SBD/November 20, 2013/Franchises

NFLPA Hires Lawyer To Conduct Separate Investigation Into Dolphins Bullying Scandal

DC-based lawyer Richard Smith has been retained by the NFLPA and will launch a "separate investigation for the union to look into issues of workplace safety" with the Dolphins, according to a source cited by Tom Pelissero of USA TODAY. The source said that Smith -- the NFLPA's lead outside counsel during the Saints bounty investigation -- "intends to interview witnesses and examine Dolphins management's role in alleged abuse" that led to OT Jonathan Martin's departure from the team. Unlike NFL attorney Ted Wells, who is at the Dolphins facility this week, Smith will "have no authority to interview team executives or coaches, limiting the scope of his inquiry." But the union "hopes Smith's involvement will add a layer of accountability for management's role, given that Wells' investigation ... came at the behest of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross" (USA TODAY, 11/20).

GOING TO THE WELLS: In Miami, Adam Beasley notes Dolphins team members "spent the past two days" talking to Wells, who has "peppered players with an exhaustive line of questioning." Wells’ interviews have been "so detailed that one player who has been through the process likened the experience to being on the true-crime reality TV show The First 48." Instead of "cycling through the entire roster, Wells has focused mostly on the Dolphins’ offensive line, which is where the alleged abuse occurred." Players questioned "have no advance warning" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/20). In Ft. Lauderdale, Chris Perkins notes it is "not known how long Wells will be in town." Dolphins players are allowed to have NFLPA counsel "present during their interview, and according to deep snapper John Denney, the team's union representative, every player will elect to have the NFLPA's legal representative by their side" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/20).

THE WHOLE TRUTH: In Miami, Michelle Kaufman in an open letter to Wells writes, "I hope you find the truth. I really do. Because the national media, for the most part, is doing a shameful job of it, pouncing on rumors, half-truths and tiny lawyer-leaked tidbits vilifying [Richie] Incognito and the Dolphins with little perspective and without speaking to anybody in that locker room." Kaufman: "Please put on some Bose headsets, block out the noise, and listen to the men in that locker room, the men who worked and battled alongside Martin and Incognito for the past year and a half. Give them the same chance to tell their side as you gave Martin during his seven-hour interview. If the NFL’s aim is truly to change the culture of its workplace, to bring more class and dignity to the rowdy, sexist frat-house atmosphere of its locker rooms, then I say, 'Great! It’s about time.'” But if the NFL’s "aim in this investigation is to single out Dolphin players, coaches and executives and punish them for creating a hostile work environment, then the league is being unfair and wearing blinders because this behavior is not exclusive to the Dolphins, and it didn’t begin this year" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/20).
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