasing the audio was "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.”

Really? These were grown men Williams was talking to, not children. It had nothing to do with children. The story was already out there; punishments have already been decided and handed out. This was not new evidence. I am sure that the NFL, based on a three year investigation, already had more damning material than this.

I am not questioning the seriousness of Bountygate. I am not questioning the seriousness of concussions in the NFL. I am questioning Pamphilon's agenda.

What is the result of this release? For the NFL, I’m sure it changed nothing. For Steve Gleason? These are his words: “A multitude of feelings have passed through me. I feel deflated and disappointed. I feel frustrated and distracted.”

On Gleason’s website he states that, “During my diagnosis process, I was made aware of the connection between impact sports and brain disease (including ALS).”

Has he tried to get the NFL to shoulder any responsibility?  Absolutely not.

He does not sound like that is what he is about. Again, from his website, he states his goal: “Ultimately, determining the cause of this disease is not an objective of mine. I decided that my energy was better spent focusing on how to cure the disease and help inspire other patients rather than dwelling on how this may have occurred.”

Whether or not what Pamphilon did was legal, it was definitely wrong. What I do know is that Gleason has acted with grace, integrity and courage.

The following excerpt sums up Steve Gleason from Yahoo! :

Especially here in New Orleans, most of the people that my child will encounter, if I'm not here, will say, "Your dad was amazing and he had this great football career, he was a hero for the city, and almost in a sense build kind of a mythical image of me," Gleason said. "So what I've tried to do is sit down and really explain some of the struggles I've gone through and the less desirable parts of myself. ... I want them to know I went through a lot of the same things they went through. And I've had to go through one of the hardest things a person can go through, but hopefully shown the courage and grace and joy you can still have despite these circumstances."

Rivers Varisco Gleason—Your dad is amazing.

At the end of his statement Gleason added, “If this story promotes any action from you, I hope it will be action towards solving the tremendous problem of curing ALS.”