Raiders receiver Antonio Brown has settled a lawsuit arising from allegations that he threw furniture from a balcony at a Miami apartment building, endangering a toddler and his grandfather. Does that settlement expose Brown to scrutiny under the Personal Conduct Policy?
The league has not responded to multiple email messages on that point.
Last October, the NFL acknowledged that it is monitoring multiple lawsuits that were pending at the time against Brown, including the litigation arising from the alleged furniture throwing. Even though Brown was never arrested or charged with any crime, the Personal Conduct Policy arguably is broad enough to encompass this specific situation.
The Personal Conduct Policy generally covers behavior that is “illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsible puts innocent victims at risk,” and it specifically applies to “[c]onduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person.”
Although the settlement surely includes a provision pursuant to which Brown denies any wrongdoing (most if not all civil settlements include that language), the mere fact that Brown agreed to resolve the case becomes an acknowledgment that the claims had at least a shred of merit, which seems to justify an investigation by the league, and possibly the imposition of discipline.
Whether the league should be engaging in such investigations and impose discipline under such circumstances is a different question from whether, under the plain terms of the Personal Conduct Policy, discipline is warranted. That said, the NFL found a way last year to look the other way when Giants quarterback Eli Manning settled a lawsuit for civil fraud — which is different from criminal fraud only in that a prosecutor hasn’t decided to pursue criminal charges. The league routinely investigates and disciplines in the absence of criminal charges, and it’s fair to ask whether the league will adhere to its past practices in this case.