The NFL has hired Mary Jo White to handle the investigation regarding workplace misconduct allegations against Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. The man who runs the NFL Players Association has concerns about that.
“If it’s true that Mary Jo White is involved in the current investigation of the Panthers, I have a question because I know that she falsely accused players in Bounty[gate],” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith recently told ESPN, referring to the 2012 controversy arising from claims that Saints players were involved in giving each other inducements to injure opponents. “And things that she said to the press were either knowingly untrue or there came a time when we all knew they weren’t true.”
Smith is correct. The league hired White to provide, ostensibly, the appearance of independence in the review and presentation of the evidence against the Saints players. And she pushed to the media a grossly inaccurate characterization of sideline video that supposedly provided the league with a smoking gun.
“So at the very least, it seems to me that the league as a whole and their partners, the players, deserve to have the results of the investigation of the Panthers released publicly before the sale,” Smith said. “And that’s simply because, if the premise of the personal conduct policy is the integrity of the league, why shouldn’t we have the same level of transparency that occurs in player investigations occur here?”
The disparity between the league’s handling of players accused of wrongdoing and owners accused of wrongdoing has become a frequent subject of discussion and attention for Smith, and for good reason. If players will be held to a high standard of conduct — one that sparks investigations and discipline even in the absence of formal criminal or civil charges — the owners need to be held to that same standard.
Although the league would likely rattle off White’s accomplishments and offices (she’s the former chairman of the SEC) to justify its ongoing reliance on her, the skewed assessment of the evidence in the bounty case should disqualify her from any further involvement in league investigations. Whether deliberate or negligent, the misrepresentation of the evidence in a way that supported the league’s predetermined outcome in the prior case means that she possibly will deliberately or negligently misrepresent evidence in a way that supports the league’s predetermined outcome in the Panthers case, if the league has a predetermined outcome in mind.
Multiple past cases would suggest that it does.