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NFL appoints special counsel to investigate Dolphins situation

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The investigation involving the Miami Dolphins has suddenly taken on a more official, and ominous, feel.

The NFL has announced that Commissioner Roger Goodell has appointed lawyer Ted Wells to direct an independent investigation regarding “issues of workplace conduct” in Miami.

“Ted Wells will independently direct the investigation and submit a report to me,” Commissioner Goodell said in a league-issued release.  “Mr. Wells will conduct a thorough and objective investigation.  He will ensure that we have all the facts so that we can address this matter constructively.  We have worked previously with Paul Weiss and have great respect for the firm.  Ted Wells will have full authority to investigate as he deems appropriate.  He is on the job as of today and will undertake to complete his work as promptly as possible.  Consistent with doing a thorough investigation, we have not imposed a specific timetable on him.”

The investigation originally had been delegated to NFL senior V.P. of labor law and policy Adolpho Birch.  It’s unclear why the change was made.

It seems fair to infer that the NFL has opted for an independent investigation based on both the gravity of the situation and the lessons learned from last year’s bounty investigation involving the Saints, which seemed to be tainted at times by an effort not to get to the truth but to craft a version of the truth that meshed with a predetermined outcome.

Eventually, a supposedly independent lawyer was hired to review the evidence compiled by the league.  But Mary Jo White (who now serves as chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission) ultimately came off not as an independent evaluator of the facts, but as an advocate for the conclusions the league already had reached.

Time will tell whether Ted Wells is truly independent, or whether his stated independence will be exercised in a way that helps the investigation reach a desired outcome.  Regardless, here’s hoping that any decision to impose discipline on coaches, executives, players, and/or other employees of the Dolphins takes into account the possibility that the actions that led to the departure of tackle Jonathan Martin from the team and the suspension of guard Richie Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team will take into account whether the behavior constitutes an isolated incident or a reflection of broader cultural issues in the NFL locker room.

If it’s the latter, throwing the book at the Dolphins probably isn’t the fairest way to go.

Then again, the steps the NFL currently is taking to create a patina (hey now, college boy) of objectivity and independence will make it easier for the league to beat back any legal challenges that would block Goodell from both making the decisions as to discipline and serving as the hearing officer for any appeals.  In the bounty case, extended litigation resulted in Goodell relinquishing his authority over suspended players to former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who overturned all suspensions.

Pardon our cynicism, but the memories of the bounty scandal are still too fresh to prevent us from ruling out the possibility that the appointment of an outside lawyer in the first instance is aimed at least in part at allowing the league to do what it wants to do without ever having to yield to any outside oversight.

[Photo credit:  PaulWeiss.com]

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38 Responses to “NFL appoints special counsel to investigate Dolphins situation”
  1. stealthjunk says: Nov 6, 2013 4:59 PM

    Sweet ‘stache.

  2. Dennis Allen's Outgoing Persona says: Nov 6, 2013 4:59 PM

    It’s nice to know when this guy isn’t starring in adult movies from the 70’s he has a normal 9-5 day job.

  3. crapdrawers says: Nov 6, 2013 5:00 PM

    Incognito is a big dumb animal.

  4. henryd3rd says: Nov 6, 2013 5:01 PM

    I can see Martin and Ingotnito both walking away from the NFL with a ton of money and the Dolphins having Commissioner Goddell slapping them with one hefty fine and the possible loss of draft picks.

    Greg Shiano has got to be the happiest man in Florida. This fiasco takes the spotlight off him for now

  5. klutch14u says: Nov 6, 2013 5:01 PM

    Oh lordy that is a fantastic ‘stash

  6. joeymichaelsstudios says: Nov 6, 2013 5:01 PM

    Awwww it’s on now!

  7. beach305 says: Nov 6, 2013 5:02 PM

    Fans last week: “Goodel is making the league soft”

    Fans this week: “Richie is a meanie for picking on Martin”

  8. gottaplan says: Nov 6, 2013 5:03 PM

    You can’t trust anyone with a mustache…

  9. tfaulk says: Nov 6, 2013 5:03 PM

    So what EXACTLY is “MORE OMINOUS” about this exactly? Sounds to me this is exactly what the Dolphins asked for Sunday.

  10. mrconnors says: Nov 6, 2013 5:03 PM

    Don’t call me clown, moustache

  11. allhailkingflacco says: Nov 6, 2013 5:03 PM

    Special Counsel ?…

    This is awesome, the NFL is going Game of Thrones on their azzes !!!

  12. leatherhelmets says: Nov 6, 2013 5:04 PM

    Special Counsel VS Leadership Council!

  13. bobvancouver says: Nov 6, 2013 5:05 PM

    Nice porn stache.

