Former Chicago Bears public relations director Bryan Harlan admitted violating the NFL's policy on gambling and commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the league's security personnel worked closely with the team on the case.
Harlan resigned Friday, and the Bears did not mention gambling problems in announcing his departure. But the Chicago Sun-Times reported that he was the subject of a federal investigation after his phone number was found in a bookmaker's telephone records.
"Harlan acknowledged that he violated our league policy on gambling," Tagliabue said Wednesday in a conference call. "It's the integrity of the game. When we have the kind of competition we do have and competition that features integrity, we have to enforce it strictly."
The league bars betting on its games by players and team employees and prohibits them from associating with gamblers or gambling activities in a manner tending to bring discredit to the NFL.
"We know athletes can be tempted in the wrong direction. and so can officials around the game," Tagliabue said. "We have no indication this (Bears' investigation) extends to players or other officials."
Bears president Ted Phillips said Wednesday the team has been working closely with the commissioner's office during the past two weeks.
"We have no indication that any current Bears employees have been in violation of the league's gambling policy and no former or current players or coaches have been implicated in any way," Phillips said in a statement. "The Chicago Bears have always maintained a zero tolerance position regarding sports gambling."
The Sun-Times reported that Harlan's former boss, Ken Valdiserri, was subpoenaed two years ago in a federal gambling probe and that he informed the club at the time. He said he never called a bookie and was not required to testify before a U.S. grand jury.
Valdiserri, Bears' vice president for marketing and broadcasting until April, said federal investigators were apparently checking out telephone calls made to a bookmaker from portable phones assigned to him by the team.
Valdiserri said he routinely lent the phones to others, including players and reporters.
On Wednesday, Valdiserri declined to comment about the investigation or Harlan.
"I will stay by what you read this morning in the newspaper," he said.
Valdiserri, now head of the city's new XFL team, said it all happened two years ago and "I'd like to put it behind me."
The newspaper said Harlan was suspected of placing bets on league games, including some involving the Bears.
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, would not coment on the case, and Harlan hadn't returned a telephone message by Wednesday night.
Harlan's father, Bob, is the president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers. His brother Kevin is an NFL play-by-play announcer for CBS.
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