Sunday evening, the New England Patriots added former NFL MVP Cam Newton to the roster. Lost in the discussions on Twitter was the NFL handing down a punishment for an alleged "spying incident" during week 14. The league docked the Patriots a considerable amount of money and took away a draft pick for filming the Cincinnati Bengals' sideline during a game against the Cleveland Browns.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the total punishment includes $1.1 million in club fines and the loss of a third-round draft pick. The Patriots' TV crews are also prohibited from filming games during the 2020 season. ESPN's Mike Reiss also reported that head coach Bill Belichick is not involved in the punishments. Although this detail did not prevent some jokes on Twitter Monday morning.
"The coordinated timing of this news coming out right after they sign Cam [crying laughing emoji]," former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker wrote on Twitter. He was one of several people pointing out that the timing of Newton's signing was curious. Sportswriter Clarence Hill Jr. and agreed that this situation was "chess, not checkers." No one knew if the Patriots leaked the Newton news to overshadow the impending punishment or if the league dropped the fines in response to the contract. However, the analysts and Twitter users alike agreed that the timing was fascinating.
The original incident occurred during a Week 14 game between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. The Patriots had a videographer in the Browns' press box during the game, which the team said was for an upcoming episode of the Do Your Job video series. The situation drew the league's attention when a Bengals scout noticed that the videographer was shooting the team's bench area. They alerted the Bengals, who then notified NFL security.
NFL insider Jay Glazer later obtained and released footage from the filming incident. This included audio of security confronting two unnamed videographers. During this interaction, the videographers said that they would delete all of the footage and that it was "his bad" that the camera filmed the Bengals coaches instead of the advance scout.
"The sole purpose of the filming was to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road," the Patriots said in a statement. "There was no intention of using the footage for any other purpose. We understand and acknowledge that our video crew, which included independent contractors who shot the video, unknowingly violated a league policy by filming the field and sideline from the press box. "When questioned, the crew immediately turned over all the footage to the league and cooperated fully… We accept full responsibility for the actions of our production crew at the Browns-Bengals game."