Last week, when the NFL named Ted Wells the independent investigator for the Dolphins investigation, the league pointed out that the final report will be made public.
It made sense on the surface, given that it was inevitable that the report would be leaked. Still, applying that label prospectively has a potential impact on the manner in which the investigation proceeds.
On Sunday, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen explained that the public nature of the report could prompt some Dolphins employees to be careful about what they say, especially as it relates to possible examples of conduct extending beyond the Jonathan Martin situation. And we’ve separately heard that the plan to make the report public could have a chilling effect on Martin’s comments to Wells.
Sure, Martin has said he’ll fully cooperate. But does that mean Martin will, for example, surrender his cell phone to Wells for full inspection of text messages that possibly will be included in the public report? Martin may regard certain text messages to be sensitive and irrelevant; Wells may disagree. The end result could be that Martin ends up dealing with an unnecessary embarrassment that he believes extends beyond the treatment he claims he experienced.
That leads to another question. With the league committed to making Wells’ report public, how much of the supporting documentation will be made public, too? It’s one thing for Wells to include in his report a specific statement that a teammate made to Martin. It’s quite another for a full transcript of Martin’s entire interview with Wells to be made public.
Per a league source, the NFL currently doesn’t know whether Wells plans to release the supporting documentation publicly, or whether those documents will be concealed.
As a practical matter, it will be difficult if not impossible to scrutinize the quality of Wells’ investigation by simply reading the report. And it’s quite possible that, by vowing to make the final report public, the league has stepped onto a slippery slope that could result in thousands of pages ultimately being dropped into the media’s lap.