New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis had the ability to eavesdrop on the gameday communications of opposing coaches from 2002 to 2004, ESPN reported Monday. But the Saints swiftly denied the allegations and even threatened legal action against the network for the report.
Loomis strongly denied the allegations to FOXSports.com NFL insider Jay Glazer.
"This report on ESPN is absolutely false," Loomis wrote in an email. "I have a monitor in front of me in my booth that provides the league-issued stats for the game. I have a small TV with the network broadcast and I have an earpiece to listen to the WWL-AM radio (flagship broadcaster) game broadcast.
"To think I am sitting in there listening and actually and/or doing something with the offensive and defensive play calls of the opposing teams makes this story and the unnamed sources that provided the false information that much less credible. It just didn’t happen."
Loomis’ claim was backed by team-released statements from other members of the Saints organization.
“This report is 1000 percent false,” said Greg Bensel, the Saints vice president of communications. “Completely inaccurate. We asked ESPN to provide us evidence to support their allegations and they refused. The team and Mickey are seeking all legal recourse regarding these false allegations.”
The report from "Outside the Lines" stated the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana learned of the alleged listening device Friday.
The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), passed in 1986, makes it a crime for anyone to intercept communications with an electronic or mechanical device.
However, ESPN said it could not definitively determine whether Loomis actually used the device. The NFL said Monday it was not aware of the allegations.
"Outside the Lines" reported the device was installed in the owner’s suite in the Superdome in 2000, when Rick Mueller was general manager, and was used at that time to hear the headset communications of Saints’ coaches during the game.
A source claimed Loomis had the listening device re-wired before the 2002 season to allow him to instead listen to opposing coaches. The device was reportedly removed in September 2005, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and heavily damaged the stadium.
“The NFL has a frequency coordinator in every stadium at every game and every line and frequency, especially the signals used by each team’s coaches are heavily secured and monitored, and who and where it goes,” Bensel said. “This is a virtual impossibility."
Mike Emmick, a Los Angeles attorney, told ESPN the statute of limitations on violating the ECPA is five years. However, Loomis could theoretically be accused of a conspiracy if he took later actions to cover up the alleged eavesdropping.
Cortez Kennedy, a Hall of Fame defensive tackle who serves as a Saints adviser, said the report was “completely false. I have sat with Mickey for years for multiple games and I can say that when Mickey gets up to go walk around during breaks or halftime, I put his earpiece in. It is WWL-AM radio. I know this, because I have heard, plain and simple.”
Saints college scouting director Rick Reiprish, who was in Loomis’ booth during the 2004 season, called the report “laughable.”
“Having sat in there with Mickey, to think that this report can be simply made up and then reported … The NFL has practices in place that don’t allow this to happen,” Reiprish said.
The allegations come in the midst of a tumultuous offseason for Loomis and the Saints, after the team was slapped with an unprecedented set of penalties by the NFL for paying defensive players for hits that injured opponents.
Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the 2012 season for his role in the bounty scandal, while Loomis will serve an eight-game ban.
Previously, the NFL’s harshest punishment had come in 2007 against the New England Patriots for "Spygate."
Head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 for videotaping the signals of Jets coaches, while the team was docked a first-round draft pick and fined an additional $250,000. No members of the organization received a suspension.