As the NFL continues its “fast track” investigation of Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, which was stuck in the slow lane for weeks because of former Jets in-house sideline reporter Jenn Sterger’s reluctance to talk to the league, Sterger’s manager and Favre’s agent disagree about the origin of settlement talks that went nowhere.
Phil Reese, who represents Sterger, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that, in the days before Deadspin released audio and alleged photos of Favre, Reese called Favre’s agent, Bus Cook.
“I was concerned because I didn’t know exactly what was going to be coming out, and I knew that it wasn’t going to be good for everyone involved,” Reese said. “[Cook] asked me if there was a specific figure in mind that could make this go away. I told him, ‘I wish it were that easy, but there’s no putting the toothpaste back in the tube.’”
Cook denied the accusation in a statement to the AP.
“Her manager and her lawyer have made numerous overtures to me . . . at least 6 between the two of them,” Cook said. “Anyone can figure out why. The point is we were never going to pay them, we didn’t pay them and we will never pay them. Because, there is NO reason to pay them! They should consider that their attempts to negotiate privately and through the media have failed.”
In our view, Reese wasn’t calling Cook as a friendly gesture. Their clients’ interests aren’t aligned. Cook may have interpreted Reese’s first move as an effort to squeeze Favre into paying money to prevent the information from landing on the pages of Deadspin. And if Cook had asked at that time whether a “specific figure” could “make this go away,” Reese couldn’t make that happen because the information was released apparently without the involvement of Sterger. In other words, no amount of money paid by Favre to Sterger could have kept the information from becoming public.
In other words, there was no putting the toothpaste back in the tube.
After that, the question became whether Sterger would cooperate with the NFL’s investigation. Without her cooperation, there simply could be no punishment of Favre. So when Sterger hired a lawyer who said he would pursue every available remedy and when Reese and the lawyer routinely made it be known that she was strongly considering cooperating with the league, the message to Favre and Cook was clear: “Make us an offer.”
Now that Sterger has met with the NFL, she has no leverage. Sure, she could sue Favre. But if she were going to sue him she would have done it by now. Sterger’s leverage cannon had one shot — and she fired it when she met with the league. At this point, there’s nothing Favre could pay her to undo the fact that she met with the league.
So why is Reese peddling a version of events that the trained eye reasonably may regard as embellished at best, fabricated at worst? Because Sterger no longer has a job in the media, and if those from whom she may be seeking employment perceive her to be an opportunistic gold digger, she’ll have a hard time getting another job in the media. Part of Reese’s job is to push a better image of his client, and the Associated Press was more than willing to listen.