The Ted Wells report – indicting the Miami Dolphins locker room with a charge of felony cesspool – is just the latest in what has become a cottage industry in sports.
Mama, let your babies grow up to be independent sports investigators.
The Wells report charges that three starters of the Dolphins offensive line — Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey — engaged in a “pattern of harassment” directed at Jonathan Martin, as well as another young offensive lineman and an assistant trainer.
Boy, the Pouncey family must really be proud of their sons – remember the “Free Aaron Hernandez” hats Mike and his brother, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurice Pouncey, sported in a photo shortly after the New England Patriots tight end was arrested and charged with murder?
The 144-page report provides the “context” for those who were clueless enough to question Martin’s claims and treated Incognito as a victim.
It’s also another addition to the section in the library reserved for sports scandals, a growing section.
Heck, Oprah could produce a Book Club show just on independent sports reports.
It’s a strange industry, a byproduct of the need for public trust and credibility in this fast-moving age of scandal, where information and evidence is disseminated so quickly, the cover up has been replaced by the clean up – the independent investigation.
Ted Wells is a high-powered criminal lawyer who has represented Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Jr., in the CIA leak probe in 2007. He’s represented Eliot Spitzer in the prostitution scandal, and major corporations like Citigroup and Johnson and Johnson.
Now he’s doing investigations into NFL locker rooms.
George Mitchell was a U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader. He brokered the history peace agreement in Northern Island. He’s been chairman of the board of the Walt Disney Company.
In 2007, he was leading an investigation that questioned anonymous trainers in baseball clubhouses that resulted in the Mitchell Report, baseball’s independent investigation into the use of performance-enhancing substances.
Was the Mitchell report the granddaddy of them all? Did it have the most impact?
What about Penn State?
The school found itself buried in the pit of a horrific scandal, with former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky found to have molested dozens of children through his charity organization, on the grounds of the school.
So what did they do?
They hired Louis Freeh, a former assistant U.S. Attorney, federal district judge, and, by the way, director of the FBI. The head of the biggest criminal police force in the country was called in to investigate a child sex abuse scandal in a small town in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t the first child sex scandal in a small town.
But it was the first one where they called the former head of the FBI in – not to conduct the criminal investigation, but to investigate the school and what went wrong.
The Freeh probe resulted in charges that school president Graham Spanier and revered head coach Joe Paterno knew about the child abuse and covered it up. Paterno resigned in shame and died shortly after.
That independent investigation may have been the most powerful of all.
To show that it has become an industry, this isn’t the only independent sports investigation the former FBI boss has done. He was hired by the New Orleans Saints in 2012 to conduct an independent investigation into the franchise following the revelations of the NFL Bountygate scandal.
We have yet to see the results of that “independent” investigation.
There is no shortage of work for independent investigators. Mitchell, the man behind the baseball steroid probe, was hired by the NCAA to monitor Penn State’s progress in the reforms mandated by the organization.
Speaking of Bountygate, former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White was hired by the NFL to do a quick hit of sorts – not a full-blown independent investigation. She was hired to evaluate the NFL’s own investigation into the Saints bounty scandal, and validated the probe.
Of course, the NFL has to go back and hire an independent investigator for Bountygate – former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue conducted another probe of the appeal of the Saints players charged in Bountygate.
Where did this all begin?
Was it when Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a former federal judge, was hired as commissioner of baseball following the Black Sox scandal of 1919? Landis didn’t actually do an independent probe. That was done for him by the grand jury investigation, which he used to ban all eight player accused in the betting scandal, even though they were acquitted in court.
It may have all began with Pete Rose and John Dowd.
Dowd, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department organized crime and racketeering division and later chief of the organized crime strike force, was hired by baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti as special counsel in 1989 to investigate charges that Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose bet on baseball. The 225-page report resulted in Rose’s ban from baseball.
High powered criminal lawyers, former judges, federal prosecutors, FBI bosses, and United States Senators – the men and women who have helped influence sports in America for the past 25 years.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,”noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com
• Thom Loverro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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