The NFL has spoken. MDS provided a quick summary of the ruling earlier this afternoon. We’ve now had a chance to digest the full press release.
In a nutshell? The league thinks Brett Favre is a liar. But the league doesn’t think he sexually harassed former Jets in-house sideline reporter Jenn Sterger.
“Commissioner Goodell . . . determined that Favre was not candid in several respects during the investigation, resulting in a longer review and additional negative public attention for Favre, Sterger, and the NFL,” the league’s official release states. “The commissioner notified Favre that he has been fined $50,000 for his failure to cooperate with the investigation in a forthcoming manner. Commissioner Goodell stated to Favre that if he had found a violation of the league’s workplace conduct policies, he would have imposed a substantially higher level of discipline.”
It’s a fancy and convoluted way of saying that Favre lied, perhaps on multiple occasions.
As to the issue of sexual harassment, Favre apparently avoided a sanction because the “forensic analysis could not establish that Favre sent the objectionable photographs to Sterger.” Even if the league had concluded that Favre had sent the photos (and by now we all know what the photos depicted), a key question remains as to whether and to what extent Sterger was genuinely offended by behavior about which she never complained to the Jets or to the league. Indeed, the entire investigation commenced without any complaint from Sterger, and she cooperated only reluctantly — and, as many believe, after it became clear that Favre would not buy Sterger’s silence via a settlement of her potential claims.
That said, we’re troubled by the slap on the wrist Favre has received for lying. Sure, it’s not the first time he has stretched the truth. But as we pointed out in connection with the Sal Alosi situation, lying by an employee within the confines of an official investigation requires the harshest of punishments (but not quite to the Tucker Carlson level).
Lying to an employer who is investigating wrongdoing is no different than perjury or obstruction of justice in a legal proceeding. And if an employee can get away with lying (or, as in Favre’s case, fined the equivalent of what he earns in three minutes of one game), the message to all other employees is clear: It’s better to be caught in a lie than to be caught in the truth.
Employees in other industries routinely are fired for such behavior. At a bare minimum, Favre should have received a suspension.
If a player smoking pot on multiple occasions is enough to trigger a four-game banishment, the disrespect Favre demonstrated by lying to the league at a time when the league was trying its best to investigate a serious issue regarding workplace behavior should have resulted in at least the same penalty.
Even more troubling is the fact that the league has minced words. Favre lied. Why not say Favre lied? The fact that the guy holds every career quarterback record doesn’t insulate him from the consequences of his actions, or from calling what he did precisely what he did, without words that may cause people to think that, in essence, Favre lied.
The fact that he lied also should have prompted the league to take Sterger’s word as to any other aspect of their he-said/she-said factual dispute. Juries routinely reject the entire testimony of a witness who is caught in a lie. The NFL should have done the same here.
Thus, if Sterger said that Favre sent the pictures and Favre said he didn’t and Favre has otherwise lied, why should the NFL or anyone else reject Sterger’s version of the events? (That said, the question of whether Sterger was genuinely offended would require further analysis, especially in light of the version of the events supplied by her former friend, Allison Torres.)
Earlier this week, lawyer Joseph Conway said that Favre was getting preferential treatment. Though a carefully-crafted slap on the wrist is intended to lead us all to believe otherwise, Conway was right.