- The Washington Times
Tuesday, October 26, 2021

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday the league will cooperate with a recent inquiry from two House Democrats that demanded the league provide Congress with full results of its investigation into Washington’s workplace misconduct. 

Speaking at the NFL’s fall owners meetings in New York, Goodell defended the handling of the investigation and reiterated that the league would not release any further information — telling reporters that anonymity was promised to those who cooperated with lead investigator and lawyer Beth Wilkinson

In July, the NFL fined the franchise $10 million for having a “very toxic” workplace. But the league did not release a full written report — sending out only a summary of the findings — nor was owner Dan Snyder suspended.

As part of the NFL’s summary, Snyder voluntarily agreed to cede control of the day-to-day operations of the franchise to his wife, Tanya, for several months. But the embattled billionaire has still attended games and has been involved in long-term projects like the team’s pursuit of a new stadium.

“I do think he’s been held accountable for it and the organization has been held accountable,” Goodell said. “And I think we’ve given an unprecedented fine. Dan Snyder has not been involved with the organization for now almost four months. 

“We, obviously, have focused more on making sure the policies that they had — many of which they put into place prior to this investigation, but also coming out of it — were put into place and that they will be maintained, and that we can ensure that will happen at this organization.” 

Last week, two members of Congress — House Democrats Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Carolyn B. Maloney of New York — sent Goodell a letter that demanded the league turn over documents and answer a number of questions related to the investigation by Nov. 4. 

The Congressional request came in the light of renewed calls for the NFL to release a full report of the investigation in light of leaked emails from the review that caused former Raiders coach Jon Gruden to resign. Gruden was caught using homophobic and derogatory language in emails sent to former Washington president Bruce Allen.  

During his press conference, Goodell did not provide details how the NFL would cooperate with Congress’ request, such as whether it would indeed turn over “all documents and communications obtained in connection with the investigation into the WFT, its management, its owners, and any other matter relating to or resulting from the WFT investigation” as the House members demanded.

“We will respond to Congress appropriately,” Goodell said. “We’ll be cooperative. We’ve been in touch and will certainly do that. We look forward to have an opportunity to do that.”

As for the decision to not release a written report, Goodell said the league was “very conscious” of protecting those who came forward — calling it a “high priority.” He said those who participated were “incredibly brave.”

Goodell’s answers from his press conference did not appear to satisfy a number of former Washington employees who have called on the league to be more transparent. Megan Imbert, a former video producer for the team, wrote on Twitter that Goodell’s comments were “abhorrent” and added “no way have you EVER been concerned” about the women who came forward.

Rachel Engleson, a former marketing director, tweeted that she was told her identity would be kept confidential for participating in the league’s investigation — but only so there would be “no way” Snyder or others could trace the information back to her. 

“Not that there would be no written report,” she wrote. “C’mon.”

Lisa Banks, an attorney representing the 40 women who say they were sexually harassed while working for the team, tweeted: “Goodell’s statement is false.” 

Earlier in the afternoon, two former Washington employees crashed the league’s meeting at a Manhattan hotel to deliver copies of a letter that called for the NFL to release the full findings into Washington’s workplace.

Melanie Coburn and Ana Nunez gave the materials to the hotel’s front desk and were reportedly assured the letters would be delivered to all owners in attendance. The letter was signed by 12 former employees and accused the NFL of sweeping the findings “under the rug.” 

The NFL’s decision to not release a report ran contrary to its handling of other recent high-profile investigations, such as the review into Ray Rice’s domestic violence case and “Deflategate” — a football air pressure scandal that involved quarterback Tom Brady. In those cases, the NFL released a 243-page report on Deflategate and a 96-page report on Ray Rice. 

The league, however, also did not release a written report after former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was fined $2.75 million in 2018 following allegations he sexually harassed employees and used racial slurs. Richardson agreed to sell the Panthers before the conclusion of the investigation. 

At his press conference, Goodell said the league has been “very open” regarding the findings of the Washington investigation. He said Wilkinson made 10 specific recommendations and that “all of the findings” were summarized. 

“I understand that the media would like more transparency and they would like more emails (to be released),” Goodell said. “But from my standpoint, we’ve been very firm about the importance of making sure that we’ve gotten all the information. We made it clear that this was not … a workplace environment that we feel is appropriate.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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