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Where’s the Line on Respecting the Privacy of Public Figures?



Video of New England Patriots head coach leads to more questions about what should be private for public figures

Yesterday a video that appeared to be of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick began to make the rounds on social media and beyond. It was originally posted on X by a Patriots fan. It was then shown and discussed on ESPN’s Pat McAfee Show. The video clip has over 12 million views just 24 hours after being posted.

Video of Bill Belichick

The original post said “Bill doing the walk of shame” with “#BenderBill” accompanying the video. The video itself has no date or other information on it (other than the X user’s handle). It shows a shirtless man, appearing to be Bill Belichick, on from a ring camera. The 18-second long clip shows the man exiting the door, looking around, then walking down the stairs toward a car. That is the entire video.

If this is in fact a video clip of Bill Belichick, why post it? The obvious answer is for attention. It is unlikely the X user in question has had 12 million views for any of their other video clips (most people haven’t). Likewise, Pat McAfee and friends are looking for ratings and attention, so they happily show an 18-second video and discuss it like it is meaningful news. People are talking about the clip today, so both the X account and ESPN show got what they were apparently looking for. But at what expense?

Drawing the line between what is public and private for public figures is obviously a gray area. Not everyone shares the viewpoint that it is okay to let people enjoy their privacy, or TMZ and Us Weekly wouldn’t be so popular.

Non-Football Stories

While reporting about the New England Patriots (for example) there are some things that go beyond playing football that are impossible to ignore. During the 2023 season, former Patriot Sergio Brown was taken into custody in regard to the death of his mother. And another former New England player, Chandler Jones, was arrested and waived by the Raiders after a string of bizarre behavior. Even this past week, the reason for J.C. Jackson being benched by the Patriots came to light, involving a missed curfew.

None of those topics are enjoyable to write about. But Patriots Football Now is a site that covers everything New England Patriots related. But both the Brown and Jones arrests were public record. And the Jackson benching directly affects the Patriots football team. So, despite analyzing actual football being the focus of this site, those stories are impossible to ignore and do not cross the line into an invasion of somebody’s privacy.

However, Calvin Anderson has said that he had a very scary health situation in the offseason, which he did not elaborate on. He is currently on Injured Reserve due to illness as well. This is not a story that needs speculation. Anderson’s privacy should be respected. Likewise, Trent Brown was listed on the Patriots injury report this week in part due to “personal reasons.” There is a reason this was not listed as “public reasons” (note: J.C. Jackson did receive the same designation). Without finding out that Anderson or Brown violated team rules, or did something illegal, their privacy on the matters should be respected.

What Did Belichick Do Wrong?

This brings us back to Bill Belichick and the video floating around. What exactly did Bill Belichick do wrong? Does anybody even know when the video took place, where it took place, or what the circumstances are? And obviously, this all assumes Bill Belichick is the man in the video.

Assuming it is Belichick, he is neither at a club nor a public event where he would anticipate being seen. He is at a home where a ring camera spied him exiting. There is zero known about the circumstances surrounding the clip. Despite the “Bender Bill” hashtag is it known if Belichick is drunk? If so, did he drink and drive? That would be a story (and not a pleasant one). What is seen in the video is not a story at all.

The reason this video, and others like it, feel inappropriate is because people do deserve some privacy in their personal lives, whether public figures or not. Obviously, the video will also lead to people drawing all sorts of conclusions, fair or not. In the original post of the video, there is already speculation that Bill Belichick is on a bender and doing a “walk of shame.” Is this true? Is it fair?

Obviously there is a market for this type of material online and in the media. If there wasn’t, people would stop posting it. Why so many people are consumed with the private lives of others remains a mystery. It is easy to see who a video clip like this benefitted, but hopefully some remember it unnecessarily hurt people as well.

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