“We can confirm the NFL engaged former [Securities and Exchange Commission] chair Mary Jo White in February to look into allegations made by Hue Jackson against the Cleveland Browns,” a league spokesperson told CNN on Monday.
In early February, Jackson — who was the Browns’ head coach from 2016 to his firing during the 2018 season and who is currently the head coach of Grambling State University — had made comments on social media implying he was paid to lose games when he was the Browns’ head coach.
Jackson had made the allegations after former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a discrimination class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams.
Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and longtime NFL assistant coach Ray Horton added themselves to the lawsuit this month against the league, Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Giants — and the Cardinals, Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans were added to the suit as part of the amendment as well.
In the lawsuit Flores alleges, among other things, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered to pay him to purposely lose games in order to obtain a better NFL draft position and encouraged Flores to purposely violate league tampering rules.
Ross and the Dolphins have denied the allegations.
In a subsequent exclusive with the Knoxville News Sentinel in early February, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said: “Unequivocally, Hue Jackson was never paid to lose games. That is an absolute falsehood.”
After Jackson’s initial claims on social media, he told CNN on February 4 he was not paid to lose games but thinks his situation has some similarities to Flores’.
He told CNN on February 5 the Browns had a “four-year plan that was put in place to incentivize not winning” and that the plan was to win in the last two years of that span.
In response to the claims, the team released a statement attributed to a Browns spokesperson which read: “Even though Hue recanted his allegations a short time after they were made, it was important to us and to the integrity of the game to have an independent review of the allegations.
“We welcomed an investigation and we are confident the results will show, as we’ve previously stated, that these allegations are categorically false. We have fully cooperated with Mary Jo White and look forward to the findings.”
In an article posted Monday, Jackson told Sports Illustrated: “Two years ago I tried to do this the right way, through the bylaws and constitution of the National Football League, to ask them to investigate the Cleveland Browns for all the allegations that I’ve made. So why open an investigation now?”