And now we know why the two massage therapists who claim that former Jets quarterback Brett Favre subjected them to unwelcome advances opted not to cooperate with the NFL’s investigation.
They chose silence because they were planning to sue Favre.
Andrea Canning and Jessica Hopper of ABC’s Good Morning America reports that Christina Scavo and Shannon O’Toole have filed suit against Favre, the Jets, and Lisa Ripi, the woman who supposedly hires massage therapists for the team. The suit has been filed in New York state court.
Scavo contends that Favre treated her like a “hanging slab of meat,” and that Favre wanted to have a three-way with Scavo and another therapist.
Favre allegedly sent text messages to the other therapist, who is unnamed, inviting the other therapist and Scavo to “get together” because he was “all alone.” In another message, he allegedly said, “Kinda lonely tonight. I guess I have bad intentions.” (If that’s all he ever did, that’s not sexual harassment.)
Scavo alleges that her husband demanded an apology from Favre, who “responded in an appropriate manner and refused.” (It’s not sexual harassment to refuse to apologize for something that someone thinks may have been sexual harassment.)
Scavo also alleges that neither Scavo nor O’Toole received work opportunities with the Jets again. (That could be a problem for the defendants, especially if Favre’s reaction to the demand for an apology was to insist on Scavo and O’Toole never again being asked to work for the team.)
Attorney Elizabeth Eilender, who represents the two women, offered up some strong rhetoric in a statement to ABC: “I suspect that this case is only the tip of the iceberg with respect to the harassment and discrimination experienced by women working for NFL teams and their players as well as all of men’s professional sports. I hope that Ms. Scavo’s and Ms. O’Toole’s courage to bring this suit will empower other women to come forward without fear of retaliation and retribution in order to protect their livelihoods and self-respect.”
Eilender told ABC that suit was filed only after the Jets refused to give them their jobs back, but that doesn’t really mesh with the time line. By all appearances, the situation was a dead issue until the Jenn Sterger story hit Deadspin, prompting Scavo’s husband to contact the media in early October. At the time, they had not hired a lawyer, so the filing of the lawsuit wasn’t some final act in a carefully-engineered two-year strategy.
Instead, our somewhat educated guess is that the massage therapists got “lawyered up” not long after the Sterger situation emerged, that they decided not to talk to the NFL because anything they said to the NFL could and would have been used against them in the litigation, and they decided to sue, perhaps after demanding a settlement from Favre and/or the Jets.
On the surface, we don’t see enough to make us think that sexual harassment occurred. It’s possible that the stronger claim is against Favre, the Jets, and/or Ripi for freezing them out after Scavo’s husband confronted Favre.
Either way, Favre’s third retirement from the NFL won’t be starting out as smoothly as he surely hoped.