SBD/Issue 73/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Sterger Attorney Concerned Over Delay In Favre Ruling By NFL

Sterger Attorney Says There Is Reason To
Believe Favre Is Getting Preferential Treatment

The attorney for Jenn Sterger expressed concern yesterday that the NFL has delayed issuing a decision on allegations against Vikings QB Brett Favre in order to avoid disciplining Favre, who is expected to retire after this season. "He is a high-profile athlete and a star in this league," said Joseph Conway, Sterger's attorney. "He did do it or he didn't do it. There are lots of reasons to believe he is getting preferential treatment." The allegations that Favre sent inappropriate phone messages and photos to Sterger in '08, when he was the Jets' QB and she was a game-day host for the team, first surfaced on deadspin.com earlier this year. Conway said Sterger and her representatives had given the NFL all it needs to prove that Favre violated the NFL's personal conduct policy, including an almost two-hour interview between Sterger and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Dec. 16, for which she flew to N.Y. at the NFL's request. "I don't know what is taking so long," Conway said. Conway also said he was concerned by a statement that the NFL put out last week regarding a memo sent to teams about a new workplace conduct program, which stated that employees had the right to a workplace free from harassment, discrimination and intimidation. "My concern is, they come out a few days before Christmas with a new policy and it leads me to believe there will be no discipline and will hide behind the fact that they have corrected the problem because they have a new policy in effect," Conway said.

WAITING FOR A DECISION: Asked about Conway's statements and about when the league would make a decision, NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said in an e-mail: "Mr. Conway speaks to our office regularly and we would be more than pleased to discuss these questions with him directly. He is aware that we undertook a very comprehensive investigation and have continued that review diligently. As Mr. Conway knows, we do not have subpoena power and it is sometimes difficult to reconstruct events that occurred more than two years ago." Conway, however, said that he is not in regular contact with the NFL and that he asked league attorneys last week for the memo explaining the new workplace policy but had not received it. Conway, a former assistant U.S. attorney, also said this is the first he has heard that the investigation has been impeded by the NFL's lack of subpoena power. "The fact that they don't have subpoena power is a non-issue in this investigation; they knew that going in," he said. Conway said that Sterger's representatives have presented the NFL with a large volume of e-mails, texts and MySpace messages, and that some of the texts were sent from a 601 area code, which is in Favre's home state of Mississippi. "We had our forensic expert turn it over to their forensic expert," he said. Conway said that as Favre's employer, the NFL can ask him to turn over his phone records. "Brett Favre is an NFL player, you demand the stuff from him. If he doesn't turn it over, that is his prerogative, but you can draw a negative inference from that," he said.

TOO LATE TO ACT? ProFootballTalk.com has written that New Jersey has a two-year statute of limitations regarding workplace sexual harassment claims, and that Conway said the last communication from Favre to Sterger while both worked for the Jets came on the day of the last game of the '08 season, meaning that any sexual harassment lawsuit would need to be filed by today. But Conway told SBJ that that was not Sterger's last contact with Favre and that the statute of limitations theory was not correct. Conway added that it was not Sterger's intent to sue but to clear her name and reputation in the wake of inaccurate press reports. Sterger's representatives have stated repeatedly that they would not pursue litigation if the NFL disciplined Favre, Conway noted. Conway noted that when Sterger agreed to be interviewed by NFL investigators Nov. 11, they were told it was the last piece of the puzzle in the investigation. "Here we are on Dec. 27, 2 1/2 months later," he said yesterday, "and any discipline that comes out of this will be rendered moot by the fact that the regular season is over" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

RUNNING A REVERSE: In N.Y., Michael O'Keeffe wrote it is "more than a little surprising that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has apparently decided not to discipline Brett Favre" for the Sterger incident. The NFL's "marketing people know that 45% of its fans are women," which is why the NFL "spent a big chunk of this season promoting league-licensed jerseys, T-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets designed especially for women." That also is why players "wore pink caps, gloves and shoes to promote breast cancer awareness," and why the league helped produce the play "Lombardi," because "two-thirds of Broadway tickets are purchased by women" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/26).

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