Saints deny ESPN report alleging eavesdropping

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints denied an anonymously sourced ESPN report on Monday which alleges that general manager Mickey Loomis' booth in the Superdome was wired so he could listen to opposing coaches' radio communications during games.

ESPN could not determine if the system was ever used. The report on Monday's "Outside the Lines" said Loomis would have been able to eavesdrop on opponents from 2002 to 2004. The report also said the system was disabled in 2005, when the Superdome was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel called the report "1,000 percent false."

"We asked ESPN to provide us evidence to support their allegations and they refused," Bensel said. "The team and Mickey are seeking all legal recourse regarding these false allegations."

Loomis explained his use of an earpiece and described his game-day setup in the Superdome booth in an emailed statement.

"I have a monitor in front of me in my booth that provides the league issued stats for the game," Loomis stated. "I have a small TV with the network broadcast and I have an earpiece to listen to the WWL-AM radio game broadcast.

"To think I am sitting in there listening and actually ... doing something with the offensive and defensive play calls of the opposing teams makes this story and the unnamed sources that provided the false information that much more less credible," Loomis' statement continued. "It just didn't happen."

Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was the Saints' head coach from 2000 through 2005. In a comment the Saints forwarded to the AP by email, Haslett denied knowledge of any system that would have allowed for eavesdropping on opponents.

"At no time during my tenure as head coach with the New Orleans Saints did Mickey and I discuss monitoring opposing team coaches communication, nor did I have any knowledge of this," Haslett said. "To my knowledge this concept was never discussed or utilized."

If the Saints had installed a system allowing them to listen in on their opponents it would have violated NFL rules and also could have infringed on federal wire-tapping laws.

"We were not aware of it," league spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We have no knowledge of the allegations."

FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne said the agency's New Orleans office was aware of the situation, but wouldn't comment further.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten in New Orleans also said his office had been told about "general allegations" involving the Saints and possible wiretapping, but he did not elaborate. Letten declined to discuss who made the allegations, and whether they involved Loomis or any other Saints officials.

For the Saints, the report in itself added to a slew of recent bad publicity, which began in early March when the NFL released a report describing a crunch-for-cash bounty system that provided improper cash bonuses to defensive players who delivered hits that hobbled targeted opponents.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has suspended head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season in connection with the bounty probe. Loomis was suspended for the first half of the regular season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended six games.

The team also lost its second-round pick in this week's NFL draft and was fined $500,000. Goodell took away the Saints' second-round pick in 2013 as well, but has said he may lessen that punishment if he is satisfied with the club's cooperation in the ongoing investigation.

The NFL still has yet to hand down punishment to between 22 and 27 current and former Saints defensive players whom the league has said participated in the bounty program.

View Comments (8)