Roger Goodell, Commissioner
National Football League
345 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10154
Dear Commissioner Goodell:
As a lifelong NFL fan, I have lately found myself less able to enjoy the game I love due to the pervasive culture of scandal that plagues this league. Yes, arrests happen. Drug violations happen. Domestic violence happens, too. But a scandal is never a one-time event in the NFL: First comes a rash of news stories about the incident itself; next, a wave of headlines about how the NFL handled it.
This negative attention must not come as a surprise, since the league rarely even bothers to issue a public report after completing an investigation. Just recently, for instance, the NFL announced that it had exonerated Peyton Manning of any PED violations after a seven-month investigation, and no report was issued. The announcement itself was 129 words long, too short even for a middle school term paper, and yet, the NFL immediately put the matter to rest and turned its attention to other issues. Really? After seven months of investigating, this is what we get?
You seem to believe that, if you aren’t currently discussing something, and the media isn’t asking about it, it’s a dead issue. But there’s a residual effect that you appear unable to comprehend. Anyone who reads the news knows that Peyton was in fact a patient at the Guyer Institute, and that Ari Fleischer, Manning’s media rep, admitted that drugs were in fact sent from the Guyer Institute to Ashley Manning—exactly as Charlie Sly alleged on video. We also know that Manning hired private investigators to interrogate Sly, and to dig through Peyton’s files at the Institute.
Yes, I know you say you looked into everything and that Manning is clean. That isn’t the point. The point is that it looks bad, that Manning acted like a guilty man, and the NFL offered no facts or explanations to dispel that notion. You succeeded in burying the story, but for many, the takeaway will be, “What are they hiding from us?”
Commissioner Goodell, despite the dismal state of your reputation, you still have a chance to put things right. You can prove through your actions that you are honest and aboveboard by providing through, meaningful answers to the following:
- As mentioned above, Ari Fleischer confirmed that Peyton Manning was a client of the Guyer Institute, that Manning’s wife, Ashley, was prescribed medication from that same clinic, and that the medication was sent to her home, as alleged by Charlie Sly. Was the “medication” in fact HGH?
- How much credence did you give to Sly’s blanket “retraction”, which was issued on YouTube before Al Jazeera’s story even aired, and before Sly even knew what statements he was retracting?
- Since Sly claimed on video that drugs were sent to Ashley Manning, and Ari Fleischer confirmed the same, doesn’t this necessarily mean that Sly told the truth on video, and that his retraction is not credible?
- Did you assess the credibility of the various individuals involved in this case? Who did you find to be credible, and who did you find to be not credible? Why?
- Would Ashley Manning be violating HIPAA by saying she did NOT take a certain drug? If not, could she safely deny ever taking HGH, if in fact she has not done so?
- During the course of your investigation, did you find any evidence that the Guyer Institute prescribed HGH to anyone (not necessarily the Mannings)? If so, was the HGH prescribed for lawful uses?
- In a prior investigation, you determined that an increase in the frequency of phone calls between alleged conspirators was an indication of guilt. Was it an indication of guilt in your opinion that Manning hired attorneys, private investigators and media consultants after the allegations against him were made public?
- Speaking of phones, did Peyton Manning surrender his cell phone(s) to your office for analysis? Did you ask him for his phone, or at least for a download of information taken from it? If not, why not?
- Is asking for a cell phone, or a download of information from a cell phone, standard NFL investigative procedure? If not, what determines whether you will ask for phones / phone data?
- Why wouldn’t you ask for cell phones or cell phone data in every investigation? Isn’t this the primary mode of communication nowadays? What possible reason could you have for not asking for this information?
- Was it an indication of guilt in your opinion that Peyton Manning began his own, independent investigation into the allegations before the NFL did? Has any accused person ever launched an independent investigation at any point in NFL history prior to this case?
- Did Manning consult with you or anyone at NFL HQ prior to opening his own investigation? Is conducting an independent investigation permitted under NFL rules?
- Do you think Peyton Manning trusts the NFL’s investigative process? Why would a man who trusts the process hire his own representation and conduct his own investigation?
- Did Peyton Manning give you, or anyone at your office, an explanation of why he conducted his own investigation? Did you ask for an explanation?
- Did Manning’s independent investigation compromise the NFL’s investigation in any way? If no, how can you be sure?
- Doesn’t the mere questioning of witnesses by an outside party compromise the investigation, since it tips off those being questioned as to what the facts are, and allows them to prepare their answers to future questions?
- Was it an indication of guilt in your opinion that Manning’s private investigators went to the Guyer Institute and rummaged through his patient files?
- Did you authorize Manning’s investigators to review the files prior to them doing so? If yes, why didn’t you send your own personnel to supervise the process? If not, does it concern you that representatives for a player who was accused of wrongdoing saw, and potentially tampered with, evidence before your office was able to review it?
- Did you ask Manning’s investigators exactly what they did with his files?
- Did the investigators remove or add anything to the files?
- Were the investigators supervised for the entire time they were in possession of the files?
- Did the investigators have written authorization from Manning to review his, or his wife’s, private health information?
- Was it an indication of guilt in your opinion that Manning’s representatives traveled to Sly’s residence to question him, and when he was unavailable, questioned his parents?
- Was a formal report generated after this investigation? If so, why wasn’t it made public? If not, why wasn’t the raw information made public?
- Why does the NFL sometimes release a report and sometimes not? Isn’t there a standard procedure that governs such things?
Perhaps your job, and your stratospheric salary, are safe, but your reputation and your credibility are not. Please take the first step to remedy this by answering the questions above.
I sincerely look forward to your reply.