Salisbury Aims to Move On After Admission
Other than its decidedly 21st-century angles, Sean Salisbury's story is timeless: show spur-of-the-moment stupidity, deny it in hopes it will be forgotten - then find it follows you around instead.
"I was ashamed and I didn't want to say anything," says Salisbury, who was an NFL quarterback for eight years and an ESPN NFL analyst for 12. "I thought it would go away, and (I) let my ego get in the way. Since then, I've beat myself up about it more than 10 baseball bats could. A stupid mistake can cost you, and this has really cost me. I should have been having this conversation a long time ago."
But what Salisbury, 46, is admitting to simply substantiates what's already an urban legend on the Internet: that he took cellphone photos of his private parts and showed them.
Yuck. Salisbury says it happened once - "a sophomoric mistake" in a Connecticut bar in 2006 - for which ESPN suspended him for a week for then-unspecified reasons.
Salisbury's ESPN contract wasn't renewed in 2008; he says ESPN never specifically cited the incident in letting him go. In September, he was dropped by a Dallas sports talk radio station but strictly because of "disagreements over my contract and show content."
Speculation over the incident has popped up on various websites. Salisbury has filed suit against one - Deadspin.com - claiming he has been victimized by its "long-running smear campaign" and "malicious lies." (Deadspin declined to comment.)
But by his own admission, Salisbury didn't add to the site's veracity when he had the chance.
He was asked in a Deadspin interview posted Aug. 14, 2008, if he "took a picture of your genitals on your cellphone and showed it around" and whether such "rumors" were "remotely true."
Salisbury's response: "I haven't addressed it because it's so absurd and such a bald-faced lie from what the speculation is out there from media outlets and Internet and bloggers that hop on and want to beat you up because they don't like my opinion in football. It never happened."
That was then.
Now, Salisbury feels better from having had anger-management therapy - "I needed help. I had a lot of inner anger for years." He says he's trying to champion the cause of accuracy in online reporting in a lawsuit against Deadspin that he insists is anything but frivolous.
And the book he said he'd write about ESPN in an erratic e-mail exchange with Deadspin in September - saying "some major reputations" would be ruined - is off.
"I'm not a tell-all guy and regret saying that," he says.
Salisbury says the online buzz about his pictures had a devastating effect on his kids and put on hold any national broadcasting comeback.
"It was stupid - dumb! - but not malicious," he says. "How can it ruin a good career? I've gone from being on six days a week to disappearing. And it's not like I wanted to disappear. . . . But it feels good getting it off my chest."
Only the hardhearted wouldn't see a chance for his redemption.