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Monday, March 1, 2021

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It is nearly time for all those self-professed Washington Football Team culture change warriors to step up and be counted, to back up words like “transparency” and “accountability” and “values.” It is nearly time to actually “take ownership” of the cesspool that this organization has been for more than 20 years.

The victims who suffered from a lack of all of these — values, ownership, transparency and a few other qualities of what would normally be part of a culture of decency and humanity — are asking that their voices be heard, that somebody speak for them.


Twenty former Washington Football Team employees asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week to release the final report of an investigation into the organization’s conduct when it’s completed — the Beth Wilkinson “independent” report” about allegations of sexual harassment inside the organization.

“There must be accountability for the actions we believe are detailed in this report,” the employees wrote in a letter to Goodell. “But there cannot be accountability without transparency. And there cannot be healing for any of us without understanding the truth, which will provide confirmation that we are not alone, and that our allegations are supported by others.”

There are doubts — reasonable doubts — that the truth will be revealed in the Wilkinson report. The high-powered lawyer was first hired by Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder to investigate the claims of sexual misconduct in a Washington Post story by multiple women who had worked for the team. Then, when the alleged victims questioned the ability of the attorney to investigate the charges on Snyder’s dime, the NFL agreed to put it under its direction, which shouldn’t make anyone feel particularly better about what will be made public.

Wilkinson may be a real “pro” as many of her colleagues have described her. But she has represented the likes of Philip Morris USA, Pfizer, Microsoft and Georgia Pacific — not exactly victims.

Oh, and the NFL — multiple times. She is the attorney who stood before reporters and claimed the league did not hide or suppress medical information about long-term damage caused by concussions. “We strongly deny those allegations that we withheld any information or misled the players,” she said.

You can understand, then, that there is not a lot of confidence that there will be a full disclosure of everything discovered by Wilkinson. So those representing some of the alleged victims are ramping up the pressure for such full disclosure, even though the league has said they have not yet received the final report.

If the NFL does not yet have the report, it should let us know when it expects to receive it and commit to making it public (at) once at that time,” said Lisa Banks, one of the lawyers representing 40 former team employees.

If that doesn’t happen, I assume we will hear the outrage from Washington Football Team president Jason Wright, who told Front Office Sports in August about his conversations with Snyder and his wife Tanya:

“We talked about business and all of that stuff eventually, but what it started out with were conversations about culture. It was about values. I used words like inclusion. They used words like transparent, words like accountability, and we started to talk in a really concrete way about what coach [Ron] Rivera — who they’d hired because he embodied those values — was doing on the football side to implement those.

“Together, we began to brainstorm a little bit about what that could look like on the business side, what that really meant in a concrete way. The conversation grew even deeper from there where we individually started to talk about our decisions in the past and past mistakes and things that we wish we would have done differently. They shared, I shared, and I think that transparency, authenticity and the acknowledgment that we had shared values and a shared vision of what makes for a good culture and a good organization made me incredibly excited to jump into partnership with them and coach (Ron) Rivera.”

Anything less than full disclosure of an investigation into the horrific values that ruled this organization for years would seem to go against everything Wright used in his vocabulary in this conversation. So I would expect him to speak out if there is not full disclosure, because anything less would make his words ring hollow.

If there is not full disclosure, I assume we will hear the outrage from Rivera, who walked into this mess but spoke of an “open door” policy under his administration.

“Biggest thing is we have to move forward from this and make sure everybody understands we have policies that we will follow and that we have an open-door policy with no retribution,” Rivera said in July, according to ESPN. “Plus my daughter works for the team and I sure as hell am not going to allow any of this!”

You can’t move forward with any credibility without being transparent about the sins of the past. And all those women who made these allegations are somebody’s daughter. 

So I would expect him to speak out if there is not full disclosure, because anything less would make his words ring hollow.

What is revealed — or hidden — in the Wilkinson report will dictate how meaningful or meaningless the promises were for change.

Hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.


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