We’ve repeatedly pointed out the holes in the league’s bountygate investigation, but they’re worth repeating because pretty much every day this week a new denial or massive gap in logic has emerged.
First it was Mike Ornstein saying that he didn’t say what the NFL said he said. That was a skeptical claim because he’s, you know, an ex-con. So Ornstein was greeted with a collective shrug, and we all moved on, with most of you likely trying desperately to forget about a story that won’t go away. Ever.
Then Joe Vitt became pissed about the claim that he contributed $5,000 to a bounty on Brett Favre’s head, and we took him much more seriously because any man who’s willing to take a lie detector test probably isn’t screwing around. Unless he’s a guest on Jerry Springer or Maury Povich, then the lie detector will reveal that he’s almost definitely screwing around.
And then Anthony Hargrove wrote a lengthy soliloquy saying that it simply wasn’t his voice on the sideline footage during that 2009 NFC Championship game against the Vikings. In the video that was used by the league as important evidence, a voice is heard after Favre is injured saying “Bobby, give me my money!”, which was directed at former Saints defensive lineman Bobby McCray. The problem? While it kind of, sort of sounds like Hargrove, we can’t say definitively that it’s him speaking because he isn’t on camera. A visual seems like a basic requirement for visual evidence.
With all of those giant question marks, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has made a simple request: re-do the damn investigation. All of it.
The full text of his letter is a compelling Friday afternoon read, as long as you’re somewhere with multiple taps that serve frothy beverages. Peruse it at your leisure, but here are a few of the money lines:
When journalists and fans publicly question the process it reflects poorly upon the stewards of the game. Our players, management and fans are entitled to a process that adheres to a standard beyond your interpretations of the bare minimum requirements of the CBA; they are entitled to believe in the fairness of both the process and the people entrusted to uphold it.
The NFL launched a vigorous public relations campaign that this was a “bounty program” involving dozens of players and coaches who, like a gang, targeted specific players for injury in return for cash payments. However, you now know from a first-hand witness account from a coach who was in the room for every single meeting that this did not happen. Moreover, the carefully worded discipline letters to the players do not mention “bounty” or “pay to injure,” but purport to authorize you to punish them for alleged participation in a “pay for performance” program for “good” plays such as forced fumbles and sacks. While it is disingenuous and unfair to publicly disparage these men’s characters by alleging that they participated in a “pay to injure” scheme, I am at a loss as to why the NFL deliberately withheld direct evidence that they clearly did not.
And the final haymaker…
In light of these retractions and contradictions that have come to your recent attention, I ask that you order that the investigation of this matter be redone thoroughly and transparently, and if the full and complete information shows that none of the accused players participated in a “pay to injure” scheme, the NFL publicly issue such written findings.
Realistically, Smith can’t possibly expect Goodell to rip up his entire investigation. While privately Goodell and his team may acknowledge that there are inconsistencies and holes, publicly they’ve continued to deny the denials. This is standard procedure in a dispute of this nature, and it’s why a third party generally becomes involved.
That’s the next step. When Goodell refuses to revisit any of his evidence and give the four players in question a fair and unbiased appeal, a judge of the law will become involved to determine if the facts do indeed hold any weight.
When that day comes, we suspect Goodell will quickly realize that the rules in his court are far different from those of an actual court, with its legal parameters determined by society, and the burden of proof that lies with the accuser.