SPORTO: It Would Be Funny If It Weren’t So True


WASHINGTON POST: Larry Wansley convinced himself long ago that three hours’ sleep is plenty. His thoughts kept him up anyway, but even if he did drift off, the chances were good that the phone — always next to his ear, whether at home or in a hotel room — would ring. Sometimes it would be a contact in the Dallas Police Department; other times there’d be a nightclub owner on the other line. So rather than close his eyes and take his chances, the Dallas Cowboys’ longtime security director learned to stay up and wait. “All my professional life,” Wansley said, “has basically been on call, responding to situations that take place and addressing them, resolving them.” Wansley is one member of a vast network of problem solvers who work security in one capacity or another for the National Football League. America’s most popular sports league is also one of its more valuable companies, generating about $10 billion in annual revenue, and behind the scenes is an intricate and largely secretive three-layered security force — mainly comprised of former federal agents — in charge of staying in front of the league’s problems. Its emphases are swiftness and thoroughness, its tentacles reaching into states even without an NFL team, its code mostly one of silence. And while its agents can help keep bad actors from ever getting to the league by vetting them beforehand, they are equally if not more valuable in funnelling information back to the league office once problems occur to help make sure NFL leaders are not caught off guard. But this past week, something somehow slipped through the fine mesh barrier of “The Shield’s” shield, apparently catching even the NFL by surprise — something that, by design of its security apparatus, should never happen. MORE