In the wake of the preliminary entry of a civil judgment for fraud and other related claims against Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, the NFL will take no action against them.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL has concluded that the personal-conduct policy has not been triggered by the decision made by a New Jersey judge in a 21-year-old civil lawsuit.
The league had no comment on the situation.
Adam Schefter of ESPN, via SportsBusiness Daily, has explained that the league isn’t expected to take action because it’s a civil case, not a criminal case. But the absence of criminal charges isn’t always an impediment. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger initially landed on Commissioner Roger Goodell’s radar screen via a civil lawsuit. Indeed, Roethlisberger eventually was suspended six games — reduced to four — without ever being arrested.
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley has characterized the situation as a “private business matter.” Without criminal charges against seven employees (and counting) of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s Pilot Flying J, however, the contention that Haslam’s company shorted customers on their rebate payments would be a “private business matter.”
For the Wilfs, it never became more than that, for a variety of possible reasons. In Haslam’s case, an informant approached the FBI. In this case, it’s possible the authorities never were aware of the allegation that the Wilfs essentially cooked the books regarding an apartment complex in order to pay less to their partners. It’s also possible that the authorities knew, but that prosecutors decided via the exercise of their inherently broad scope of discretion not to get involved.
Regardless, it’s highly unlikely that prosecutors would be able to proceed with charges against men who would be regarded as much bigger fish now than they were in 1992. Though we haven’t researched the statutes of limitations that may apply to the various charges that could be pursued (that’s lawyer-talk for “I don’t know”), it would be surprising to learn that any of the available theories would be viable more than two decades later.
The caveat is that there’s a chance some of the alleged activities occurred more recently. The article from Mike Kaszuba of the Minneapolis Star Tribune explains that “the case at one point included allegations that the Wilfs diverted money from the project for ‘football related expenses‘ that were ‘incurred by the Wilfs in connection with their ownership of the Minnesota Vikings, and other NFL related activities.’”
Though a specific date isn’t attached to that contention, the Wilfs bought the Vikings in 2005. Which is a lot sooner for statute of limitations purposes than 1992.