On Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed for the first time the allegations of sexual harassment made against the league-owned TV operation, indicating that the league “absolutely” has launched an investigation regarding the situation.
“We take that very seriously,” Goodell told reporters at the ownership meeting in Dallas. “Those are issues that are important to us. We want to make sure that all of our employees, whether at the NFL Network or at the league office or at clubs, are working in a safe and comfortable environment. Any time that doesn’t exist, we are going to make sure that we deal with that very quickly and very seriously.”
That all sounds good and makes sense. But here’s the problem — although names and specific evidence emerged in an amended complaint that was filed on Monday, the lawsuit originally was filed on October 6.
Here’s the language from first version of the complaint: “Throughout Plaintiff’s employment at NFL, she was also subjected to ongoing and continuing sexual harassment by employees of NFL. They would touch her butt, breasts, point to their privates in front of her, make comments like, ‘I can’t handle your ass, it is so luscious,’ and send her pictures while in their underwear, in the shower, or naked. Such conduct continued throughout Plaintiff’s employment with the NFL.”
It’s possible that former NFLN employee Jami Cantor’s lawyer specifically held withheld details from the original complaint in order to permit settlement talks to occur; obviously, there’s some financial value to the NFL in not having embarrassing details released publicly. If that’s the case, here’s the real question: Would the NFL have taken any action against any of the employees named in the amended complaint if the case had been quietly settled before specific allegations emerged?
There’s a good chance that, if the case had been settled, it would have happened with complete confidentiality, that no one ever would have known anything about any of the allegations, and that no action would have been taken against the three employees (Marshall Faulk, Heath Evans, Ike Taylor) who were promptly suspended after the amended complaint was filed. And so a what-did-they-know-and-when-did-they-know-it vibe has emerged, with fair questions like what, if anything, the league did to investigate the general allegations from the original lawsuit? And what, if anything, did the league know about specific individuals who were accused of misconduct before the names and accusations became public, forcing the NFL’s hand?
The league was at least on notice of a potential problem in early October. PFT asked the NFL on Thursday when the investigation began, but the NFL has not yet responded.
If the league didn’t immediately investigate after receiving the initial complaint, the league looks like it didn’t take the situation seriously. If it investigated but took no action against any of the accused employees before the filing of the amended complaint, the league looks like it was hoping to make the case go away quietly and keep everything under wraps permanently.
Whatever the truth (and we may never know), this situation became news to everyone but the NFL on December 11. During the two months before that, what did it do?