Jeremy Shockey was the whistle-blower in the NFL’s investigation into the New Orleans Saints’ pay-for-performance system that resulted in a slew of sanctions Wednesday, according to former NFL defensive lineman Warren Sapp.
Sapp wrote on Twitter he “just heard who the snitch was,” and when a follower asked if it was Shockey, Sapp responded: “BINGO!”
The allegations — which might have violated federal labor laws — drew a swift rebuke from Shockey on his Twitter account.
“My ass!!” Shockey wrote. “I don’t even play defense.”
Sapp responded: “That’s not the issue.”
Shockey said the next thing he will be blamed for is the unsolved disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa — who vanished five years before Shockey was born — and the recent scandal at the University of Miami, where players at Shockey’s alma mater allegedly received impermissible benefits.
“(Expletive) them,” Shockey wrote. “Sapp … (knows) where to find me.”
Shockey, a tight end, played for the Saints from 2008 to ’10. In announcing its punishments, the NFL said the Saints, under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, had an active bounty program from 2009 to ’11. The determination led to a one-year suspension of Saints head coach Sean Payton, a suspension of indefinite length against Williams, who was recently hired by the St. Louis Rams, and other suspensions and loss of draft picks.
The league didn’t release what sparked the investigation.
Federal labor law protects employees against retribution as result of complaining about unsafe work environments. The fact that Sapp, an analyst for the NFL Network, might have outed a whistle-blower could pose a problem for Sapp and the league, Los Angeles-based employment lawyer Arthur Whang told FOXSports.com.
“Sapp is technically a league employee,” said Whang, the principal of the Whang Law Firm. “If Shockey is the whistle-blower, he is protected. So, by outing him, Sapp may have opened Shockey up to retaliation, such as someone not signing him.”
The 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act specifically addresses whistle-blower retaliation:
“No person shall discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this act or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding or because of the exercise by such employee on behalf of himself or others of any right afforded by this act.”
Shockey, who played last season in Carolina, is an unrestricted free agent.
“Shockey might be able to claim in a retaliation lawsuit that he was a protected employee and he blew the whistle, but then the league retaliated against him by releasing his identity to the world," Whang said. "That, in turn, opened him up to all kinds of damages, like ridicule and his ability to sign with a new team."
Whang added that if Sapp’s actions could also have a chilling effect on future NFL employees coming forward to expose wrongdoing for fear of retribution.
NFL Network spokesman Dan Masonson said Sapp was unavailable for comment. Masonson also declined to comment on the possible labor law violations.