The NFL lacks the power to compel witnesses not connected to the league to cooperate with Personal Conduct Policy investigations. Sometimes, a witness not connected to the league wants to cooperate.
That’s exactly what’s happening in the Antonio Brown case. His accuser, Britney Taylor, has indicated through her lawyers a willingness to talk.
It could, in theory, happen quickly. The lawsuit is posted online. The lawyers’ names and phone numbers are in the document. The NFL could contact the lawyers right now and arrange a meeting with Britney Taylor.
Then, after talking to Taylor, the NFL could commence the process of exploring other evidence that would potentially corroborate or refute her claims, before eventually talking to Brown.
If, along the way, the Commissioner concludes that Brown “may have violated this Policy by committing” sexual assault or rape, the Commissioner may place Brown on paid leave. The Commissioner’s powers in this regard are very broad; he needs to conclude only that Brown “may” have committed a violation. The content of the lawsuit could be enough to allow Commissioner to include that a violation “may” have happened.
As a practical matter, the decision will be driven at least in part by P.R. concerns. (Indeed, the entire Personal Conduct Policy is a P.R. tool.) The NFL may be frustrated at a certain level by the manner in which As The Antonio Turns has coopted the early days of the NFL’s 100th season. The fact that someone from the league office already has leaked to the Washington Post the fact that the NFL will give “serious consideration” to using this power means that it’s in play, and that the league wants people to realize that it’s in play.
Regardless of how it plays out, time is of the essence. And the first step will be interviewing Britney Taylor. That could happen as soon as tomorrow — if the NFL wants it to.