- The Washington Times
Tuesday, February 22, 2022

OPINION:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has recruited another one of his cheerleaders to protect “The Shield” — former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White — to investigate the latest sexual misconduct allegations against Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder that emerged from the recent House Oversight Committee roundtable.

She’s a well-seasoned NFL cheerleader.


White was the league’s investigator in Bountygate, when the New Orleans Saints were accused of running a bounty program for players targeting opposing team players.

Coaches Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis were all suspended.

But there were many questions about the way the investigation was handled, and DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, told ESPN that White “falsely accused players in Bountygate. And the things that she said to the press were either knowingly untrue or there came a time when we all knew they weren’t true.”

White also handled the 2017 investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and racial slurs on the part of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.

The elderly owner wound up selling the club.

But White, according to Yahoo Sports, ran into numerous roadblocks in the Carolina investigation because of — what else? — nondisclosure agreements.

White asked Goodell to create “a specific prohibition of using Non-Disclosure Agreements to limit reporting of potential violations or cooperation in League investigations under the Personal Conduct Policy” to keep NFL owners from hiding behind the paid protections, Yahoo Sports reported.

Based on the same roadblocks Beth Wilkinson ran into in her Washington Commanders probe, Goodell must have taken those recommendations and filed them in the incinerator where he disposed of Spygate materials and other documents that create problems for his bosses ­— the owners.

Yet here is White, apparently ignored by Goodell the last time she did this, willing to take another paycheck from the league.
Did I mention she once represented the Sackler family?

“Block that probe.
“Block that probe.
“Keep it quiet.
“Keep it quiet.
“Owners, owners, rah, rah, rah.”

Goodell sure does like his legal cheerleaders. For a league whose owners routinely pay off women to shut them up after harassing them, the commissioner keeps looking for female lawyers to bail them out and create the illusion of inclusion.

Wilkinson is a member of the squad. She represented the league in an antitrust lawsuit involving the NFL Sunday ticket package. And she was one of the league’s top mouthpieces defending their indefensible position in the concussion fight. She faced reporters and claimed that “we strongly deny those allegations that we withheld any information or misled the players.”

She was willing to go along with an “investigation” into Snyder and his organization — an investigation that, based on the agreement the team and the NFL had to keep a lid on the details, was never intended to see the light of day. Any recommendations made by Wilkinson under the secrecy of “The Shield” were worthless.

She might as well have recommended that Snyder be the pool boy at league meetings for the next 10 years.

When that exercise was concluded, it was left to another of Goodell’s legal cheerleaders, Lisa Friel, a former sex crimes unit boss in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, to face reporters and explain why the results of an investigation into dozens of women’s claims of sexual misconduct and harassment was being kept secret. “We do not have a written report from her (Wilkinson),” Friel said.

These are all women who do Goodell’s bidding. They have little power. The most powerful lawyer in the NFL is of course a man who has made jokes about minorities and women with other league officials.

Jeff Pash is the No. 2 official in the league, and the email partner of former Washington general manager Bruce Allen, whose email interactions included jokes about the NFL’s diversity effort and the team’s attempt to bring in more Hispanic fans, according to emails leaked to The New York Times.

“I am not sure this song will be as popular after the wall gets built,” Pash wrote to Allen after Allen emailed him a song meant to appeal to Hispanic fans. He also made jokes with Allen about the restaurant Hooters and the NFL’s hiring of Jocelyn Moore as their chief Capitol Hill lobbyist.

Pash is the lawyer with the most power and influence in the league.

Goodell has added another female legal eagle to the team — former Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch — to represent the NFL in the discrimination lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores.

After serving as the chief law enforcement officer in the Obama administration, Lynch became a partner in the powerful Washington law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Soon after, she represented McDonald’s when they faced numerous lawsuits from black franchise owners who claimed the company was discriminating against them in their business practices.

She will fit right in. Go team.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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