A no-decision in the Favre case
The NFL wants teams to know that it is taking the idea of sexual harassment very, very seriously.
In theory. The NFL sent a memo on the matter to all 32 teams recently. However in practice, the NFL has not been issuing suspensions, or fines -- or in the case of Brett Favre, making any actual decisions.
The details in the Favre case, which involves graphic photos and inappropriate voice mails he allegedly sent to former Jets game day host Jenn Sterger while they were both working for the Jets, are not public for the most part. Yet for three weeks, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has had the results of the NFL's investigation on his desk.
Perhaps the claims are bogus. Perhaps Sterger was harassed. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. But by not making a call either way, the NFL is creating an impression that its commitment to a professional work environment is little more than a nice slogan.
Because now it's impossible to discipline Favre in any meaningful way. His consecutive start streak stopped at 297 two weeks ago when he sat for a game. He has a concussion, and will likely retire after this season. For real this time.
Adam Schefter is reporting that the NFL will announce a decision on the Favre/Sterger case within the next 48 hours. But what kind of significant discipline can the league possibly mete out at this point? Dock him five minutes of his Hall of Fame speech?
If Favre didn't send those photos or harass Sterger, he should have his name cleared weeks ago, as he prepared to head into the sunset.
The true cynics think the NFL was protecting Favre with the non-call, or delayed call. At worst, the league could be making it impossible for Sterger to file a legal claim against Favre by delaying beyond a possible statute of limitations.
The NFL is not the Death Star.
But it has shown some trepidation when it comes to the issue of harassment. The league wasted no time in handing out a suspension for Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, even when a district attorney in Georgia declined to press charges following rape allegations that he raped a college student in Georgia.
Earlier this season, the NFL investigated the Jets after a female sports reporter, Ines Sainz, was subjected to catcalls in the locker room. When a reporter went over to make sure Sainz was okay, defensive tackle Kris Jenkins shouted, "This is our locker room!" and members of the coaching staff escalated the hootenanny by throwing practice balls Sainz's way. After an investigation, the NFL declined to sanction the team, although it found the atmosphere to be "unprofessional."
You are forgiven if you missed the conclusion to that story, as the NFL dropped it after 5 p.m. on a Friday -- a.k.a. the black hole of a news cycle.
Part of the reason the NFL didn't single anyone out was that the Jets owner Woody Johnson volunteered to fund a league-wide awareness program.
But at some point you have to move from making players and teams aware of the problem and make room for consequences when they are warranted.
Or at least make the call.