NFL's Reaction to Josh Brown Leaves Us with Sick Feeling We've Had Before

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 21, 2016

ARCHIVO - En esta foto de archivo del 29 de septiembre de 2013, Josh Brown, pateador de los Giants de Nueva York, reacciona tras fallar un gol de campo en un partido ante los Chiefs de Kansas City (AP Foto/Charlie Riedel, archivo)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The outrage, the disgust, the anger, the sense of being overwhelmed by the news—all have returned. But after another bungled handling of a domestic violence case by the NFL, there's one feeling none of us can escape.

Here we go again.

The reaction B/R heard over the last two days from players, team executives and an owner to the stunning news that Josh Brown admitted he abused his ex-wife Molly Brown was swift and condemning.

There was a general sense of dismay and a feeling that a few players are hurting the image of the NFL. Further, many feel the incompetence of the league office in handling these issues is doing even worse damage.

More than one African-American player said they believed Brown got a break—he got a one-game suspension from the league—because he is white. Another player said Commissioner Roger Goodell needs to be suspended. Another said he needs to be fired. More than a dozen players texted from all corners of the NFL.

Few captured the outrage better than Ravens receiver Steve Smith, who posted this at Sqor Sports:

...Things have to change! A Man should NEVER Hit a woman which means he isn't A REAL MAN. We have valued the amount of air in a ball but yet devalued when a person or persons have been harmed and fail to put forth necessary actions or energy and time in which far less important things have taken precedent!

There has been players with far lesser [offenses] some have been banned, cut on the spot. But this person had behavior patterns behind closed doors unknown to everyone while swift and harsh action handed down to many other players without half the details or amount of time.

Our system is broken the NFL needs to stop acting like they care and start Showing people they mean what they Say !!! I will continue to speak for the voiceless and for my mother who is a Survivor [of] domestic violence.

The players weren't alone in their gloom. "When will we ever get this right?" one AFC general manager texted to me Friday morning.

The whole thing was like stepping into a time machine. "Brown case feels like 2014 again," former Packers team executive Andrew Brandt tweeted. "DV matter w/ some info, light suspension. More evidence, team/league reactions. Thought we were past that."

Much of the harshest criticism has been directed at the New York Giants and owner John Mara. Well-respected throughout the league for his steady hand and sense of fairness, the manner in which he handled this did not cover him in glory.

Giants owner John Mara.
Giants owner John Mara.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The Giants re-signed Brown to a contract extension despite knowing about his history of abuse, particularly an incident that happened at this past Pro Bowl, where a drunken Brown harassed Molly by pounding on her hotel room door. So the Giants knew he was an abuser. The league knew that NFL security officials intervened to protect Molly. And the Giants still re-signed him.

Mara said in a stunning and still staggering interview on New York radio station WFAN that Brown "admitted to us he'd abused his wife in the past. What's a little unclear is the extent of that."

How much abuse is enough abuse?

"As a domestic violence survivor, reading these Mara comments makes me sad, angry and completely baffled," Annie Apple tweeted. "He just doesn't get it. This is sad."

One owner told B/R he believes that Mara needs to apologize and that he believes Mara will. Some players speculated that the NFL's decision wasn't about race but about favoritism. They believe Goodell gave a Giants player a break because Goodell is close with Mara. They say Ray Rice initially got the same break because Goodell is close to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.

This was a point made by Brandt as well.

"Problem for league is ominous perception of doing a solid for Bisciotti (Rice) and Mara (Brown)," he tweeted. "Not a good look."

With their actions, the Giants have thrown away a sterling reputation built upon the notion that they do things the right way and with class. 

Goodell's reputation has already taken its share of hits, but this incident will do even more damage. The NFL's claims that it has changed its attitude toward domestic violence following the Rice debacle are now highly dubious.

Bob Leverone/Associated Press

Yes, here we go again, indeed.

