The New York Jets have perhaps eclipsed the Browns are the most dysfunctional organization in the NFL, and this might take away the ‘perhaps’ from that sentiment.
The Jets have found themselves in a sticky predicament of workplace misconduct and infringement of employee privacy after players discovered secret cameras in their locker room, hidden in smoke detectors. Even more concerning? They’re reportedly been there for over a decade.
The Daily News has learned that Jets players and their representatives alerted the NFL Players Association in recent weeks about what appeared to be surveillance equipment hidden in smoke detectors in the Jets locker room.
The NFLPA immediately informed the NFL in late October. The NFL claimed in the past week on behalf of the Jets that cameras have been in and adjacent to the locker room since 2008 when the team relocated from Long Island to a new training facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, according to sources. The league concluded that players were aware of the cameras, and thus, the cameras were compliant with league rules, sources said.
A league spokesperson informed the Daily News that the league responded directly to the union, and no further action is required by the Jets.
If that is the case, why are Jets players surprised to learn of the cameras, and why did they reach out to the union seeking relief?
The News spoke to a number of current and former Jets players, including those on the 2008 team that moved into the new workspace. All of them said that they were unaware that cameras were in the locker room. None of the players recalled team officials informing them of cameras in the locker room. None of them consented to be videotaped in what is considered a private space.
“I’m pissed,” one former player said. “That’s our space. Why would you have a camera in there? That’s bullsh—.”
The Jets — through the league — insist that the cameras are in the locker room for internal security purposes, according to sources.
A New Jersey statute addressing the filming of people who are partially or fully naked was enacted in 2016.
It reads, in part: “An actor commits a crime of the third degree if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he photographs, films, videotapes, records, or otherwise reproduces in any manner, the image of another person whose intimate parts are exposed or who is engaged in an act of sexual penetration or sexual contact, without that person’s consent and under circumstances in which a reasonable person would not expect to be observed.”[More Jets] Jets’ Sam Darnold misses practice, but Adam Gase optimistic he will play against Patriots on Monday night »
Those whose “intimate parts” have been videotaped without their consent can pursue civil actions for monetary relief. The legality of the cameras would depend on whether or not an NFL locker room could be considered a place where “a reasonable person would not expect to be observed,” and how “observed” is defined.
For their part, the Jets believe they are in compliance with state law.
Through a spokesperson, the Jets said, ‘We are aware of the situation, and will have no further comment at this time.”
No Jets former or current player reached for this story recalled signing a consent form about locker room surveillance. It’s highly unlikely that the union would agree to it anyway.
The NFL and NFLPA agreed to stricter COVID-19 protocols last month to ensure that team personnel adhered to safety measures to reduce the risk of infections. Additional video surveillance was implemented in common/public areas at team facilities. The use and placement of cameras at team facilities was a bargained addendum between the league and union.[More Jets] GM Joe Douglas doubles down on Adam Gase, but knows Jets coach should be fired »
However, there is no provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement about placing cameras in private areas like the locker room or showers/bathroom. It’s highly unlikely that the union would sign off on cameras or audio devices in those areas for myriad reasons.
Jets players were told in a meeting earlier this year to make sure that they wore masks and league-mandated GPS tracking vests inside the facility, a source said. Players were informed that they were being monitored on team grounds. A team official obfuscated when the player asked if surveillance extended to the locker room. Players were left to wonder without a definitive answer.
The union and players are troubled by the Jets’ unilateral decision to place hidden cameras in smoke alarms in the locker room, according to sources. The union is determining whether to file a grievance or lean on New Jersey employee privacy rights laws to remove the cameras, sources said.
A NFLPA spokesman declined comment this week.
The team has signed more than 20 players since the start of training camp in late July. It is unclear whether any of those players have been notified by a team official that there are cameras in the locker room.[More Jets] Jets shopping TE Chris Herndon before NFL trade deadline: sources »
The News obtained a photo of the video surveillance equipment inside the locker room that appears to include a small camera embedded in a smoke detector on the ceiling. The device looks exactly like a widely available model of “professional covert security camera.”
The Jets contend that players have asked for security footage in the past to track down lost items in the locker room, according to a source. Each player has a mini-safe with a unique PIN in his locker to ensure that private items such as jewelry, wallets and phones are protected.
No player reached for this story recalled a teammate asking for surveillance footage. Some players were angry upon learning that there was an eye in the sky while they’re in a private space changing in and out of their clothes.
One current player called it “bizarre” for the Jets to hide cameras.
A former player who spent time with the club a few years ago recalled a conversation between two teammates discussing the possibility of covert cameras in the locker room, but he was never officially told by a team employee.[More Jets] Bill Belichick’s Patriots could ruin the Jets’ tank with a Monday Night Football loss »
“I didn’t actually know, but a couple guys would sit there and talk about it,” the player said. “You’d be like, ‘No way. Really?”
Another former player from a few years ago wasn’t shocked upon hearing the news of hidden cameras given some of the strange occurrences under the current regime. He said that he wouldn’t be floored if there were microphones in the locker room or meeting rooms, either.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” that player said. “Some people over there are pretty worried about what’s done behind closed doors or in the locker room.”
Some current players have talked amongst themselves about whether there are cameras in the locker room, but they didn’t believe that the organization actually would go to that extreme.
However, there’s a growing trust gap between players and the current regime.[More Jets] The Jets have not fired Adam Gase even after 0-8 start to season »
Several players publicly criticized the organization in the past year for different reasons as general manager Joe Douglas insisted that “the plan is to create the best culture in sports.”
Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa unloaded on the club for publicly shaming him for being fined after taking his wife, who is a veteran, out to lunch on Veteran’s Day rather than rehabbing his season-ending neck injury.
“I don’t feel bad about it,” Enunwa said shortly after publicly relaying his displeasure at how the team handled the matter. “Sometimes you have to do things outside your comfort zone to create change.”
Offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele criticized the organization and filed a grievance after decision makers refused to pay for a surgery that he ultimately had on his own. All-Pro safety Jamal Adams made it clear this summer that he didn’t trust or believe in Adam Gase.
“One of the things I can tell you is that communication is going to be a big thing that we improve on in the offseason,” Douglas said 10 months ago. “That’s going to be on me. That’s going to be on everybody. That’s going to be a big thing moving forward for the entire organization.”