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Sunday, March 19, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION

If you thought the NFL was going to back off its heavy-handed investigative measures following the public beating the league took in Deflategate — well, you might want to have someone read you your rights for thinking such thoughts.


It appears the league is doubling down on disappearance of due process and other messy constitutional rights that, at least for now, most of us are entitled to.

NFL players? Surrender your Bill of Rights card at the locker room door.

The NFLPA sent out a memo last week to agents warning them of the “new world of NFL investigations of players.”

NFL players are now on notice that “many non-criminal incidents, accusations never brought to the police are now investigated by the NFL.”

That new world includes that all social media, texts and emails “will be part of NFL investigations.”

What the NFL appears to be saying here is that players have no right to their personal social media — and cell phone calls — when they sign an NFL contract.

Imagine your employer having a right to all your emails, texts and social media if you had violated some sort of workplace conduct policy. Not the police or a district attorney with a subpoena. Your boss, on their own suspicions.

Then perhaps imagine your employer taking all that information you were forced to give them and then handing to law enforcement authorities under subpoena as part of an investigation.

The league also requires any team employee, save for therapists and psychologists, report “all personal issues of the PCP (Personal Conduct Policy) that a player shares.”

The NFLPA wrote in their “new world” of NFL investigations memo that “we have advised NFL that team employees should alert players to this requirement before the player provides much detail, but we don’t know if that occurs, so agents should ensure players are aware that team security, player development, all employees except professional clinicians are under this new reporting obligation.”

In other words, it appears that if a coach in a personal conversation with a player who is possibly confiding in them about an issue that could be a violation of the personal conduct policy, that coach should stop the player and basically read them an NFL version of a Miranda warning — “Son, anything you tell me here could be held against you in the court of Roger Goodell.”

The memo also points out that the league “investigates matter that are directly reported to it by alleged victims, even if the alleged victim has not reported alleged conduct to law enforcement.

“The NFL has initiated numerous investigations based merely upon phone calls by alleged victims to the NFL,” the NFLPA memo states. “It appears that many people are now aware that they can directly call the NFL to levy allegations against players.”

That’s a lot of power in a phone call.

After that phone call, the memo states that when the NFL “learns of a potential incident, it attempts to gather information from law enforcement or other sources. The NFL contacts the NFLPA to inform the player and union of the fact on an investigation about an incident.”

This memo comes seven months after former D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier was hired as the league’s new head of security. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the security measures outlined in the NFLPA memo have nothing to do with Lanier coming on board as the league’s security chief.

He also downplayed the notion that there was a “new world” of NFL investigations of players.

“Cathy (Lanier) came on in September,” McCarthy said. “There has not been a sea change in the investigative process.”

Yet the NFLPA felt compelled to send out a memo to agents on March 15 about the “new order” of league investigations. NFLPA officials could not be reached for further comment.

“(The policy) has continued to evolve,” McCarthy said. “In 2014 we made a series of changes to improve the investigative process. Those changes have been well documented.

As far as the emails, texts, and social media, McCarthy said, “We have always looked to obtain any and all information, as soon as a new platform arises. We make sure we look at the posts of players and teams and executives.”

It appears that one current investigation will likely fall under the “new world” of NFL investigations. The league is investigating domestic abuse allegations against Dallas Cowboys running back and NFL Rookie of the Year Ezekiel Elliott, according to an ESPN report. Incidents in Florida and Ohio are under investigation, the report said. No charges have been filed in those incidents.

Elliott was recently filmed pulling a woman’s top down and exposing her breast during a St. Patrick’s Day party in Dallas, in a video published by TMZ.

The Cowboys running back better hope that he didn’t tweet, Facebook, Snapchat, text, call or email his friends or teammates about any of this. Cops or no cops, this is the new world of the NFL — and you have to wonder if it will set a precedent for the new world of corporate America.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.



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