In the Rice case, you may recall, questions arose about the NFL's efforts to get the now-infamous elevator video. Or, in general, to make better efforts to get more information about the incident. When the league hired former FBI head Robert Mueller to examine the NFL's investigation, he found that the league should have done more to find out what happened.

"We concluded there was substantial information about the incident—even without the in-elevator video—indicating the need for a more thorough investigation," Mueller's report said. "The NFL should have done more with the information it had, and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information."

That is the context in which this latest domestic violence incident took place. The league was faulted by its own investigator for not doing enough. The NFL swore it was going to change. It hired more women—such as Lisa Friel, a senior vice president for investigations—in powerful league office positions. And yet, we're right back in the same place.

A case like Brown's was supposed to be different. The investigation was supposed to be more thorough. There weren't supposed to be so many questions, so many appearances of incompetence. Or worse: The league wasn't supposed to appear to drag its feet on an investigation because it didn't want to know the answer.

It seems as if the NFL wanted the appearance of desiring more information. How it handled a records request with the King County (Washington) Sheriff's Office will be put into sharp contrast by some (particularly Patriots fans) when it comes to other league investigations such as Deflategate, where the league hired an outside investigator, spent millions of dollars and did everything possible to get an answer.

If what Sheriff John Urquhart told KIRO Radio 97.3 FM in Seattle on Thursday is true, it appears the NFL did some really, um, unusual things in requesting information from the police. Urquhart said that four days after Brown's alleged domestic violence incident in May 2015, he got an email from a Comcast address from Rob Agnew.

"Nowhere on the request does he say that he works for the NFL, and so we don't know that it's the NFL and we're not gonna give it out anyway, so we denied it," Urquhart said.

"'NFL, National Football League,' he could have [written] any of that," Urquhart said. "Robert Agnew, Comcast.net, post office box in Woodinville. We had no idea who this yokel is."

Josh Brown and his ex-wife Molly, who told police Josh had been physically violent with her more than 20 times.
Josh Brown and his ex-wife Molly, who told police Josh had been physically violent with her more than 20 times.Scott Roth/Associated Press/Associated Press

Yokel...that about describes it. The only thing missing was Agnew saying he was a Nigerian prince and that if the cops turned over the records, they would become an heir to a fortune. All for just $9.95.

"To our discredit, perhaps, we didn't use the Google to Google this guy's name," Urquhart said. "Turns out that he is a security representative based in Seattle for the NFL.

"But he never told us that. The NFL never told us that. At no time has the NFL ever filed a written request—public disclosure request—for any of these files. Period. It's never happened."

When I tweeted about this Friday morning, I received a reply from Natalie Ravitz, the NFL's senior vice president of communications. She responded that four different individuals from the NFL contacted the police to seek more information. She then tweeted a screenshot at me with a police dispatch report showing the NFL's efforts to get more information. She later tweeted to me the public records request the NFL made.

Fair enough. But I asked again, why did Agnew not say he worked for the NFL when first contacting the sheriff's office?

"What is the difference which email was used if we called following up multiple times & they knew we made the request?" she responded.

It seemed to make a difference to the sheriff. Again, he called Agnew a "yokel." And a "goofus."

"It's unfortunate that his office didn't tell him that we repeatedly called and asked for help," she added. "As documented in the PD report."

Maybe the NFL did try like hell to get more info. But it goes back to appearances. A dude sending an email from a Comcast account that will likely end up in a spam folder isn't the greatest look. At best, it seems incompetent. At worst, it looks like the NFL was purposely making the least effort possible to get information so it wouldn't have to suspend Brown.

For a league whose lawyers have lawyers, this all could have been handled in the right way. Why didn't one of the $800-an-hour legal dudes fire off a letter from the jump? Why not put one of them on a plane (first class) to go schmooze with the sheriff on background? He seems like a nice enough fella.

But the NFL didn't—again.

It's all a mess.

Here we go again.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.


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