My Conversation With Sean Pamphilon

4 Jun

Because, well, why not?

What follows is my email conversation with the always-interesting Sean Pamphilon, concerning his role in the “bountygate” story. It’s a little long, but as per my agreement with Pamphilon, it is unedited as to content, and without any added commentary. Without further ado…

The Angry Who Dat: A big problem many people have with your essay Tru Dat and release of the Williams tape is the surprise you profess at your first listen to Williams’s speech. You say that you followed that team for most of the year, yet were shocked by the specific injuries being targeted (especially concussions). Was that the first defensive meeting you ever attended? If that’s the first time you heard that kind of talk, how are you so convinced that it was an endemic problem?

Sean Pamphilon: That was the first and only defensive meeting I ever attended. The only other night before the game meeting I shot was the night before the Texans game on September 25th. Most of the time I spent at the Saints facility was with Steve late at night when he was taking a whirlpool or sauna.

I am NOT sure it was an endemic problem. But our Saints were under investigation for three years. And the following week after we lost to the 49ers, the NY Giants went after the same guy and were quoted in the papers on the record. I think the media did a HUGE disservice to people by not following up with that and acting like it wasn’t a big deal. It all was getting swept under the rug and given the fact that this issue is so important, I think it was negligence. What people need to understand is that MOST of my work the past few years has been outside if NOLA. If you go to theusof.com you will see all the people I have interviewed on these central themes. I’ve done the journalism and on this subject, I could be called an expert. I have information to share and a powerful film that will help a lot of people. I’m not patting myself on the back, I’m just saying the people I’m talking to and documenting, tell a great story.

AWD: A key point of your recent essay is that you seeked Steve Gleason’s approval (and that of Fujita and Brees) before publishing the essay and sending the tape to Mike Silver. Why go to all of that effort, if you were going to release the tape anyway? Frankly, it seems that his approval wasn’t that important to you in the end.

Pamphilon: It’s simple, although I didn’t contractually need Steve’s authorization, unlike what’s been reported, I care for him deeply and sought his blessing. In mid-March I tabled my request, however later that month it was Scott Fujita (and by extension, Drew Brees & the NFLPA) who reinitiated the idea of releasing the audio because they believed it would help make the PA’s case that Williams was a rouge coach and exonerate the players.

I valued the relationships I had built with these people. Please pay attention to the facts and read the timeline that was released Saturday night. They all knew and they were on board all the way through, except for Steve, who texted me at 7pm the night of the release to say I wasn’t authorized to do it & it was ILLEGAL (which wasn’t true). Afterwards, Brees & Fujita continued to support the release up until the last moment but backed away publicly when I refused to let Brees & Gleason control my words. Their issue was not about if the audio should be released (CLEARLY) but it was letting me release my essay before they approved it. Sorry, but I don’t roll that way and these guys should have known that from the moment they met me. I don’t hide the fact that I’m nobody’s bitch.

I borrowed money to travel and come honor Steve. I did that EVERY day I spent with him. I gave my heart, my talent, my money and most importantly, my time, which I could have spent with my family. In then end all these things held no value for him or the people in his life. That makes me incredibly sad because I truly loved the Varisco family. The only person I could actually see myself grabbing a drink with in that town is Blair, unless Miss Jill doesn’t hate me with a passion. But I wouldn’t put them in the tough spot of even contacting him, again. I cared deeply for many of these people. Getting shit on with their initial statement and the hateful emails and tweets without any of them even calling me to ask where my head was at? That was devastating personally and professionally, quite insulting. I feel I got used and treated like a $2 whore. If it weren’t for Steve having ALS, any reasonable person who had access to all the real facts, would think they lacked character to treat someone that way after what I did for that man. Their issue, not mine.

But I actually care about my reputation, so I will fight for it. I told Steve I would eventually have to, “vigorously” and gave them every possible opportunity to do the right thing. They chose not to.

His interest was only in himself. There are SO MANY people suffering (as he is most likely) as a result of playing football. I met many of them before him. He didn’t care at all about the other people I was trying to do right by. He and Michel told me as much on March, 18th. I never felt the same about them afterward and over the next few weeks I was speaking to my Run Ricky Run film partner, Royce Toni about taking over for me. I first broached the subject with Royce a week later. I didn’t respect Steve and Michel anymore and I have to truly love people to put my heart into what it takes to tell their story, so intimately.

I guess you aren’t allowed to be honest about these feeling when someone has ALS, but that’s just real talk and Steve and I, well that was our deal. And we got into it a few times. I told him “until you tell me you’re dying, I’m going to treat you like you are living. Isn’t that what “No White Flags” is really about? Can’t have it both ways.

