FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) – The New York Jets say a lawsuit filed against them and Brett Favre by two massage therapists is “completely without merit,” and the team had not been aware of the accusations.
Christina Scavo and Shannon O’Toole contend in a lawsuit filed Monday they were subjected to sexual harassment and job discrimination. They are seeking unspecified damages from Favre, the Jets and a team massage coordinator, saying they lost their part-time jobs after complaining about sexually suggestive text messages from the 41-year-old quarterback while he was with the team in 2008.
“Unfortunately, the plaintiffs never reported the allegations to the Jets, either during or after the conclusion of their work,” the team said in a statement Tuesday. “The case against the Jets is completely without merit, and we look forward to defending the matter in court, where we are confident that the Jets will prevail.”
Favre’s agent, Bus Cook, didn’t immediately return a telephone message.
The lawsuit is the latest controversy for the Jets (11-5) in a turbulent, winning season. They play the Colts (10-6) at Indianapolis on Saturday night in the opening playoff round.
While the women don’t say they received any messages directly from Favre, the quarterback referred to Scavo in a message proposing a meeting with her and a third, unidentified massage therapist, the lawsuit says.
“Kinda lonely tonight,” he added in a subsequent message to the third masseuse, the lawsuit said. “I guess I have bad intentions.”
The lawsuit came five days after the NFL fined Favre, now with the Minnesota Vikings, $50,000 for not being forthright in an investigation into allegations that he sent lewd text messages and photos to former Jets game hostess Jenn Sterger when they both worked for the team.
The league’s investigation lasted months as the three-time MVP staggered through his 20th NFL season. Favre’s consecutive starts streak ended at 297 in December and he sat out the Vikings’ final game, a loss to Detroit on Sunday. Afterward he said he’s retiring – for good, this time.
The team was fined $100,000 by the NFL last week for violating league rules when assistant coach Sal Alosi ordered players to form a sideline wall, then tripped Miami’s Nolan Carroll during a punt return in December. Special teams coach Mike Westhoff accused other teams of employing similar sideline wall tactics.
An embarrassed coach Rex Ryan has had to answer questions about a foot-fetish report posted by the sports website Deadspin a few weeks ago, saying repeatedly it’s a “personal matter.” He has also been criticized for his foul language on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” during the summer and was fined $50,000 by the team last January for his obscene gesture toward a fan during a mixed-martial arts competition in Florida.
There was also the NFL’s investigation in September after a reporter for TV Azteca said she felt uncomfortable in the team’s locker room. The NFL then developed a workplace conduct program, underwritten by Jets owner Woody Johnson.
A few weeks later, wide receiver Braylon Edwards was arrested and charged with drunken driving, a case that is pending.
During its investigation of the Sterger situation, the NFL reviewed media reports that Favre pursued two massage therapists who worked at the Jets’ facility in 2008. But, the league said that claim could not be substantiated because people with “potentially relevant information” wouldn’t cooperate with investigators. O’Toole’s and Scavo’s lawyer, David Jaroslawicz, said he told investigators about the information his clients had.
The two women worked for years at the Jets’ training camp in Hempstead, N.Y. – the team now is headquartered in Florham Park – and for various players individually, sometimes giving massages at players’ homes, according to the suit. O’Toole brought Scavo into the Jets fold, Jaroslawicz said.
After Scavo and an unidentified colleague gave massages at the training camp in 2008, Favre sent the colleague a text message saying, “Brett here you and crissy want to get together I’m all alone,” the lawsuit said.
Jaroslawicz declined to identify the massage therapist who allegedly received the messages.
Scavo told her husband, Joseph, about the messages. He told Favre to back off and apologize, according to the lawsuit. The husband got a brush-off from Favre, and his wife and O’Toole got blackballed by the team, the lawsuit contends.
The Jets stopped calling the women for work, initially offering such excuses as having moved the training camp, Jaroslawicz said.
After the allegations about Favre and the masseuses surfaced, the team’s massage coordinator, Lisa Ripi, sent Scavo emails referring to Favre as a “pervert” but criticizing Scavo for not having keeping the matter quiet, the lawsuit says.
Meanwhile, Ripi told O’Toole to “keep your mouth shut” and declared that neither O’Toole nor Scavo would work for the team again, the lawsuit says.
Jaroslawicz said his clients held off on suing while awaiting the results of the NFL investigation, but they decided to proceed after the inquiry ended in what they saw as a token fine.