By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — One of the most absurd, unnecessarily long sagas in the history of sports is complete. The Patriots have finally been punished for having a staffer film the field of play during a Bengals-Browns game in December.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported Sunday night — shortly after news broke that the team had signed Cam Newton — that the Patriots were hit with a $1.1 million fine and the loss of a third-round draft pick. The team will also not be allowed to have its own film crew shoot road games in 2020.
NFL has handed down these penalties to the Patriots for their television crew filming the Bengals-Browns game in December, sources tell @MikeReiss:
🏈$1.1 million in club fines.
🏈Loss of 2021 third-round pick.
🏈Patriots’ TV crews not allowed to shoot games during 2020 season.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 29, 2020
News first broke of a potential issue ahead of New England’s game against the Bengals in December, when a reporter asked Bengals head coach Zac Taylor about the “rumors” of a Patriots employee filming the Cincinnati sideline during their Dec. 8 game in Cleveland. Taylor said he was aware that an investigation was ongoing.
Shortly after that happened, reporters noted that the Patriots had a production team — from a wing of the operation separate from football operations — in Cleveland to film the advanced scout working that particular game for a “Do Your Job” feature, and that the situation was mostly a misunderstanding. However, ESPN then reported that a Bengals employee witnessed the Patriots’ videographer with his camera aimed at the Bengals’ sideline for much of the first quarter. The Patriots admitted to that having happened later that night.
Through it all, head coach Bill Belichick denied any involvement and knowledge with the production.
Weeks later, Fox aired the illegally recorded footage on its pregame show. Shortly thereafter, news broke that a longtime employee of Kraft Sports and Entertainment — the producer on the video shoot — had been suspended. That producer released a statement, saying, “I had no intention to provide footage to football operations, I did not provide any footage, and I was never asked to do so.”
Though speculation on potential punishment swirled throughout the remainder of the year, the Patriots’ season ended in January without any news of the commissioner’s decision.
Some punishment news was expected some time between the Super Bowl and the draft, but it never came. The timing for a cut-and-dried case in which the Patriots immediately admitted to exactly what took place is certainly odd, as it seems like something a competent commissioner might have been able to square away in a matter of days if not hours. Alas, Roger Goodell loves nothing more than executing drawn-out “investigations” into various figures in the league, with Belichick’s Patriots atop the list.
Considering that history, the Patriots got off relatively easy, though the third-round pick penalty is certainly much more severe than what the penalty presumably would have been for a team that did not have Spygate in its history. While the charges in Spygate were wildly different than the case of a staffer shooting B-roll to help fill out an online feature about an advanced scout covering a Bengals-Browns game, and while the NFL struggled to make a any connection between Belichick and the video crew, it’s quite clear from that high level of punishment that the history of Spygate factored in to the commissioner’s decision.