Some Senate Members Don't Believe Video Probe Warrants Congressional Action

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 17, 2008

Two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said yesterday they don't think Congress should get involved in the NFL's investigation of the videotaping scandal involving the New England Patriots.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in interviews they believe the NFL is capable of policing itself. That puts them in disagreement with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee who this week called for the NFL to appoint an independent investigator and left open the possibility of pursuing Congressional action if the league fails to comply.

"Number one, I have great respect for Senator Specter," Graham said in a telephone interview. "He is probably one of the most respected members of the body. But I respectfully disagree in terms of Congress getting involved. I don't see a need. I believe the NFL has the desire and capability to monitor its own business. It is in its best interests to do so, and there are far better matters for our time."

Kyl also expressed respect for Specter but said in a separate telephone interview: "It doesn't seem to me that it's something the Congress should be involved in."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said after interviewing former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh on Tuesday in New York that he did not plan to impose further penalties on the team. Goodell stopped just shy of declaring the case closed from the league's perspective, saying he would always look at any new information but saw nowhere else to turn at this point to find any.

Specter was not satisfied. After having his own meeting with Walsh later Tuesday in Washington, Specter criticized the NFL's investigation during a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday. He called the league's investigation incomplete and said Goodell and the NFL have a conflict of interest because uncovering further wrongdoing could erode fans' confidence in the sport. Specter said the league should hire an outside investigator as baseball did when it appointed former senator George Mitchell to write a report on steroid use.

Specter also entered an 11-page written statement into the Congressional Record on Wednesday that said: "If the NFL does not initiate an inquiry like the investigation conducted by former Senator George Mitchell for baseball, it will be up to Congress to get the facts and take corrective action."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), a member of the committee, said in a written statement Thursday that Congress shouldn't get involved. Yesterday two members of Specter's party voiced those sentiments.

Graham said he hadn't followed the taping scandal particularly closely.

"I've read about it," Graham said. "The rest of us get asked about it. I don't believe there's much sentiment that we should get involved. If there's a groundswell of support for us getting involved in this football escapade, it is news to me."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the Judiciary Committee chairman, has not taken a formal position on whether to hold hearings, a spokesman for Leahy said, adding that Specter had not asked Leahy to hold hearings.

Specter said during an appearance on Boston radio station WEEI yesterday that he wanted to give Goodell "every opportunity to have a thorough investigation" of the scandal.

"My next step is to see what the public reaction is," Specter said during the interview, a recording of which was on the station's Web site. "I've been very careful not to call for Congressional hearings. We had Congressional hearings with the key Yankee player [Roger Clemens] and others, and I think they were not productive."

In an interview with CBS aired yesterday, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick reiterated that he merely had misinterpreted league rules regarding videotaping opponents' play signals and said that Walsh "was fired here for poor job performance" and lacked credibility.

"For him to talk about game-planning and strategy and play-calling and how he advised coordinators is, it's embarrassing," Belichick said. "It's absurd. I mean, he didn't have any knowledge of football. He was our third video assistant."

NFL Note: The league's owners might vote as soon as Tuesday, when they're scheduled to meet in Atlanta, to exercise a reopener clause in their labor agreement with the players' union, a source close to the situation said. Doing so would make the 2010 season the final season in the agreement, and the 2009 season the final one with a salary cap in effect.

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