While one NFL legal drama comes to a head, the other continues to percolate. When it boils, the impact on the league could be far more significant.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, whose family owns Pilot Flying J, has seen five employees plead guilty to federal charges arising from a customer rebate scam. At least one other employee has told an informant that Haslam knew about the scheme, and at least one of the employees who have pleaded guilty said that “senior management” was aware of the situation.
Still, in a sweeping, thorough look at the situation from Betsy Morris and Cameron McWhirter of the Wall Street Journal, Haslam says he’s “very comfortable” with his own position in the case, even though it seems apparent that prosecutors are working their way up the organizational chart.
Indeed, Haslam reportedly acknowledged the prosecutors may be attempting to secure an indictment for him. His approach is pragmatic.
“I really can’t worry about indictments because I have no control,” Haslam said. “My focus has got to be on fixing the problem with the companies [that are Pilot’s customers], making it right if we owe them something. I got to focus on what I can control.”
Much of the situation is out of his control, because employees are cutting their own deals and agreeing to cooperate, without concern for the Omertas or physical threats that go along with soldiers who “flip” within the confines of drug cartels and the mafia. For the employees of Pilot Flying J, it’s a simple analysis. They can plead guilty and agree to cooperate in exchange for a more favorable outcome, or they can go down with someone else’s ship.
In the end, Haslam may be the only one left on the ship, and the ultimate question will be whether it sinks or floats.