LOS ANGELES, October 2, 2013—Somebody leaked Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman’s confidential medical information. That somebody needs to go to jail.
Several days ago, the biggest Buccaneers story was the pathetic play on the field rivaled only by the expansion Bucs in creamsicle pants. The 2013 Bucs are 23 losses away from breaking their own record for futility. Coach Greg Schiano benched Freeman, and their relationship is broken. Everybody involved wants Freeman out of Tampa.
That is a football story. Yet, what happened next should send chills down the spine of every person who has one. ESPN reported that Freeman had entered the National Football League’s voluntary and confidential substance abuse treatment program.
Freeman chose to confront the allegations rather than let wild and completely inaccurate speculation continue.
Freeman has ADHD, and accidentally took Ritalin instead of Adderall.
Yet, even if illegal substances like cocaine or heroin were the issue, the deep question remains, who leaked Freeman’s records?
Would the Buccaneers purposely try to devalue Freeman as payback for his behavior (he showed up late for the team photo)? Coach Greg Schiano denied knowing who was responsible.
Somebody did it. The Glazers own the team, and their reputation for the kind of business they run is on the line.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is known for cracking down hard when anybody puts the integrity of the league at stake. If anything threatens “the shield,” it is a breakdown between players and management over issues of trust.
The issue is simple. The words voluntary and confidential mean exactly that. If a player is too drunk to drive, the NFL will get them a driver, no questions asked. If a player is addicted to alcohol, gambling or anything else, the league will quietly help them get better.
The only purpose for releasing Freeman’s private records was to humiliate him, to injure him in the worst possible way. Kicking him off the team is the business of football. Trying to jeopardize his ability to find employment with another team by tarnishing his name is illegal.
To paraphrase Joe Biden, this is a big (bleeping) deal. Several presidents across the ideological spectrum have seen their presidencies destroyed by accusations that they or officials in their administration violated somebody’s confidential records. Our privacy is sacrosanct, and violations of our privacy from Watergate to current IRS abuses corrodes our society.
Sports is no different from politics in this regard. If players do not trust that the league is guarding their privacy, then players will refuse to come forward. They will drink and drive the short trip home, seeing that as less of a gamble than being seen as weak on the field.
It takes a very strong man to ask for help. The only thing that makes putting aside pride and seeking treatment even bearable is the belief that virtually nobody will know about it.
Releasing Freeman’s information was no accident. It happened right after he was benched and put on the trading block. This renders the timing more rotten at One Buc Plaza than anywhere in the state of Denmark.
Freeman deserves to know who tried to sabotage him. Whoever did it, the best they can hope for is that their privacy will be treated with more dignity than how they handled Freeman’s.
A pair of handcuffs would be a strong deterrent to a repeat offense.
The integrity of the National Football League mandates Commissioner Goodell issuing the mother of all crackdowns once he gets to the bottom of this sordid episode.
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