The NFL, through it’s in-house TV network, faces a sexual harassment lawsuit that has resulted in the suspension of three on-air employees, including Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. The NFL has now filed a formal response to the claims made by Jami Cantor last month.
Via TMZ, which does not share a link to the full document, the NFL contends that Cantor “approved, consented to, authorized, and/or ratified” the raunchy words and behaviors that allegedly took place. Although a full analysis of the NFL’s filing is required (we’ve asked the league for a copy of the document), the snippet provided by TMZ isn’t a surprise. Companies accused in court of sexual harassment always deny it, especially at first. (And if they’re not willing to deny it, they quickly settle the case before they have to admit it.)
Like all other successful businesses, getting sued is a cost of doing business, and the league has lawyers and law firms trained in the business of cobbling together the various snippets of cookie-cutter lawyer-talk on a $500-per-hour assembly line that spits out a smattering of phrases like a doll with a string that gets pulled to make it talk.
At the heart of it all: Admit nothing. Agree to nothing. Deny everything. And at the very worst, claim ignorance.
Basically, the initial filing from a defendant in a case like this means nothing. What matters is whether the defendant has a legal argument that would provide a potential silver bullet to the entire lawsuit (or to some of the specific claims). Once that all gets sorted out, the focus becomes the so-called discovery process, where documents are exchanged and questions are answered in writing and witnesses are grilled under oath.
For now, the most important development (or lack thereof) continues to be that Faulk, Heath Evans, and Ike Taylor continue to be suspended. Which means that the league has yet to conclude that they are blameless or otherwise suited to return to work. The longer they remain off the job, the more probable than not that some or all of Cantor’s allegations have merit — and that the NFL has legal and financial exposure.