Given the latest allegations of workplace misconduct from a former NFL Network employee, it’s now clear that the NFL’s in-house broadcast operation has a significant problem. And it’s critical for the NFL to get to the bottom of it.
Like the league has done in multiple past situations (the Dolphins’ bullying scandal, the Ray Rice video controversy, #DeflateGate, and most recently the Jerry Richardson issue in Carolina), the NFL needs to hire an outside (ideally, truly independent) law firm to investigate the network, top to bottom and inside-out in order to determine all instances of actual or potential sexual harassment over the past 5-10 years, to hold appropriate persons accountable, and to ensure that these situations don’t happen again.
Don’t count on that happening, however. The other instances involving investigations conducted by outside (but not necessarily independent) law firms presented a far lower risk of civil liability. As to NFL Network, the first lawsuit already has been filed. Who knows how many more will follow?
While an independent investigation would serve an important purpose moving forward, it would also create evidence that could be used against the league in litigation filed by Jami Cantor, and by anyone else who may decide to pursue their rights in court.
As a result, the NFL has a dilemma. Fixing the problem could generate a trail of proof that would establish or exacerbate financial responsibility to current or former employees. Circling the wagons to defend against Jami Cantor’s case, and to brace for others, could make it more difficult to truly determine the full extent of the problem.
For a P.R. perspective, the right play would to investigate now. From a legal perspective, the smart move would be to defend the case(s) now and fix the problem later. In the end, someone making upwards of $40 million per year will have to make the best decision on how to proceed, balancing the concept of protecting Big Shield with the importance of guarding its deep pockets.