Due to a violation of the NFL's Policy on Integrity of the Game, the league has imposed a fine on the Broncos organization of $50,000, and Head Coach Josh McDaniels has been fined $50,000 as well.
"The Denver Broncos and I accept the discipline imposed by the NFL," President and CEO Pat Bowlen said in a statement. "We will take all steps to ensure that an incident like this never occurs again. We will always strive to uphold the integrity of our organization and the National Football League."
The violation occurred when on Saturday, Oct. 30, before the Broncos' Week 8 game against the San Francisco 49ers, director of video operations Steve Scarnecchia -- whose employment has since been terminated -- filmed a portion of the 49ers' walk-through practice at Wembley Stadium in London.
When Scarnecchia offered to show the tape to McDaniels later that afternoon, the head coach replied, "No, I'm not doing that."
"We certainly did not view or do anything with the footage, and he was made aware that it was something that we didn't condone in our organization," said McDaniels, who apologized to Mr. Bowlen, the entire Broncos organization and all the people that support the team.
The video was then deleted from Scarnecchia's computer.
When Mr. Bowlen and team executives were notified of the incident, the team launched an investigation and notified the league office on Nov. 12.
Broncos executives, including Mr. Bowlen, met with NFL staff in New York to discuss the violation on Nov. 16, and NFL Security launched its own investigation, traveling to Denver to interview Broncos personnel on Nov. 18 and 19 and arrange a forensic analysis of the laptop computers used by the video department.
"I think from the perspective of the Commissioner's Office, the incident is obviously unfortunate, but there is, as in most unfortunate things, something positive to point to -- and that is mainly that the Denver Broncos, their ownership and their executives had their moral compass pointing in the right direction," NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash said. "They followed the rules, they adhered to the policy, they came forward promptly and reported the violation and then we began our investigation promptly thereafter. They were fully cooperative and I think they've set an example as to how incidents of this type are properly handled. I think from now on, while nobody is happy with this kind of an event, I think everyone can take a step back and say, 'Well, when the team became aware of it, they did the right thing.' Hopefully we won't have repeats of these kinds of incidents, but if we do, I hope that clubs will conduct themselves the way the Broncos did over the past few weeks."
In a letter to Mr. Bowlen, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell commended the Broncos for providing "exemplary assistance to our investigators." He then went over the timeline of the events as discovered through the investigation.
On Oct. 30, the Broncos arrived at Wembley for the first time. As the staff got a feel for the stadium, the players and coaches went through a final walk-through in preparation for the following day's game against San Francisco.
Afterward, when the players and most of the staff left Wembley for a team lunch, Scarnecchia stayed behind to finish setting up his video equipment. During the set-up, he noticed the 49ers were conducting their final walk-through, and he recorded a portion of the session -- approximately six minutes in length.
Scarnecchia admitted to NFL Security that he recorded the practice, and maintained it was the first time he had engaged in such an action since joining the Broncos. He said that no one had instructed him to tape the practice, and that when he offered to show the tape to McDaniels, the head coach refused.
"I know for a fact that nobody was instructed to do anything like this," McDaniels said. "It was an isolated situation where he made a choice."
Goodell wrote that the facts echo McDaniels' statement.
"Based on our investigation, we have found no evidence to suggest that Coach McDaniels or any other member of the coaching staff watched the tape," he wrote. "Nor have we identified any evidence to suggest that any member of the coaching staff or club management directed Mr. Scarnecchia to record the practice. We are aware of no evidence that would indicate the recording of any other opposing team practices or walk-thrus, or the like. And there is no reason to believe that the improper videotaping in London had any competitive effect on the October 31 game between the Broncos and 49ers."
Nevertheless, the team was fined $50,000 because "clubs are ultimately accountable for the conduct of their employees," and McDaniels was fined $50,000 because the league determined he should have reported the incident immediately to Mr. Bowlen or a senior executive.
McDaniels apologized for not reporting the incident earlier, calling it "a mistake."
"I failed to follow through and report it to the proper individuals in our organization and with the league," McDaniels said. "This incident is in no way representative of what the Broncos stand for, and in no way representative of what I stand for as the head coach of this organization and for that I take responsibility for it. I understand the punishment that the league has handed me and our team and we have addressed this situation with our entire organization to make sure nothing like this ever happens again."
Broncos Chief Operating Officer Joe Ellis said that the organization is disappointed and embarrassed by the situation.
"We're not proud of it, but we feel we've cooperated fairly and appropriately throughout the course of the investigation both our own and then with the league," Ellis said. "We accept the fact, as Pat (Bowlen) said in his statement, that it cuts into the trust and respect of so many different constituents, and we just have to live with that and do our best to earn back their trust."