As the football world awaits a decision from arbitrator Harold Henderson on Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal of his suspension, Deadspin has learned the league is also investigating Hall of Famer Michael Irvin under its personal conduct policy in the wake of an alleged sexual assault allegation that resulted in no charges.
Irvin now works as an analyst for the NFL Network. This is from the first paragraph of the NFL’s personal conduct policy (emphasis is in the policy):
“Everyone who is part of the league must refrain from ‘conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in’ the NFL. This includes owners, coaches, players, other team employees, game officials, and employees of the league office, NFL Films, NFL Network, or any other NFL business.”
In March, Irvin was accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a 27-year-old Florida woman. Ft. Lauderdale police investigated the case until late May before handing it over to the Broward County state attorney’s office, which decided in July not to bring charges.
League spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed that Irvin is being investigated.
“Yes, the investigation is ongoing under the personal conduct policy,” McCarthy told me via email.
In Elliott’s situation, the league followed its personal conduct policy to the letter by launching its own investigation even after no charges were brought. That investigation lasted more than a year, until commissioner Roger Goodell handed down a six-game suspension last month.
Irvin, meanwhile, has been accused at least three times of sexual assault against a woman and never faced charges. According to Pro Football Talk, Irvin’s first accuser eventually she admitted she lied and received a 90-day jail sentence. That was in 1997. A second case led to a civil suit from Irvin’s accuser and a countersuit from Irvin that resulted in a confidential settlement. That was in 2007.
Here again is the personal conduct policy, which was expanded in 2014 in the wake of the Ray Rice fiasco to read:
“In cases where a player is not charged with a crime, or is charged but not convicted, he may still be found to have violated the Policy if the credible evidence establishes that he engaged in conduct prohibited by this Personal Conduct Policy.
A disciplinary officer, a member of the league office staff who will be a highly-qualified individual with a criminal justice background, will follow the process outlined below to investigate a potential violation, produce a report and if desired present a disciplinary recommendation for the Commissioner’s consideration.”
In 2014, Colts owner Jim Irsay was suspended for six games and fined $500,000 after pleading guilty to a DUI, and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was not punished by the league after his company agreed to pay a $92 million settlement to avoid being prosecuted for fraud after bilking customers out of tens of millions of dollars. But both of those cases happened before the league changed its personal conduct policy to go beyond the findings of the criminal justice system.
Since then, the league has suspended non-players such as ex-Browns GM Ray Farmer for texting coaches during a game, two low-level Patriots staffers for their alleged roles in Ballghazi, and one game official who screwed up. Last year, the league immediately suspended NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger for six months after Baldinger appeared on a Philadelphia radio station and said the Eagles should put a bounty on the Cowboys’ Elliott. But the Irvin case is the first use of the NFL’s capricious extrajudicial disciplinary procedures against a league employee who isn’t a player.