More than six months after the New England Patriots were caught filming the Cincinnati Bengals’ sideline during a game, the NFL has determined their punishment.
NFL spokesperson Michael Signora confirmed Monday reports the Patriots were fined $1.1 million and will lose a third-round pick in the 2021 draft. Additionally, the team’s television production crews will not be allowed to shoot any games during the 2020 season, and senior club officials will have required training on league operation and game policies.
ESPN first reported the penalties. The Bengals declined to comment.
The league has been investigating New England since December when it was revealed the Patriots had a videographer film the Bengals’ sideline during Cincinnati’s late-season game at Cleveland, the week before the Patriots were to play the Bengals. The next day, the Patriots put out a statement, saying their content team was producing a behind-the-scenes feature on an advanced scout who was working in the press box during the game.
According to their statement, the three-person video crew, which included independent contractors, inappropriately filmed the field from the press box, but there “was no intention of using the footage for any other purpose” than to provide an illustration of an advanced scout at work on the road.
The team had been producing “Do Your Job” episodes featuring various departments within the organization over the past year, and seven of them had been archived on Patriots.com at the time of the incident in Cleveland. However, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said during a conference call with The Dayton Daily News and other local media ahead of his game in Cincinnati that he was unaware that a feature was being done on a scout.
Belichick did not receive any punishment, according to various reports.
“I don’t have anything at all to do with this whatsoever,” Belichick said in December. “Whatever is going on between the people that are involved in it and the league and all that, it’s not a football issue in any way, shape or form. I had no involvement. I don’t know anything about this.”
This was not the first time the Patriots have been investigated for illegally filming an opponent during Belichick’s 20 seasons as coach. New England was disciplined by the league for videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive coaches’ signals from an unauthorized location during a game in 2007, which became known as “Spygate.” The Patriots were fined $250,000, Belichick received a fine of $500,000 (the maximum allowed by the league and the largest fine ever imposed on a coach) and the organization lost its 2008 first-round draft pick.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” later reported in detail a picture of systematic cheating that went beyond one game with the Jets.
“Soon, advanced scouts would be sent to the games of upcoming Patriots’ opponents to film the play signals,” a BusinessInsider.com article stated in 2015, detailing the ESPN report. “The scouts would go undercover as media members, with media credentials listed under ‘Patriots TV’ or ‘Kraft Productions’ and were prepared with excuses of what to say they were filming if security asked.”
When asked in December what the Patriots learned from the 2007 incident, Belichick said it hadn’t fundamentally changed anything within the organization.
The Patriots have now lost four draft picks – two firsts, a third and a fourth-round pick – in league sanctions for Spygate, Deflategate and the Bengals’ taping incident.
“We’ve always tried to do everything the right way,” he said in December. “Look, we’re competitive, and we’ll try to be competitive in every area, but we don’t knowingly, intentionally want to do anything that crosses the line, but since that’s happened, I would say we’ve tried to keep a good distance behind the line and not maybe take it as far as we might have in the past, but it’s never really fundamentally changed there.”
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