EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Brett Favre was fined $50,000 by the NFL for failing to cooperate with its investigation of inappropriate messages and lewd photos he allegedly sent to a former Jets game-day employee.
Commissioner Roger Goodell “could not conclude” that Favre violated the league’s personal conduct policy based on the evidence currently available to him.
The league said forensic analysis failed to establish that the 41-year-old Minnesota Vikings quarterback sent objectionable photographs to Jenn Sterger. “The review found no evidence to contradict the statements of both Favre and Sterger that they never met in person, nor was there anything to suggest that Sterger engaged in any inappropriate conduct,” its statement announcing the fine said.
The NFL said its sole focus was on whether Favre violated workplace conduct policy, not to “make judgments about the appropriateness of personal relationships.”
Goodell determined Favre was “not candid in several respects during the investigation resulting in a longer review and additional negative public attention for Favre, Sterger and the NFL,” the league said. The NFL’s investigation began in early October.
The commissioner also told Favre that if he had found a violation of the league’s workplace conduct policies, he would have imposed a “substantially higher level of discipline.”
Favre’s fine will help fund a new training program on workplace conduct around the NFL, Goodell said in a memo sent to clubs Wednesday, though for the multimillionaire QB the penalty is a pittance. Even while sitting out of Tuesday’s game at Philadelphia because of post-concussion symptoms, Favre essentially earned $50,000 over about five minutes of action.
Favre’s NFL record for consecutive starts was snapped at 297 after he sprained throwing shoulder kept him out of a Dec. 13 loss to the New York Giants. He then sustained a concussion against Chicago on Dec. 20. He may be playing his last game on Sunday, when the regular season ends, if he is healthy.
There was no immediate comment from Favre or his agent, Bus Cook.
Sterger’s attorney, Joseph Conway, said that “my client and I are extremely disappointed, but not surprised” by the ruling. He added that they “strongly disagree” with Goodell’s finding of insufficient evidence to show a violation of league policy.
“It clearly shows that an NFL star player was given preferential treatment and tells all other players that failure to cooperate may cost you some money but will not result in other punishment,” said Conway, who added there was “ample evidence” the photos were of Favre.
“Additionally, today’s decision is an affront to all females and shows once again that, despite tough talk, the NFL remains the good old boys’ league,” he said.
The league said its probe dragged out because of difficulties in setting up interviews with “certain key individuals,” the complication of retrieving and reviewing electronic records and Goodell’s decision to meet with both Favre and Sterger before reaching a conclusion.
The allegations against the three-time MVP surfaced on the website Deadspin, which posted a video Oct. 7 that included text messages and voicemails allegedly left by Favre for Sterger in 2008 when they both worked for the Jets, including one in which he invites her to his hotel. The video ends with several below-the belt photos — said to be of Favre — which were allegedly sent to Sterger.
A former model who was a Jets gameday hostess and later appeared on the Versus television network, Sterger refused to speak on the record to the website. Weeks after the story broke, she talked with league investigators and cooperated fully, according to her manager.
Deadspin editor in chief A.J. Daulerio acknowledged paying a third party for the material it posted on Favre and said that he could not guarantee the material was genuine.
Citing unidentified sources, Fox Sports reported earlier that Favre admitted to NFL investigators that he left the voicemails but denied sending the inappropriate photos.
The league also reviewed media reports that Favre pursued two massage therapists who worked at the Jets’ facility in 2008. But the NFL said that claim could not be substantiated because people with “potentially relevant information” declined to be interviewed or cooperate with investigators.
The league said its investigation included the following: “an analysis of publicly available reports; a series of interviews with knowledgeable individuals, including Sterger and Favre; a review of communications between the two furnished to our office; and independent forensic analysis of electronically stored material.”
It said the investigation was limited in several respects because the matter was not brought to its attention until two years after it allegedly occurred.
“Every member of every club’s staff should be able to work in an environment free of harassment or hostility, and one in which every employee is valued, respected, and given a full opportunity to contribute to the goals of the club and the NFL,” Goodell said in the memo sent to the teams.
Favre has consistently refused to answer reporters’ questions about the allegations. He said early on that he had enough to worry about with the Vikings’ next opponent, and that’s certainly been true this season.
Convinced to come back for one more run at a title by three Minnesota teammates who flew down to see him in Mississippi, Favre’s second year with the Vikings has been nothing like the charmed run of last season, which ended with a heartbreaking loss to New Orleans in the NFC championship game.
Favre also has been battered with injuries to his ankle, chin, ribs, and back — in addition to the concussion and throwing shoulder injury. But despite all his troubles, Favre has said all along that he did not regret coming back for a 20th NFL season.
“If you had seasons like you did last year, every year, I don’t think you would appreciate them nearly as much,” Favre said recently. He also has said this season will be his last — though he has retired and unretired before.