AWD: You must understand that in the eyes of many fans, Steve Gleason has done a ton for people other than himself. He’s been a class act throughout. You do realize that this disrespecting of Gleason and Michel is what brings such ire from fans, right? Many feel that no matter how selfish you think it is, or what you’re contractually able to do, that your moral obligation would be to do as he asks with videotape that you only acquired via his trust. Would you like to speak to that?

Pamphilon: First of all, this isn’t about FANS. It’s about people. Period. Fandom blinds people to the truth and words like “ethics, loyalty, morality” get lost in the wash of team colors. In this particular case, black and gold.

I keep saying this over and over and question your motives because your question is presumptive and not impartial. Look at the timeline in “Kill The Head, and the Body Doesn’t Die”. The people whose opinion he was leaning on, his TEAMMATES GREEN LIT it. Steve was in direct consultation with them the entire time and supported the release up until very close to the end. The first I heard that Steve changed his mind was at 7pm the night of the released. It was already too late, the pass had been thrown and Drew continued to support the release until the very last minute. I’m not sure if this means that Drew swayed Steve’s opinion or didn’t care at that point because he was convinced it’d help his teammates, which is what he, Scott & the PA intended.

I say I lost respect for them because on March 18th I was called a “liar” and an “opportunist”, which wasn’t true and hurtful for me to hear. In addition, I got a text from Michel two days before the audio was released, telling me that she was happy I wasn’t going to release the audio in a way that hurt Steve or Scott. As long as it didn’t hurt them, she (and by association Steve) was in favor of it. I repeat this OVER AND OVER again, I did not do this rogue. And the people who have blind loyalty to people who have played, or are playing for the Saints, is the only reason it doesn’t penetrate.

AWD: You have commented that you would eat a jersey or cut off a testicle if Scott Fujita was ever shown to have accepted bounties for injury or to have paid into the pools. Yet, your reasoning for writing this last essay involved the “last straw” of Fujita telling reporters that the tape was nothing more than “a coach saying some inappropriate things.” Clearly, you imply that he knew more.

(On Vilma) The jersey quote was if Vilma actually did it. I have met him a few times, he is my FAVORITE player on the team. I lived in Brooklyn for many years and loved his game with the Jets. But personally, I read people, energetically and my radar says, ‘no way that dude would do that.’ But if I’m going to eat his jersey (or say I would) I would have to have pretty solid information from the inside which said that no REAL evidence against these guys exists. I will believe it when I see it (not a ledger). I need to see a cancelled check, multiple eye witnesses to cash payments. Anyone can write a person’s name on a piece of paper. I don’t convict people based on planted stories in the media. So now I truly feel a special kinship with JV51 and wish him well. I respect any man willing to stand up to a machine and demand you lay your truth cards down if you want to convict me of something.

Due process is what this country is supposed to have, right? Well then why the hell should the NFL be different?

(On Fujita) The “testicle” comment was made as tongue in cheek, or ‘ball in cheek’ as it were. I do not believe Scott hurt anyone for money or paid others to hurt people for money. Do I believe he should have done something if he were witness to it? Yeah, I think that might have been the more honorable thing to do. But fact is, when you stand up for things and go against the grain in our culture, you take a lot of shit for it. Trust me.

What I am “implying” about his most recent press conference is that his comment was bullshit and I told him that. If that audio was that insignificant, then why did he say all those things to me? I know he’s pissed that I printed those texts and claims he thought he was giving them to a “friend” and implied I betrayed him. Fact is, the fact that he turned away from me shortly before that audio came out and left me to deal with Drew and Steve was one of the most hurtful things a friend has ever done to me. Read up. I had dropped this issue DAYS earlier. Fujita put the audio back in play and Drew came in and got involved. I got used by these two men and the NFLPA and I really don’t think Steve has a full grasp of what happened. Simple.

I admired Scott because of his cause oriented political agenda and social awareness. I really loved that guy. I never thought he would do me like that. Drew? Not surprised at all. Steve? He plays ‘follow the leader’ so it really all comes back to Drew for him. But for me? I just couldn’t believe Scott bailed on me. I should have never thought he would do anything different. That will forever alter the way I put faith in people. And that’s a good thing. I have trusted and given way too much of myself to people who don’t deserve the type of loyalty and honesty I bring to the table. I know your readership is going to laugh at that one, but fact is if I ever wore shoulder pads, a helmet and cleats for this franchise, they would consider me a more genuine man than all three of them.

AWD: You also quote texts from Fujita describing his distress at involvement in the football culture. How do you believe Fujita was involved in the bounty system specifically? If he played in New Orleans in 2009, and the accusations are true, he must have known about it.

