Hot Read: Guilty of Bad Judgment

While 41-year-old men ought to know better than to send pictures of what's inside their Wranglers, don't forget that Brett Favre hasn't been accused of anything illegal. Our W. Keith Roerdink, who covered Favre for most of his Packers career, weighs in.

Before we hang everyone's favorite ex-Packers quarterback out to dry for his latest headline-grabbing controversy, I'd like to offer the following nugget: Brett Favre hasn't actually been accused of anything illegal. To flip on the TV or  radio or even engage in some spirited talk around the coffeemaker, that very important fact is, at times, forgotten.

There's no actual claim by Jenn Sterger of sexual harassment against Favre from two years ago, when he quarterbacked the New York Jets. No official complaint filed with the team. No civil lawsuit. No police report. No criminal investigation. No laws broken. No pending trial.

The only court Favre will be judged in is the court of public opinion, and at the very least, he'll be judged as immature with very poor judgment. Sexting, if that's really what he did, is the kind of behavior that middle-school students are warned about. Forty-one-year-olds ought to know better than to send pictures of what's inside their Wranglers. How is that even a pick-up technique? "Hey, baby, check this out." I don't get it. It seems like it wasn't so long ago that the very thought of "old-man" Favre texting coaches or teammates seemed funny. Apparently, he might have been a little more savvy with his mobile phone that we gave him credit for. Star athletes, even married ones, hitting on attractive young girls is nothing new. But if this is a 21st-century version of that then, please, please bring back the rotary phone.

Of course, the bigger issue is that of potential sexual harassment in the workplace. But again, Sterger, the former New York Jets hostess who parlayed being spotted in the crowd at a 2005 Florida State football game into photo shoots with Playboy, Maxim and various sports television gigs, has never claimed that. Not two years ago, when it allegedly occurred, and not now after the blog Deadspin.com paid what it said was the most it's ever paid for the texts, pictures and voice mails. And it was said to be a third party, not Sterger, who supplied all of it to Deadspin.com.

The timing of this incident being brought to light is definitely interesting. After two years, these pictures, texts and voice mails surface as Favre prepared to play the team that he was unable to lead to the playoffs and later jilted, only to unretire once more and play for the Vikings. It also comes on the heels of some negative publicity about the DUI of Jets receiver Braylon Edwards, who blew twice the legal limit, which came on the heels of claims by TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz that Jets players made her "uncomfortable" with their looks and statements on the field and in the locker room. She downplayed the situation on the "Today" show, but Jets owner Woody Johnson felt the need to personally call and apologize. The Favre story certainly pushed those other headlines to the backburner, if not off the stove entirely. I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist, but it kind of makes you wonder who that third party was that turned the goods over to Deadspin.com.


Jenn Sterger
Al Pereira/Getty Images
Please understand that the background given on Sterger — who describes herself as an actress, model, writer and television host on her Web site — is not to paint her as a less sympathetic figure or someone deserving of unwanted attention. But at the risk of offending some people here or being insensitive, Stergers background is valuable in offering some perspective. Every year when the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue comes out, SI's offices receive letters from people who are morally offended and outraged. It even publishes a few of them in the next issue's letter columns. The great majority of people don't mind. Some people are disgusted by Playboy. Some aren't.

My point is that there's a chance that while Sterger had no interest in seeing pictures of Favre's little Hall of Famer, she may not have been emotionally damaged or traumatized by it. She may have thought it was icky or gross that this older, married quarterback was hitting on her and texting her. Maybe she told some friends. Maybe she laughed about it. Or quite possibly she was really put off by it and felt pressured because of Favre's celebrity and status with the Jets. She did, mind you, exchange contact information with him, for whatever that's worth. But it's the circumstances that make all the difference.

Most companies have pretty clear policies against "sexting" in the workplace and pretty clear definitions of what is sexual harassment. But there's a subjectivity with everyone about what is offensive and what feels like harassment. A nun or the local librarian may be offended more easily than someone who is younger and/or used to attention from the opposite sex. Based on her photo shoots, Sterger is pretty comfortable with attention from the opposite sex. Just maybe the fact that Sterger didn't personally do anything with these for the past two years is an indication that it wasn't as big of a deal as many are making it out to be. Just throwing that out there.

Now, if Sterger did bring this up to the attention of the Jets, or if the massage therapists that worked on Jets' players that Favre also allegedly texted and left voicemails for did so, then the bigger issue is that the team covered this up. That would be something for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to investigate. As it stands, Goodell is looking into the Favre fiasco under the league's personal conduct policy, but as of yet, he has no plans to meet with Favre. Sterger has shown no interest in talking with Goodell, either, nor is she under any obligation to do so.

This is quite a mess Favre's gotten himself into, as if he needed some off-field controversy to go with the on-field ones that so readily swirl around him. But this is hardly the scope of the Tiger Woods debacle, which came to light with a call to the police, or that of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who actually was accused, though not prosecuted, of forcing himself on a 20-year-old girl in the bathroom of a bar while his boys guarded the hallway.

Aside from the fact that Favre is married, you really run out of adjectives to describe how stupid, ridiculous and inappropriate all of this is. If it's true, it would be a terrible footnote on a Hall of Fame career that's close to wrapping up, but one he authored himself. Or texted himself, as the story allegedly goes.


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W. Keith Roerdink has covered the Packers since 1992. E-mail him at karoer@msn.com.


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