From the moment the league announced that it was investigating the allegation that former Jets (now Vikings) quarterback Brett Favre sent voice messages and photos to a former Jets in-house sideline reporter, the reason for the league’s zeal was obvious.
An excellent summary of the status of the situation in Tuesday’s
SportsBusiness Daily includes the key quote from NFL spokesman Greg Aiello: “It’s a totally different world with the Internet. Information and
videos that never once existed are the new reality and the new news. But
our issue here is the conduct of our employees and the question of
whether this is a case of sexual harassment.”
The fact that Favre first became exposed (sometimes the double entendres are impossible to avoid) to Jenn Sterger in the workplace compels the league to investigate whether Favre’s conduct may have risen to the level of sexual harassment. As we explained in this week’s Monday 10-pack, “sexual harassment” means much more than a boss harassing his secretary for sex. The “hostile work environment’ form of sexual harassment requires careful consideration of a stew of often disputed facts, viewed both from the perspective of the objective interpretation of the words and deeds and the subjective reaction by the target of them.
Part of the problem, as mentioned in the 10-pack (did we mention the 10-pack?), is the surprising reality that neither the league nor the Jets have provided to Jets players specific guidance on what sexual harassment is, the conduct that may give rise to it, and the potential consequences for engaging in it.
Moving forward generally, count on that changing.
Moving forward specifically, the question of whether Sterger cooperates continues to be critical to the outcome. Without her input, the league has no context within which to assess whether Favre’s conduct was unwelcome. Without her version of the events, Favre could go behind closed doors with NFL Security and say something like, “You should see the pictures she sent to me.”
If the league concludes sexual harassment occurred, the Personal Conduct Policy becomes the vehicle for disciplining him. Even without a finding of sexual harassment, the Personal Conduct Policy contains sufficient “do what we want to do when and how we want to do it” looseness in the joints to allow the league to do whatever it wants with Favre. Whenever the league wants to do it. However the league wants to do it.