Pamphilon: See above. I know it sounds crazy, but to me being “complicit” vs. actually “doing the deed” are two different things. Then again, I could just be biased because of the personal feelings I had toward Scott Fujita. Regardless, I just don’t see him as that guy and our personal falling out is not going to change that opinion. But if I end up seeing cancelled checks and multiple witnesses, pictures, etc. that show these guys did it? Well, then I would have to get a bottle of ketchup for that testicle and make sure the jersey was a t-shirt.

I’ll ask this directly: why do you think Fujita encouraged you to release the tape, then downplayed it publicly? What did he gain by doing so, in your opinion?

In my personal opinion, I think he wanted to help players (including himself) who were being denied “due process.” I respected that. I believe he downplayed it because it didn’t help the way he thought it would and it didn’t serve any purpose for him going forward to speak candidly about his true feelings about the tape or honest conflicts about the game of football and the affect it has on others. He is playing this year. He has teammates. And he’s getting paid a shitload of money. I’m not a math guy, but it seems like there a lot of things entering this equation.

AWD: You say repeatedly that you felt you and your family were at risk by holding the tape and not publishing it. You speak of a “big deal and an even bigger business.” Do you actually believe that you and your family were in danger of harm from the league? Do you still worry about that?

Pamphilon: When I possessed material that was so damaging to several RICH people I was VERY concerned. I spoke to Dr. Bennett Omalu a few weeks ago. He is the man who discovered CTE in the brain of Mike Webster. Instead of being commended for his efforts and the awareness he brought to the culture, he was discredited by the NFL and run out of Pittsburgh. Dr. Omalu told me I was an incredibly smart move that I released the material and publicly defined my agenda, which starts with bringing awareness to the health and safety issues facing the participants in tackle football, from pee wee to the pros. Additionally, following the release of Steve’s statement (or the rumor of one the day before) I received an onslaught of hate e-mails, Tweets, comments on my websites, some of which were death threats from fervent fans of the Saints & Steve Gleason. It just takes one unbalanced person to take things too far and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I wonder if Steve or his people have ever thought of this? Needless to say, at present I wouldn’t feel safe walking the street of New Orleans but I hope that can change.

AWD: On Twitter, you’ve said many times that there is a difference between Steve Gleason and Team Gleason. Would you like to elaborate on that? How is your current relationship with Steve, and with his Team?

Pamphilon: As Steve’s challenges have become more profound, he became more dependent on people not just for help with things physically, but decision-making, as well. He told me in Indianapolis at the Super Bowl that “You listen to too few people and I listen to too many.” I think he is just taking too much bad advice. In addition, I think his ego got way too involved in the release of that tape. It wasn’t about HIM. It was way bigger than that and someday I hope he owns that.

As far as Team Gleason is concerned, I have no relationship with the organization. I think many people within his circle are outstanding individuals, but what they did collectively to me was immoral. I have received death threats and for these people to not CLEARLY define my role and contribution to Steve’s life to quell this hate toward me is a fucking SIN. If anything happened to me or someone I care for because someone was pissed that I made a decision that was bigger than them? Well, shame on them. I am a loving father. I am a committed artist and I LOVE people intensely.

And please someone answer for me, what the hell has happened negatively toward him? His visibility has GROWN. If they open the books on what cash has come in, I guarantee you that has grown exponentially. Someone told me that the Saints’ marketing slogan for the 2012 season is going to be NO WHITE FLAGS. So, if Steve is such a hero, tell these people to stop threatening me ’cause my son gets on the internet and it scares him.

[Sunday] on twitter I was compared to Hitler, Ray Nagin and apparently I’ve been put in the category of “Katrina, Goodell, former CEO of BP oil spill and me”…seriously? Have some character people and get the fuck off my back.

AWD: You say that you would only read your essay on the phone with Gleason, Fujita, and Brees present, because of worries that they would censor you. You didn’t want to provide them hard copy, because they may “take a red pen to it”. This is a key point in your falling-out story with Brees and Fujita. Couldn’t you have provided them with a copy and refused any changes? Aren’t you able to publish whatever you want?

Pamphilon: They wouldn’t have gone for that. Steve and Drew both like to control the chess board. They treated me as a pawn. There is NO WAY they would have been okay with letting me have the right to my own words, without censorship. The moment I let them change ANYTHING, is the moment I am no longer an authentic storyteller, but a storySELLER and neither of those men has the right to take that away from me. Period.

You’re adamant that you’ve defended the players consistently. I haven’t seen you address the bounty penalties, although obviously your tape had a key role in forming public opinion concerning bounties. How do you feel about the player suspensions that were handed down? Were they appropriate?

