The Buffalo Bills are every bit as troubled by their quarterback situation as all of their fans are, and their general manager needs to be more careful about checking cellphone numbers when he’s returning calls.
Those were the main take-aways from a series of prank calls that resulted in a recording made Friday of a phone conversation between Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix and his counterpart in Tampa, Mark Dominik.
The recording was released Tuesday on the website Deadspin, which reported it had been obtained from two 20-year-olds who duped Nix into calling their cellphone.
The six-minute conversation foreshadowed the Bills’ release Tuesday of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was cut loose after refusing to accept a pay cut the Bills offered.
Said Nix to Dominik: “We’re still struggling here with our quarterback. I say struggling. We’re not really struggling. He’s going to have to do something, or we’ll have to.”
Added Nix: “You can’t afford to pay that kind of money to a guy that’s fighting for probably a backup job.”
And then Nix ended with this assessment of his quarterback situation: “We gotta get one somehow. Bad time to need it.”
The crop of available unrestricted free agent quarterbacks is slim, and it’s a below-average year for quarterbacks coming out of the college ranks. There wasn’t much else of note revealed in the conversation.
How did two pranksters listen in on a conversation between two top NFL executives shortly before the start of the league’s free-agency season? It took some phenomenal timing.
Here’s the website’s retelling of the story: The young pranksters initially called Nix’s office claiming to be Dominik, and when the call was patched through, they hung up. Nix kept calling back the pranksters’ cellphone, thinking it was Dominik’s line. So the pranksters plotted to set the two GM’s off on a game of phone tag.
Eventually Nix called back precisely when the pranksters were calling Dominik’s office and were being sent through to his line. The pranksters put the two calls on speaker phone, recorded them with another cellphone and listened.
The Bills released a statement on the call: “We are aware of the report on Deadspin involving a phone conversation with Bills GM Buddy Nix. We have made the league aware of the report and are reviewing it with legal counsel.”
The unidentified pranksters – Deadspin did not divulge their names or location – could be in for trouble with the law in New York and Florida.
In New York, the consent of at least one party to any telephone communication is required in order to record it. In Florida, it is illegal to tape or overhear a telephone conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation.
“These kids shouldn’t be doing any sack dances just yet,” said Buffalo trial attorney Terry Connors.
“It’s going to be subject to analysis, but there very well may be a number of state or federal statutes that have been violated, and it will be up to the various prosecutors to determine if there will be charges.”
Illegally recording an electronic communication is a felony in New York. In Florida it’s a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines, unless the interception is a first offense committed without any illegal purpose and not for commercial gain. In those circumstances, such an infraction is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and fines of up to $1,000.
“If they can show the crime was committed in that state , it’s an easier standard for the prosecution to prove,” Connors said of Florida. “If I were their lawyer, I would tell them not to do any interviews and keep their mouths shut. I would lay low and hope that people let this pass by without any further activity.”