In the immediate aftermath of the filing of the initial complaint in the Brian Flores lawsuit, a sense emerged that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross had a real problem when it comes to the claim that he offered Flores $ 100,000 for each loss in 2019. Indeed, the media conglomerate partially owned by Ross reported (then deleted) that an unnamed witness corroborated Flores’s allegation.
Since then, the league has appointed Mary Jo White, a high-profile lawyer / politician (she’s the former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is a purely political appointment) who has been hired by the league on at least two prior occasions , to investigate this specific situation. Big companies like the NFL don’t keep hiring the same “independent” lawyer to investigate matters unless the big companies are happy with the work. In most cases, happiness with the work doesn’t mean happiness with the process but with the results. As previously explained, some lawyers lay the foundation for repeat assignments from what the large firms call a “cost-insensitive client” by figuring out what the client hopes the outcome of the investigation will be and getting there.
So what does the NFL want from the Ross investigation? There’s a fresh sense in some circles that White is working diligently toward reaching a conclusion that Ross actually did it. However, that would complicate the league’s defense to the portion of the Flores amended complaint that pins his firing to the fact that he blew the whistle on the effort to deliberately lose games, via the memo he wrote on December 4, 2019 to key members of team management.
That’s a common challenge for any company sued due to the alleged misbehavior of a specific management-level employees. The company’s first priority becomes defending the lawsuit successfully. By launching a full-blown investigation that concludes the manager engaged in, for example, sexual harassment and imposing discipline (perhaps termination), the effort to defend the lawsuit becomes compromised. The company has not only created evidence that will be used against it, but it has also alienated the key witness, who may be inclined to bare his soul and purge his guilt when grilled about the claims in court, since he no longer has much to lose.
There have been vague indications that Ross will claim he was joking about the $ 100,000 offer. That would give the league a basis for the typical deny, disclaim, deflect approach to matters of this nature. (Remember, the league’s knee-jerk response to the filing of the lawsuit was to declare the entirety of it to be “without merit.”)
In this case, maybe the league doesn’t care. More specifically, maybe the league realizes that, with so many storm clouds gathering in recent months as years of corrupt chickens come home to roost, someone has to take the fall. Maybe that someone is Ross (and / or Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder).
There’s also a hidden benefit in White hitting a bull’s-eye on the Flores claim that his resistance to losing in 2019 poisoned Ross against Flores. In defending the league as to the aspect of the Flores suit that alleges discrimination based on race, the league could confidently proclaim that Ross lost faith in Flores solely because Flores didn’t get on board with the Tank-for-Tua-No-Wait -Make-That-Burrow scheme. In other words, the league could eventually say that nothing about the Flores firing had anything to do with race, at a time when the scrutiny of the league’s hiring practices when it comes to Black head coaches has reached an obvious critical mass.
Thus, while common sense suggests the league will try to circle the wagons as to all of the claims made in the Flores lawsuit, it’s possible that the NFL will decide to throw an owner to the wolves, in order to take some of the steam out of the current assault on Big Shield – and perhaps to scare some of the other owners straight.