Gee, well I said I would cut off a testicle and chew on it if Fujita was guilty of this. I have VIGOROUSLY defended Vilma. Not because he is my favorite player, but because I believe it is UN-AMERICAN to punish someone like that without due process. Not for nothin’ (as we say in Brooklyn) but if I were a black man in this country and a white man decided he was going to punish me to this degree, without displaying what I was supposedly guilty of? I would absolutely lose my shit. Because of the not so distant history of this country and what has been done to African-American men by the criminal justice system, I think the NFL should really re-think the proposition of putting one white dude so unilaterally in charge of the fate of a predominantly black work force. That’s the kind of shit that made Adrian Peterson make his comments about “slavery” a few years ago.

The fact that Ricky Williams had to come back because of the 8.6 million dollar judgment by the Dolpins against him after the SEVERE beating in ’02, ’03 pushed him into retirement? Do the research on that one and tell me if you think a man should be OWNED to that degree by any man or organization. If he didn’t come back to play, he wouldn’t have been able to pay his child support. They had him by the balls. Go to jail for failure to pay child support, or come back and play this game and we won’t try to collect that cash. If he stayed away, the Dolphins could have ruined his life.

To your original point: Until I see real evidence, yeah, those punishments were ridiculous.

I believe Roger Goodell is doing his best to promote health and safety because he has to. I believe like Barack, he inherited something that was FUBAR before he even showed up. I don’t think Goodell is a bad man and I don’t question his intentions or integrity. I do question the fact that the NFLPA and DeMaurice Smith bargained away that power in the CBA. These players got screwed in the most un-American way you could possibly imagine.

AWD: To be clear, these comments could be construed as your saying “Roger Goodell is racist”. Is that what you’re saying?

Pamphilon: I get what you are saying and thank you for the opportunity to respond more clearly. There is a huge difference between “Institutional Racism” and and an individual person being a racist. I don’t think Roger Goodell is racist at all and would never insinuate that. All I am saying is that if you look at the Apartheid system that used to exist in South Africa, there is a white minority ruling a black majority. I know people are going to take this out of context, but the fact is, when you have one white dude, with ABSOLUTE CONTROL over the fate of the players and he hears the appeals himself, I believe that is against everything this country is supposed to represent. Just because someone is well compensated does not mean a ruling body should be allowed to publicly shame them without laying their proof out and then punish them significantly and ruin their reputation in the eyes of the American public. I think that is horrible, should not be condoned and wish Vilma good luck in clearing his name. If irrefutable proof comes out to implicate him, so be it, at least he would have had a chance to defend his name.

To be clear I DO NOT BELIEVE ROGER GOODELL IS A RACIST. However, I do believe that there are elements of the NFL where a reasonable person could come to the conclusion that INSTITUTIONAL racism exists in some form or fashion.

The Civil Rights act of 1964 came about 5 years before I was born, so it’s not in the too distant past that this country did some horrific things to black people. I think people should be sensitive to the residue of that time. I know some NFL players who would read this and know exactly what I am talking about. Because they grew up in homes where first hand experience was relayed to them.

AWD: I have to ask: since your last interview, news has become public that the league has a copy of a “bounty ledger” detailing payments game-by-game. Did you ever see something like this while filming for your documentary? It was probably large, leather bound with a big padlock, and may or may not have had “BOUNTY PAYOUT LOG” embroidered on the cover.

Pamphilon: I get the question and appreciate the humor. I think people need to get a clear picture of what I actually did around the Saints this past year. I spent literally a HANDFUL of days around them. I was in a total of THREE meetings. I had actual conversations with maybe four or five players, at most. I was always just with Steve shooting wherever he went. The speech wasn’t taped in the locker room and literally 99% of the time I was in the locker room it was during the lockout, or with Steve after hours, when no one was there. SERIOUSLY, this is why I get so frustrated and feel the need to explain myself. The story that is out there is so far from the truth, it is laughable.

How do you feel about the penalties that have come down against both the players and the coaches? How should this be handled by the league what is the solution, in your opinion?

I do not know enough of the real evidence to have an informed opinion on the issues, so I will hold that opinion in abeyance until ALL the factual information is released.

AWD: You recently released a recording of a voicemail left by Drew Brees asking to see the essay “Tru Dat” before you published it. Is everything out there now? Or do you still have anything you’re holding on to?

Pamphilon: Stay tuned. I’ve been waiting for the principles involved in this to respond publicly to all the FACTS that I have presented. Their silence should tell you a lot.

AWD: Is there anything else you’d like to say to Saints fans?

