Favre’s legacy tarnished by punishment

“Pants on the ground” has taken on a whole new meaning when it comes to Brett Favre.

It isn’t just the tune he sang to Minnesota Vikings teammates when celebrating last season’s playoff victory over Dallas or a joking reference to the photos of his genitalia that Favre allegedly sent an NFL co-worker.

Those pants are now on fire. That’s because the NFL has essentially branded Favre as a liar.

Favre wasn’t slapped with a $50,000 fine Wednesday because he was found guilty of sexually harassing former New York Jets media personality Jenn Sterger while both worked for the team in 2008. Rather, an NFL press release states that commissioner Roger Goodell determined that Favre “was not candid in several respects during the investigation.”

In other words, he lied.

Favre had ample opportunity to come clean about what really happened between him and Sterger. The Deadspin.com report that claimed inappropriate contact on Favre’s part first surfaced in August. In mid-September, an NFL spokesman told FOXSports.com columnist Mark Kriegel that the league “looked into it” and “found no evidence.”

Sherlock Holmes they weren’t, my dear Watson.

The NFL decided to “look” again after Deadspin shamed the league and Favre by posting audio of the text messages he allegedly left Sterger as well as graphic images of little No. 4. This time, the NFL used CSI-style technology trying to determine whether Favre electronically sent the photos and if there was inappropriate workplace behavior on the quarterback’s end.

Ultimately, Favre was exonerated because Goodell couldn’t unequivocally conclude that any rules were broken after speaking with both him and Sterger. The NFL also couldn’t prove that Favre himself actually shipped the images.

Favre, though, was guilty of a crime the NFL won’t let go unpunished: Bringing bad publicity to the league.

Because he wasn’t forthcoming — or for that matter, completely honest — this investigation dragged on longer than a Super Bowl pregame show. That resulted in what the NFL described as “a longer review and additional negative public attention for Favre, Sterger, and the NFL.”

I guess the league didn’t find the Wrangler Open-Fly Jeans skit on "Saturday Night Live" as funny as I did.

On a more serious note, I understand it wasn’t easy for Favre to publicly fess up. Being exposed in such a fashion is humiliating. On the personal side, Favre and his wife Deanna began dating in high school. She is a breast-cancer survivor. The 27-year-old Sterger is only five years older than Favre’s youngest daughter. For that matter, Favre is a grandfather. This is the type of behavior that can ruin a family.

But such facts also reinforce that Favre is a 41-year-old adult who should be fully capable of taking responsibility for his actions. Instead, Favre never offered a public mea culpa to his wife and refused to shed light on what happened with Sterger when asked directly by the media. He chose to run as if John Randle were flushing him from the pocket.

Favre, though, couldn’t escape Goodell.

The fact Favre avoided suspension is largely inconsequential. At this point, he only has one more game remaining before the season ends and retirement begins (almost certainly for good, this time). Favre won’t even play Sunday at Detroit unless medically cleared after recently suffering a concussion.

The fine also is a pittance for a player who is earning $1 million a game to play this season. To put $50,000 in perspective, that figure doesn’t even equal his salary for a single 15-minute quarter.

However, the NFL ruling does at least make a small dent in Favre’s Hall of Fame legacy. It further tarnishes the “family man” image he chose to perpetuate. It reinforces his duplicity.

You can’t put a price on that kind of irreparable damage.