July 2, 2022

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Stephen Ross’ investigation continues. when do you finish?

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The bad thing about Roger Goodell’s press conference is that no single topic receives comprehensive treatment. The good news is that a lot of subjects receive at least a quick reference.

During his latest meeting with reporters after the league meetings wrapped up in Atlanta, Goodell was asked for an update on the investigation sparked by allegations from former Dolphins coach Brian Flores that team owner Stephen Ross offered to pay $100,000 per loss in 2019.

“There is no update on that,” Goodell said. He added that Mary Jo White – the alleged “independent” attorney who is currently handling several “independent” investigations for the league – continues to look into the situation.

How difficult is it? How long can it take? Ross made the offer, or he didn’t.

Flores claims he did. Although speaking directly to Flores raises potential complications given that his lawsuit claims, among other things, that his expulsion was motivated by his resistance to that request and efforts to whistle at him, White did (we’re told) do an interview with Flores. He fully cooperated with the investigation in April.

From there, White can follow up on any leads Flores may have identified—specifically, other witnesses to the show. Last February, the League-owned media group reported that an unnamed witness had already confirmed the allegation made by Flores. Likewise, emails, text messages and other relevant documents from the respective time period may be collected and reviewed. At the end, Ross and the other key members of Dolphins’ management will be interviewed.

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It shouldn’t take long to do all of that. Unless Mary Jo White is too busy with other NFL work to have time to get it done.

We have argued for years in terms of his relationship with White and other supposedly “independent” investigators that there is no real independence. The lifeblood of large corporate law firms (years ago, I worked for one in Pittsburgh) is what they call “cost-insensitive clients.” These companies want to be hired, hired, and hired back to work on important projects that require minimal scrutiny of the huge monthly bills issued. The reputation of such projects will also result in the attorney’s name being mentioned on different media platforms, which will help the attorney and her firm get more work from other cost-sensitive clients.

The point is that in order to continue to get these appointments, the attorney must be knowledgeable enough to understand what the client wants, and gently push the results that way.

Most of the disputed cases have many reasonable outcomes. Obviously this one does. It is a binary option. Ross did it, or he didn’t.

Although some believe the league would not hesitate to condemn Ross for making a certain cash offer in exchange for losing games, the broader context could make such an outcome unwise. From Flores’ lawsuit to the potential impact of such an announcement on outside scrutiny, the NFL currently faces liability for potential criminals under sports betting law to the possibility of a class action lawsuit against the league on behalf of anyone who bet on the Dolphins in 2019 to the league’s stubborn and unrealistic insistence On not having any team at all, it’s possible that the NFL just wants that team to go quiet.

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If so, it is likely that the “independent” attorney the NFL hired to investigate will find a way to do so. In the end. Inevitably.