The $50,000 fine levied on Brett Favre by Commissioner Goodell represents, in my view, a form of discipline that Goodell could make in light of the facts, circumstances, precedent and Favre's stonewalling of the case.
As a colleague of Brett's at the Packers for nine years, I heard the stories of his carousing in his early days as a Packer but did not see it in my time there. He has certainly had personal indiscretions in his life, and the incident with Jenn Sterger appears to be another one. However, without more evidence to discipline his conduct with Sterger, the NFL resorted to its secondary option, a fine for "failure to cooperate."
Deny, Deny, Deny
It appears that Favre is being disciplined (fined $50,000) due to a "lack of candor" in his dealings with the NFL on this matter that has been lingering for some time. In other words, it appears he has employed the defense strategy of "Deny, deny, deny" in addressing the allegations.
Brett and agent Bus Cook are very savvy. They use a "country boy" image to their advantage and are genuinely funny people, which always helps their cause as well. When conflict arises, they go to that default setting. In this case, it worked to an extent, although drew a fine for noncompliance.
Just the facts
The facts, as much as we know them to be, show a married man behaving badly with his hormones hijacking better judgment. Without further cooperation, the facts were not able to show harassment and the facts do not show coercion.
Timing drawn out
The issue with the NFL that they should answer to is the timing. Although the allegations came to public light this fall, this issue is not new. Favre knew about the allegations in the summer; the Vikings knew about the allegations when they fetched Favre from MIssisippi.
Another issue, of course, is with the Jets. With a public relations staffer serving as a go-between for Sterger and Favre, that mandated an inquiry into an environment ripe for harassment with the Jets. And now it apparently will mandate an inquiry by the NFL every time an allegation of workplace harassment is brought up. The Jets and the NFL quickly instituted workplace harassment education and training in response to that.
As with everything in handing out discipline, precedent is a major factor. Forget that the player in question's name is Brett Favre. Were there even more evidence than shown, the question remains whether the NFL going to suspend players for inappropriate voice mails and texting/sexting? As a player told me today, if so, they'd only be playing with twenty-man rosters!
Postscript on a career
Ultimately, the bigger story here is how the public, fans and media have turned on Favre after his untouchable status in Green Bay all those years. When Favre, as a married man, was part of the "Three Amigos" with Frank Winters and Mark Chmura running around in Wisconsin, there was a "boys will be boys" reaction to their carousing. Now there is derision.
Favre could not have been a more popular athlete than I saw in my time in Green Bay. Wherever in the world I travelled, people would know Green Bay and reference the Packers and/or Brett Favre, often with his name being first. He was the face of the most storied franchise in football for 16 years and Packer nation cried along with him since he retired. Even with his stellar season a year ago, things have spiraled downhill since.
The discipline on this Sterger case is not a defining point in Brett's career. It is a symptom of a larger issue of an athlete being something different than what the public thinks and/or wants him to be.
Brett was not as good a person as he was made out to be all those years and not as bad a person as he is made out to be now. Like all things, the truth lies somewhere in between.