As a civil fraud lawsuit against Giants quarterback Eli Manning was pending, the NFL consistently declined comment on whether the Personal Conduct Policy applied to the allegations or any of the evidence that had come to light. Now that the civil case has been resolved, the NFL has commented on the situation.
“We monitored the situation and are satisfied that it is a civil matter that was resolved,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email. “Not a [Personal Conduct Policy] issue.”
The Personal Conduct Policy expressly encompasses “[c]rimes of dishonesty such as blackmail, extortion, fraud, money laundering, or racketeering.” The NFL, by referring to the situation as a “civil matter” in its comment on the Manning situation, apparently has concluded that, without a prosecution, there can be no crime of fraud — even if actual fraud has occurred.
Of course, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t prosecuted, charged, or even sued in civil court. But he was suspended six games for violating the Personal Conduct Policy.
As explained last month, there’s a fine line (and maybe no line) between civil and criminal fraud. If the NFL wanted to use the allegations of memorabilia fraud, the evidence generated during the trial, the fact that Eli Manning settled the lawsuit in lieu of testifying in open court about the situation (including but not limited to answering aggressive questions about an email message in which he asked for “2 helmets that can pass as game used“) as the basis for an investigation, it easily could have. Arguably, given the extent to which the Personal Conduct Policy and other league policies premised on the integrity of and public confidence in the professional football are applied to other players, the NFL should have.
Although Eli Manning is by all accounts a great guy who does great things in the community (his work on behalf of children fighting cancer is beyond admirable), any plausible claim that any player has committed fraud in connection with the sale of items used during NFL games should give the NFL concern. If there’s a “good guy” or a “favored team” exception for memorabilia fraud, will similar exceptions be made when questions emerge in future years regarding whether a player is accused of betting on NFL games, shaving points, and/or throwing games?