So now that the dust is settling on Matt Walsh’s anticlimactic meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today, it’s natural to wonder this meeting means for the future of John Tomase and the Boston Herald.
The situation isn’t as cut-and-dry as it might appear at a casual glance. The original story by Tomase was very detailed in describing what his source told him:
According to a source close to the team during the 2001 season, here’s what happened. On Feb. 2, 2002, one day before the Patriots’ Super Bowl game against heavily favored St. Louis in New Orleans, the Patriots visited the Superdome for their final walkthrough.
After completing the walkthrough, they had their team picture taken and the Rams then took the field. According to the source, a member of the team’s video staff stayed behind after attending the team’s walkthrough and filmed St. Louis’ walkthrough.
At no point was he asked to identify himself or produce a press pass, the source said. The cameraman rode the media shuttle back to the hotel with news photographers when the Rams walkthrough was completed, the source said.
But then, Tomase got very ambiguous when he later added:
It’s not known what the cameraman did with the tape from there. It’s also not known if he made the recording on his own initiative or if he was instructed to make the recording by someone with the Patriots or anyone else.
According to the Goodell’s press conference today, Walsh had no knowledge of any such event, and he was there. He was even on the field while the Rams were going through their workout…in his Patriots gear. Here are the comments from Goodell on this matter in today’s press conference:
“We were also able to verify that there was no Rams walkthrough tape. No one asked him to tape the walkthrough. He’s not aware of anybody else who may have taped the walkthrough. He had not seen such a tape. He does not know of anybody who says there is a tape. He was in the building at the time of the walkthrough along with other Patriots video personnel. They were doing their job prior to the game. He in fact was even on the sidelines in his Patriots gear while the Rams were practicing. So it was clear that there was not an overt attack addressing access into the Rams walkthrough.”
Clearly there is a conflict here. The Herald posted one update today on the Walsh meeting, but it is not clear whether anyone from the paper was actually in New York for the event. (Edit: As of 3:50 this afternoon, that post has been removed. How strange. Also, commenters are saying Tomase was in NY today…) It would make sense that they would be reticent about sending Tomase, as he could’ve found himself quickly in the spotlight and having to address questions about his role in the whole tidal wave of publicity regarding the supposed walkthrough tape.
There is a lot of talk about whether the Patriots will file a lawsuit against the Herald, but I can’t see that happening. (Mike Florio suggests that Walsh could be the star witness for the Patriots in a suit against the Herald) What do they really have to gain from that? The damage is done. What would they be looking to prove? Reckless reporting? I can’t see maliciousness being a motive. The Patriots could potentially lean on the Herald and try to get Tomase sanctioned or taken off the beat, but I don’t see that happening either. I can see the Patriots making a statement now that this part is over, and refusing to discuss it ever again. (Edit: Right on cue, here is the statement.)
But what does the future hold for Tomase? He’s not a favorite of Patriots’ fans right now, the comments section of his blog and posts have been closed by the Herald because of the outcry. I even had to edit and remove many comments in the Tomase approval ratings post last week.
I don’t think he’ll be punished by the paper, but will they take him off the Patriots beat? I’d imagine he’s not getting a very warm reception down at Gillette these days. Will his future work be tainted by this incident? His name is always going to be brought up when this incident is mentioned.
I asked Frank Shorr, who runs the Boston University Sports Institute, which includes a seminar on sports journalism for a comment on what is now facing the Herald and Tomase, he had the following to say:
I think John needs to set the record straight but that in and of itself presents problems….identifying a source is not something any reporter wants to do but somewhere along the line you have to clear the air… John’s and the Herald’s credibility is at stake here…
Clearly they can’t remain silent forever. This needs to be addressed. For the record, I don’t advocate Tomase losing his job, his editors should bear just as much responsibility for the story being published as Tomase himself. Something however, needs to be said or done to acknowledge or explain what has happened here.
The mainstream media (including employees of the Herald) loves to crow about bloggers having no accountability for the things they write and get wrong.
Where’s the accountability here?