NFLers Beware: Big Brother Is Always Watching

The No Fun League is becoming the No Privacy League. Not content to monitor and penalize players for their actions in front of tens of millions of viewers, teams are now keeping an eye on their employees everywhere from locker rooms to hotels to nightclubs. And they’d better be good, because Santa Goodell knows if they’re being naughty or nice.

Roger Goodell

(”What? A cornerback just ordered a Long Island Iced Tea somewhere? I’m on it.”)

Hannah Karp of the WALL STREET JOURNAL took a look at the measures in place to protect the image of a league with $7 billion in revenue, and finds some methods that could be considered draconian. I’ll admit I was surprised that around 10 percent of NFL players have been arrested. But even more surprising are the Orwellian lengths some teams will go to to keep their golden geese out of trouble.

Dave Abrams, a retired police officer, was appointed security chief by the Broncos last year after a player was killed in a shooting. Mr. Abrams’s BlackBerry is loaded with each player’s personal information and he has trained dozens of bartenders and bouncers to call him when players show up. Sometimes he comes to take note of the women they’re with and how much they’ve had to drink. “It’s always fun to watch their eyes light up the first time they see me in a bar or a nightclub on a Friday night,” he says. “It just makes them realize that someone’s paying attention.”

The policy has already led to scenes straight out of a Tom Clancy novel:

The increased scrutiny has taken a toll on some players, including Broncos defensive tackle Marcus Thomas. Last year, after the policy was announced, Mr. Thomas had called his agent in a panic: He said he was convinced he was being followed by “a white man in sunglasses” who had been sent by the NFL. A league spokesman says NFL security did not follow Mr. Thomas.

It’s not just Denver. The Chargers conduct nightly bed checks, and position guards in the hallway to keep their players from leaving the hotel after curfew. The Seahawks have banned players from visiting Pioneer Square, the most happening neighborhood in downtown Seattle. Bills lineman Langston Walker is concerned that these policies will turn players against their team, saying, “When you start not to trust your own organization or governing body, who can you trust?”

How serious are the teams taking these directives, which some say trickle down from the league office? The Chargers fired their security director, Mike Cash, after some players slipped through their hotel dragnet. Cash thinks the rules are problematic, and not particularly effective.

Mr. Cash says he never expected his job to involve babysitting. “They’re grown men,” he says. “They’re going to do what they want.”