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Roger Goodell’s seemingly limitless power to levy fines against football players for transgressions real or imagined continues unabated. It would appear that Goodell is single-handedly bringing the holiday spirit of donating to charity to an unprecedented level – well into the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars. His latest donation of $50,000, made via Brett Favre’s wallet, comes at the conclusion of the much ballyhooed Penisgate.

Brett FavreSecond only in length of time to Brett Favre’s annual on-again off-again retirement drama, the investigation into the alleged sexting incident between Brett Favre and Jenn Sterger has dragged on like a high priced escort working with an ED sufferer. The alleged incident took place more than two years ago while Brett Favre was the quarterback of the New York Jets and Jenn Sterger was a sideline reporter for the team. It appears clear from the outset that Jenn Sterger was a reluctant participant in this salacious Brett Favre scandal story initially brought to light with Deadspin (gratuitous Penisgate photo at the 2:08 mark of the video). There is also little doubt that Brett Favre and his penis were even more embarrassed to have this incident broadcast across the world for all to hear, read, and well, um… see.

Still, Roger Goodell was in the untenable position of not wanting to appear as soft on this alleged violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, so he came and came hard by levying the $50,000 fine against the legendary quarterback. While it’s a proverbial drop in the financial bucket for Brett Favre, from my perspective, that’s an awfully steep price to pay for an encounter that didn’t even have a happy ending.

There are more than a few curiosities about both the reasoning and the timing of the Penisgate fine. Employment law remains a battlefield and sexual harassment lawsuits tend to be a cash cow. The NFL didn’t have the authority to compel Favre to come to league offices and drop his Wranglers so that a police forensic team could make a positive ID match of Favre’s penis with the sexting photo sent to Jenn Sterger. That left Roger Goodell with no other avenue for justifying a fine beyond Brett Favre’s reported “lack of cooperation” with the NFL’s Penisgate investigation. It’s probably not a coincidence that the fine was handed down exactly one day after New Jersey’s 2-year statute of limitations expired on sexual harassment litigation. That means that any information gathered during the course of the NFL’s investigation into Penisgate essentially goes away.

The bottom line is that the NFL really wants to avoid burying the player who has brought them decades worth of unbelievably positive publicity as well as immeasurable wealth to their bank accounts. By handing down this token fine on Brett Favre, they offer the appearance of doing something meaningful about the incident. However, pursuing this situation any further would serve little purpose but to taint a legend. Love Brett Favre or hate him, he is an NFL legend. To quote popular ESPN Philadelphia sports radio host, Mike Missanelli:

If you taint the legend, you taint the NFL…

…and Roger Goodell could ill-afford to do that. Clearly, he’s leaving whatever is to become of Brett Favre’s legacy entirely up to Brett Favre and all of his body parts.