Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Two NFL general managers get pranked
The NFL is looking into a 'conversation' between Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix and Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik last Friday. It happened to be recorded and appeared on Deadspin on Tuesday.
On Thursday afternoon, the pranksters called Buffalo's publicly listed front office phone number. They claimed to be Bucs GM Mark Dominik and asked to be transferred to Buddy Nix. To their surprise, they were. Panicking, they hung up as soon as he answered.
Then Buddy Nix called them back.
And he kept calling back. Into Thursday evening, resuming again on Friday morning, Nix's personal number kept lighting up their cell phone. They ignored it, until they came up with a plan. They would call Mark Dominik, claim to be Buddy Nix, and send the two on a phantom game of phone tag.
So they rang up the Buccaneers, but while on with Dominik's secretary, Buddy Nix called again. It was perfect. They answered Nix's call, then fell silent while they were patched through to Dominik. They put the call on speaker, recorded with a second cell phone, and sat back and listened to the fun.
The call lasted about six minutes and after some initial confusion about wrong numbers, the pair settled in to discuss their own personnel, with Nix describing some of the team's frustration with the slowed progress of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. As far as juicy gossip or major revelations, there really wasn't anything of the sort, just two guys in the same profession chatting politely about business.
"We are aware of the report on Deadspin involving a phone conversation with Bills GM Buddy Nix," the Bills said in a statement. "We have made the league aware of the report and are reviewing it with legal counsel."
The Buccaneers did not respond to a request for comment.
In the state of Florida what these two unknowns did was a third degree felony. In New York they might have a loophole in which they can escape punishment.
"In Florida, it is a third degree felony so you are talking about a criminal violation," Jeff Hermes, the director of the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said. "The Florida wiretapping law does have a civil cause of action."
Federal and New York state law requires "one-party consent," meaning that you can record a conversation as long as you are a party to that conversation. The pranksters may have a loophole here in that by Nix calling their number thinking it was Dominik's, they were technically a party to the conversation.
"This is a circumstance where there was an affirmative misrepresentation," Hermes said. "I'm not entirely sure how that would affect this analysis. A court could say 'you dialed a number, you didn't know for sure, you thought it was a person's number due to this person's misrepresentation. You're responsible for initiating the call and the consequences. If that results in the person you call starting a recording, that's on you.' I think it's a stronger argument to say under these circumstances where the call was initiated as a result of the misrepresentation that the person doing the misrepresentation shouldn't be treated as the legit recipient of the call."
We'll have to see if these two yahoos get punished or end up with a slap on the wrist.