Pamphilon: I don’t want to talk to FANS. I want to connect with PEOPLE. This isn’t about fans, it’s about people’s lives and reputations and more than anything it’s about the TRUTH. I love the city of New Orleans and the PEOPLE are beautiful. I have been coming there since Ricky’s rookie season in 1999. And while shooting with Steve and the Varisco’s I had the pleasure of connecting with people. It was my intention to get an apartment there one day if I could afford it, so I could bring my family with me and so I could come spend time with my “adopted family.” This has been personally and professionally devastating for me.

Once again, I ask the one simple question; How has this negatively impacted the life of Steve Gleason and the mission of Team Gleason? Seriously, look at the numbers. They should publicly say the good I did for them because I have been threatened and this has affected the emotional well being of my household, which is TOTAL FUCKING BULLSHIT!

10 Responses to “My Conversation With Sean Pamphilon”

  1. Everybody June 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    This Sean Pamphilon dude is just coming off sad and pathetic now, and angry too. It’s funny that he still hasnt figured out that he did this to himself and continues digging himself deeper.

  2. Unbelievable June 4, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Really? He say he didn’t need authorization, but now he says he was a pawn in releasing the tapes. he says he loves them, but now doesn’t respect. Michel said yes two days before if Steve was ok with it and Steve says he never authorized. I don’t know Steve, but I’ve never seen him lie, so, I’m going with Gleason. Pamphilon is a manipulative egoist and is only out to convince everyone that he’s a “good guy”. Personally, I think he’s jealous. Plain and simple. I don’t care what he says, he’s talking out his mouth and rear. If Buddha and Jesus had told me to release the tapes and my friend with ALS said not to, the tape would NOT go out. Dude, minute 15.01 is over, so you’re done.

  3. Unbelievable June 4, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    And, SP said, “I guess you aren’t allowed to be honest about these feeling when someone has ALS, but that’s just real talk and Steve and I, well that was our deal. And we got into it a few times. I told him “until you tell me you’re dying, I’m going to treat you like you are living. Isn’t that what “No White Flags” is really about? Can’t have it both ways.” This guy is a HUGE jerk. Wow, how selfish can a person be. Treating someone like they are living and not being considerate that the person has a horrible disease is something all together different. Like my daughter says, Oh My God!

  4. granzombi June 5, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    “His interest was only in himself.” I’d say from reading all his material and now hearing him on the radio 3 times in less than a week that this applies to Pamphilon more than anyone. He just doesn’t see or feel anything outside his personal reach. All his statements/interviews have a strange disconnected feel to them like a Kennedy assassination or Hornets draft pick conspiracy theorist. It’s too bad because at the bottom he has a grasp of some very serious issues for players and fans, but he’s losing credibility for himself and his cause every time he talks, and, like Benson in Tiger Stadium, every time he cites fear for his or his families safety.

  5. Seriously June 5, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    This guy is awful. First he says that he released it for “the good of the children” which had nothing to do with anything. He said that he would not have released it had this issue not come up. So he only did it so he could make himself look like a hero. He waited until the appeals started to release it. Then he said that drew brees asked him not to release it, then he says that brees and fujita told him to release. Then he treats steve gleason with almost no respect at all. Just so he can get his 15 minuetes of fame. His greed backed him into a corner that he cant get out of. Sean only cares about himself and his ego. he is just like roger goodell

  6. Bronson June 5, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    Thanks for doing this, AWD. Awesome job.

  7. faceghost June 6, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    I take solace in finding out Sean Pamphilon is broke and ugly.

  8. John Plunkett June 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    When he described the team as “our Saints” near the start, I laughed – don’t think we need or want your support, Sean!

    And the ego on this guy is HUGE:

    “The moment I let them change ANYTHING, is the moment I am no longer an authentic storyteller, but a storySELLER and neither of those men has the right to take that away from me. Period.”

    Self-important much?

    Angry Who Dat, thanks for the great interview at the 15th minute of this guy’s fame ride.

    JP

  9. Sapper Saint June 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    Sean is a good guy. Im a die-hard Saints fan, but ya’ll gotta get off this guys back. Sean is a bit of a hippie, wants world piece, make love not war type of guy. Now, I dont really agree with his motives, mostly because stepping on the football field, you know the rules, you know the risk, you take on the risks to get paid. I dont care about NFL player’s well being personally, I mean I dont know them, so I dont really care. Im a heartless bastard though. Sean isnt.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. LSU Med School Punts on Student Event about Pro Football Brain Injuries - The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education - FIRE - February 7, 2013

    [...] isn't wholly inconceivable, given the figures involved and the factors in play here. Pamphilon has reported receiving death threats for his role in the Saints bounty scandal. [...]

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