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Tuesday, February 8, 2022

OPINION:

“This isn’t an investigation into what was wrong or the causes of it. It’s an exercise in protecting the owner.”

Thom Loverro, Washington Times, July 19, 2020.   


As the kids like to say, “I believe I had that.”

Last week, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a roundtable with some former employees of the local NFL franchise, now known as the Washington Commanders, and before that, the Washington Football Team (and before that, the Washington Redskins).

When the roundtable was over, the list of embarrassing allegations against owner Dan Snyder and his organization was longer than the line of Commanders fans looking to get new gear at Ghost Town Field.

There were revelations that should make those in power who do the owner’s bidding these days — team President Jason Wright, head coach Ron Rivera, among them — sick when they cash their checks.

“Biggest thing is that 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 2020, speaking about moving on within six months of taking the job — the message he still is trying to convince people to swallow.

“Plus my daughter works for the team and I sure as hell am not going to allow any of this … Dan Snyder brought me here to change culture and create an environment of inclusion among employees. I believe everyone that works for this franchise has a vested interest in our success,” he said.

Does Rivera mean that Snyder should get a pass for what has happened in the past?

Former team employee Tiffani Johnston told the committee last week that Snyder tried to “aggressively” push her toward his limousine and encouraged her to take a ride with him. She said it made her uncomfortable as she repeatedly told him no.

“I learned that the only reason Dan Snyder removed his hand from my back and stopped pushing me towards his limo was because his attorney intervened and said, ‘Dan, Dan, this is a bad idea — a very bad idea, Dan,’” Johnston said. “I learned that I should remove myself from Dan’s grip while his attorney was distracting him.”

She said this happened in 2005 or 2006. Snyder, in his statement before he denied this, showed his uncontrollable arrogance when he first cited his worthless apologies and then pointed out the allegations made against him “are well over 13 years old” before calling them “outright lies.”

If they are lies, what does it matter when these incidents happened?

Johnston is somebody’s daughter. Would it matter to Rivera if something like his happened to his daughter 15 years ago?

Then there is Wright, who, when he was hired by Snyder and his wife Tanya — the Commanders’ co-owner — spoke of “values” and “transparency” in an interview with Front Office Sports in August 2020.

“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 Rivera.”

Here’s your “values” and “transparency.”

After responding to the Washington Post stories about former football team workers alleging sexual misconduct and bullying inside the organization under Snyder’s rule, the owner hired NFL mouthpiece Beth Wilkinson to supposedly look into the charges. A few days later, after questions about a conflict of interest and the credibility of such a probe, Snyder claimed he asked the NFL to take over the investigation.

This was the Snyder statement: “Recently, the Washington Football Team launched an independent third-party investigation into allegations about our culture and incidents of harassment. In conversations with Commissioner (Roger) Goodell, Tanya and I suggested that the NFL assume full oversight of the investigation so that the results are thorough, complete and trusted by the fans, the players, our employees and the public. I appreciate Commissioner Goodell agreeing to our suggestion and the entire Washington Football Team remains committed to fully cooperating with all aspects of the investigation.”

There is not one lick of transparency in that statement.

The House committee released a document last week that revealed there was nothing “independent” about this investigation.

Snyder and the NFL had a deal known as a “common interest agreement” that essentially meant the league “may not have been able to release the results of the Wilkinson investigation to the public without the permission of team owner Daniel Snyder, who himself has been accused of multiple acts of sexual misconduct by his employees, most recently during yesterday’s committee roundtable,” according to the committee.

The agreement, the committee said, gave the NFL or Washington permission to “bury the findings” from the investigation.

These are revelations, but they are not surprises. Wilkinson was never about helping the victims or getting to the truth in this probe. She was about doing what she was told.

My column from July 2020:

Wilkinson — an ROTC scholarship student at Princeton and former Army lawyer — will likely be a good soldier. She knows how the NFL likes to do business. She’s done it before.

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.

“Like the Catholic Church speaking out against Galileo’s contention that the earth revolved around the sun, Wilkinson insisted during the class-action lawsuit brought by thousands of players — many of them brain-damaged — that the NFL did not hide or suppress medical information about the long-term damage caused by concussions.

“We strongly deny those allegations that we withheld any information or misled the players,” Wilkinson told reporters during the litigation battle.”

She’ll do just fine.

What they didn’t count on then were those Jon Gruden-Bruce Allen emails kickstarting again the outrage over the NFL’s coverup of the Wilkinson report.

An inconvenient truth.

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

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


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