Once again, P.R. as in public relations for the NFL will trump P.R. as in player rights.
The league had its chance to develop any and all information that it could regarding the conduct of Giants kicker Josh Brown. The league failed to get the information that it needed in order to make a proper decision as to the discipline to be imposed on Brown, because the league couldn’t get Brown’s ex-wife or the relevant law-enforcement authorities to cooperate.
Instead of telling Josh Brown that the inability to get all the information about his conduct won’t count as a mitigating circumstance that reduces the standard six-game suspension for committing an act of domestic violence or that the NFL simply won’t allow him to play until Brown persuades his ex-wife and/or the authorities to provide the needed information, the league imposed a one-game suspension on Brown and closed the books.
Now, with the information the NFL failed to obtain regarding Brown’s misconduct obtained and published, the NFL apparently plans to do precisely what it tried to do to Ray Rice after the video the NFL should have obtained became available to the public: Punish Brown a second time for the same behavior.
This is no longer about whether Brown should have been suspended for more than one game; obviously, he should have been. This is now about whether the NFL can reach back and fix a mistake borne of negligence, incompetence, and/or extending a courtesy to an extremely influential owner by imposing a second penalty on Brown for the same misconduct.
Like the Ray Rice case, the league will likely argue that Brown lied during the original investigation. Unlike the Rice case, the league likely will argue that Brown is being punished not for the incident that occurred in May 2015 but for separate conduct described in the materials obtained by SNY.
Because the Josh Brown case won’t be generating the intense focus and criticism that the Ray Rice case did (which was exacerbated by the AP report that the league had the critical video before TMZ published it), Commissioner Roger Goodell most likely won’t be delegating his authority over the internal disciplinary process to a retired judge or any other independent party. Instead, buoyed by the federal appeals court decisions in litigation arising from suspensions imposed on Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson, the league office will do what it wants with Brown, stickhandling its way through the contours of the relevant precedent and engineering a way to take action against Brown.
The end result? The NFL will as a practical matter acquire the ability to punish a player twice for the same general misbehavior.
And if the Giants decide to cut Brown and not pay the balance of his salary, the Giants could face a grievance of their own, like the Ravens did when they cut Rice. The player may be in better position to get a fair shake on that one, since resolving it likely wouldn’t fall under the NFL’s authority.
Regardless, even though Brown never should have been re-signed by the Giants, the Giants knew or should have known all about his conduct before bringing him back. They shouldn’t be allowed to slide out of Hell’s Kitchen now that their potentially willful ignorance has been confirmed.
Bottom line? The NFL and the Giants had their chance to do the right thing. For whatever reason(s), they failed. It now would be unfair to Brown and all other players for the league and the Giants to say or do anything other than, “We blew it the first time, and we have no legal right to a second bite at the apple.”