Answer: Apparently, not much!
Today’s press conference with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was terribly handled on many different levels. As a lawyer, one of the big problems I see is the NFL’s hiring of former FBI Director Robert Mueller and his law firm, WilmerHale, to head up its independent investigation.
Folks, there’s nothing “independent” about this.
Regardless of how competent, honest or credible Mr. Mueller and his firm may be, the fact of the matter is that the NFL has retained the same law firm that just helped it negotiate a multi-billion-dollar contract extension with DirecTV. The lawyer and law firm Goodell is promising will conduct an “independent” investigation is the same firm that has made hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars (I’m just guessing), representing the NFL as a client.
Mueller and his firm may have impeccable credentials but that’s not the issue here. This recent decision by the Goodell and the NFL just reeks of potential problems and conflicts of interest down the road. I’m already anticipating another press conference by Goodell in two weeks to address these new real issues.
Most people are not aware of the power, duties and responsibilities that fall under the attorney-client privilege. This privilege prohibits a lawyer from disclosing client information without the client’s permission. It’s protected and confidential. End of story.
So, what happens if Mr. Mueller or others at his firm determine that the NFL was negligent, violated the law or committed fraud in its handling of recent matters? Do you really think they will hold a press conference disclosing all these violations?
If so, then here’s breaking news that you may want to bet your life savings on: Tampa Bay is going to win the Super Bowl this year!
Look, even if Mueller and his firm wanted to disclose harmful information, they are prohibited from doing so without the NFL’s express permission. And that’s where the problem begins.
The fact of the matter is that without the express permission of the NFL, neither Mr. Mueller or anyone else working for WilmerHale are allowed, under the law and ethics codes, to disclose these violations to any third parties. I’m expecting an investigative report down the road to be shared with the public. The problem is that regardless of what you call it, how will we know whether or not all the facts and findings are actually disclosed in the report?
In my humble opinion, and it’s just my opinion, true objectivity and transparency, which eventually might lead to public trust, can only be obtained through a real independent investigation. An investigation handled by a qualified third party not legally representing the NFL or having any other ties with the NFL or Goodell for that matter. Short of that little bitty detail, I’ll take any ultimate findings with a grain of salt.
In conclusion, Keith Olbermann said it best in his video of September 10th