  14. bobman2 says: Nov 6, 2013 5:06 PM

    That guy has an absolutely enormous moustache. I’m sure he’s qualified and unbiased and all, but the main thing I can’t shake is that giant lip caterpillar of his. If this law thing doesn’t work out, he surely will find a job as a silent movie villain.

  15. mediacowards says: Nov 6, 2013 5:06 PM

    This guy looks like Phil Hartman and one of characters…like sleaze-ball lawyer…

  16. tfaulk says: Nov 6, 2013 5:08 PM

    Also, I don’t see much similarity to BountyGate (from the perspective that you describe — from the perspective of possibly a relatively minor event that unfortunately reflects poorly on the entire culture of NFL, therefore, several individuals and possibly a team being served up as a scapegoat to create the impression of progress… maybe). But in BountyGate, it was specifically the NFL front office and Roger Goodell versus a team. This is a player versus a player on a team. So… if you are concerned about Goodell or any official with the NFL being unfair, which side do you think they are going to unfairly support: Martin or Incognito?

  17. blackandbluedivision says: Nov 6, 2013 5:08 PM

    That right there…is a ‘stache.

  18. 8drinkminimum says: Nov 6, 2013 5:08 PM

    You just live for this Florio. Weren’t you a lawyer at one point where objectivity and innocent until proven guilty is supposed to be the norm?

  19. eigglesnosuperbowls says: Nov 6, 2013 5:10 PM

    The NFL was better before I knew who the mic linebacker was ! The NFL was better before sports talk radio !
    The NFL was better before the internet ! The NFL was better before camera phones ! The NFL was better before quarterbacks yelled OMAHA ! The NFL was better before the ground can’t cause a fumble ! The NFL was better before every kickoff went into the hot dog vendor ! The NFL was better before under the hood ! The NFL was better before 6 ft 5 in 250 lbs receivers wore can’t touch me flags ! The NFL was better when it was a team vs a team The NFL was better before fantasy football ! The NFL was better before Thursday night games !

  20. bucrightoff says: Nov 6, 2013 5:10 PM

    Well that escalated quickly

  21. singisking says: Nov 6, 2013 5:11 PM

    The picture reminds me of one Jackie Chiles..”Richie Incognito’s behavior is ridiculous, preposterous, lascivious!”

  22. indytom87 says: Nov 6, 2013 5:12 PM

    Ken Starr Part 2

  23. cheapglazers says: Nov 6, 2013 5:12 PM

    For the love of god. Just file a lawsuit against the dolphins. Why in earth would someone hired by the NFL be non biased?

  24. hooterdawg says: Nov 6, 2013 5:17 PM

    Who is Paul Weiss?

  25. dietrich43 says: Nov 6, 2013 5:17 PM

    They will do like NO. Throw the book at the team, whether it is widespread or not, and then pass a couple league-wide rules.

  26. kuehner131 says: Nov 6, 2013 5:22 PM

    Looks like he got a head start on No Shave November.

  27. cappa662 says: Nov 6, 2013 5:23 PM

    Special counsel who worked FOR the NFL and will be reporting directly to Goodell? Not sure if anything will be fair here. I see Spygate 2.0

  28. hor2012 says: Nov 6, 2013 5:33 PM

    To all Dolphins fans you have our sympathy
    from the Whodat Nation

  29. lionshawk says: Nov 6, 2013 5:44 PM

    So the NFL appoints a clear Dolphin fan (not the tie color) and photoshops some enormous fake stache to distract us of it. Who is this guy really?

  30. harrisonhits2 says: Nov 6, 2013 5:48 PM

    I wouldn’t trust that guy if he was selling used cars much less to investigate an extremely sensitive situation at a billion dollar workplace. I feel slimed just looking at that photo.

  31. hjb99992013 says: Nov 6, 2013 5:49 PM

    Lawyers are the world’s biggest bullies

  32. jlb10 says: Nov 6, 2013 6:01 PM

    the nfl better appoint a special counsel to investigate that mustache

  33. miamizombie says: Nov 6, 2013 6:29 PM

    I mustache you a question…

  34. gadgetdawg says: Nov 6, 2013 7:26 PM

    Good hopefully he will get to the bottom of it. This whole thing is getting surreal.

  35. thegreatgabbert says: Nov 6, 2013 7:30 PM

    “Can I put on a fake moustache so my ex wife doesn’t know I’m working again?”.

  36. ohnoflorio says: Nov 6, 2013 8:03 PM

    I don’t trust that guy in the picture

  37. arctantheta says: Nov 6, 2013 8:16 PM

    these stache comments are great!

  38. ratsfoiledagain says: Nov 6, 2013 11:10 PM

    Ted Wells’ face looks like that 24/7. His stache will not allow his face to relax.

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