This is a brief (for me) & abbreviated recounting of the final hours leading up to the release of the Gregg Williams Audio. For greater detail, please refer to my essay, “When you kill the head, the body doesn’t die”, posted May 31st.
Drew left this voice mail for me at 7:27pm on April 4th, 2012, DrewBreesVM_4-4-12_7-27pm just after sending a similar text, requesting to review the “Tru Dat” essay I’d written to accompany the release of the Greg Williams audio.
Steve Gleason had texted me 26 minutes earlier, at 7:01pm to say that, “To be very clear… According to our contract it is illegal for you to release w/o my approval. And… you do NOT have my permission to release this audio/video footage.”
(To be clear: It WAS NOT illegal or in violation of our contract to release the audio and I did not require Steve’s approval, however myself, Scott Fujita & Drew Brees sought his blessing. Besides the fact that my producer drafted our co-production agreement, several attorneys have confirmed that this fact.)
Again, at 8:06pm Drew texted me, “Just talked to Scott. He does not want to see the message but Steve and I do…”
Drew Brees never expressed to me that he did not want the audio released, even though this was misreported by espn.com yesterday. I asked multiple ESPN sources that this CORRECTION be made with this article but 23-hours later, the request has yet to be honored, even-tough the story was updated today at 1:38pm ET. According to the text and voice mail, he continued to press for its release and lobbied me to send him my essay even after Steve Gleason had apparently changed his mind.
Finally, at 10:07pm, Steve again texted me, “Sean to be very clear according to our contract it is illegal for you to release w/o my approval And… you do NOT have my permission to release this audio/video footage.”
My producer & fiancé spoke with the editor from Yahoo! just after 11:30pm and shortly thereafter, the story went live. In fact, it would’ve gone out earlier but at the last minute, due to a technical complication on Yahoo’s part, we had to host the audio on our website and with our web designers on vacation we had to figure it out ourselves.
By the time the above correspondence took place it was too late to pull the story back. The article was written, a news organization was abuzz, a message had been left for Gregg Williams and a close friend of his had contacted Scott Fujita.
The play was underway & regardless of Steve Gleason’s last minute change-of-heart, there was no pulling it back.
Never did Drew communicate to me to pull-the-plug or that he had a change-of-heart. As far as I knew his prerequisites were 1.) that the, audio was released unedited, check (both a 3 1/2 min cut-down & full 13min. version were available on my website, 2.) that the timing was right (Scott communicated that according to D. Smith of the NFLPA, Drew wanted the audio to be released at a time when it would help Sean Payton. I had wanted to release the audio in early March.) and 3.) Drew & Steve wanted to vet my writing, to which my answer was, “no”. At this point I was a journalist and I asked them to respect my job and as far as I can tell this is where I crossed the line with Drew Brees.