Much has been written and said about so-called Non-Disclosure Agreements in recent months, primarily in the realm of presidential politics. But it was the existence (and violation) of multiple NDAs that directly contributed to the decision of Panthers founder Jerry Richardson to sell the team. And it’s possible that NDAs could soon have limited use by NFL franchises.
In Thursday afternoon’s hey-its-not-Friday-so-the-media-can’t-call-it-a-bad-news-dump announcement that Richardson will surrender $2.75 million of his multi-billion-dollar windfall for selling the team as a fine, the Commissioner points out that not-really-independent investigator Mary Jo White recommends a prohibition against the future use of NDAs to limit reporting of potential violations or cooperation in League investigations under the Personal Conduct Policy.
That’s the ultimate problem in this specific case. Richardson had current or former employees threaten litigation regarding alleged workplace misconduct, and he settled the claims without advising the league office of the allegations. And if the recipients of the settlement proceeds hadn’t violated the NDAs, no one would have ever known.
That’s all by design, according to NFL Network, which reports that Winston and the NFL had a negotiated settlement that saw Winston accept his three-game suspension without appealing, and offer an apology to the woman, but not actually admit any guilt.
And that raises the obvious question: How sincere can an apology really be if it’s part of a negotiated settlement that includes no admission that he actually did what he’s apologizing for?
When Winston was first accused publicly, he left absolutely no doubt about his stance, releasing a statement that said, The accusation is false. Does Winston stand by that statement? Does he now admit that he groped the woman? Is his statement that he has stopped drinking alcohol intended to suggest that he was drunk and doesn’t remember the incident?