Know what’s fun to look at now? How inflamed and indignant Ted Wells was during his conference call in May.
The one Wells had to have so he could put to bed any notion he wasn’t independent in fashioning the 243-page Wells Report? The report that NFL lead counsel Jeff Pash edited and polished before its release? You conference call on which Wells was joined by Lorin Reisner his colleague from Paul, Weiss. Reisner, of course, was the guy that conducted questioning on behalf of the NFL during Tom Brady’s appeal.
It’s pretty obvious the NFL and Wells relieved themselves on the concept of independence throughout the process. The last trickle fell Friday night.
That’s when the NFL said that, even though they promised an independent investigation, the fact the NFLPA is questioning Wells’ independence doesn’t matter.
The CBA doesn’t promise an “independent” investigation.
Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann goes through the 15-page briefs filed by both sides Friday night right here. They are a distillation of the two sides’ main arguments and stuff we are all familiar with, except the NFL now having the gall to say, “Independent, not independent, big deal...”
Especially with Professor Bluster going off on everyone in May as to how independent he is, was, always has been and that accusations otherwise offended his honor.
“I would like to start out by responding to criticisms by Mr. Brady's agent, Don Yee, about my independence and his suggestions that the conclusions of the report were somehow influenced by persons in the league office who wanted to find wrongdoing by the Patriots and Mr. Brady.
The conclusions of the report represent the independent opinion of me personally and my team. And those conclusions were not influenced in any way, shape or form by anyone at the league office. We made a fair and reasonable review of the evidence and we reached conclusions based on the preponderance of the evidence standard, which I was required to apply based on the league's rules.”
We have since come to find out, though, that the league did indeed have a hand in the Wells Report. Pash – the NFL’s No. 2 man behind Goodell (and much savvier than Goodell) who’s not an attorney – edited the Wells Report.
Wells told folks at the appeal hearing that Pash edited the report.
On his conference call, what did Wells have to say about Pash’s involvement?
“The only role Jeff Pash had was as what I'll call a facilitator in terms of process issues. If I needed to get access to somebody, I would call Pash. There's things of that nature. Jeff Pash did not participate in any of the interviews. He did not participate in the evaluation of any of the evidence or our deliberations within our team.
“I will tell you, when that press release was issued and I saw it, I didn't know that statement was going to be in there. I called Jeff and just asked to clarify what was meant by that. And he confirmed that he was there to help in terms of process. And we agreed up front, and I made it clear, that this is my investigation and I'm going to run it the same way I did the Dolphins investigation, and I did.”
Jeez, that’s a pretty big detail for Wells to leave out during the conference call, that Pash actually edited the report prior to its release. Oversight by Wells? Memory lapse? Or a willful omission of a fact because he knew how Pash’s direct editing of the report would play on a conference call with reporters.
Nobody would have known of Pash’s involvement if it hadn’t been brought up during the appeal. And nobody would have really known what was said during the appeal if the seal on that transcript hadn’t been popped.
Would Wells have been finger-wagging as readily had he known? And Wells does wag an impressive finger.
Here’s Wells finger-wagging the Patriots for questioning him:
“When I was appointed to be the independent investigator, no one at the Patriots or in Mr. Brady's camp raised any issue about my independence or my integrity to judge the evidence impartially and fairly. In fact, Mr. Kraft, to my recollection, publicly said he welcomed my appointment. I think it is wrong to criticize my independence just because you disagree with my findings. …
“This is the first time that after I issued my report that I find someone is questioning my independence and is in some way suggesting that I was influenced by the league's office. And I think that is wrong. And that is what (motivated) me to speak today, and I think once I'm on the call and responding to the independence question, I think it's right for me to respond to whatever questions you have. But if not for those personal attacks, I will be candid with you, I would not have responded. But I think those attacks are out of bounds, unfair and just plain wrong.”
While it’s a fun and illuminating exercise to see how dodgy Wells is with the facts, the upshot of this is that the NFL is alleging Wells’ independence makes no difference. He could come out tomorrow and say, “Ha! You morons think I wasn’t in the bag considering the millions I make off this league? Of course I gave them what they wanted!” Still wouldn’t matter. The CBA doesn’t promise an independent investigator.
Is there a chance Judge Berman is impacted by this? McCann says … maybe.
“Not only does this reasoning pose an obvious public relations challenge for the league,” said McCann, “but Judge Berman may find it untenable under the law. Judge Berman could deduce that the NFL should be stopped from reneging on procedural guarantees. In other words, even if Article 46 lacks language requiring that Wells be independent, the league arguably should have been expected to fulfill additional assurances made by the commissioner himself.”
And the insistence of the investigator.
Snap me off another piece of integrity, willya boys?