What does Tuesday’s news of the settlement of claims that could have been made by former Washington Football Team cheerleaders mean to the ongoing investigation of the team’s culture, and to the status of owner Daniel Snyder? We don’t know. And we won’t know, until the NFL announces the discipline (if any) to be imposed as a result of the ongoing investigation of the team.
Last week, Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters that the investigation, which was started by the team and commandeered by the league, is close to completion. Per the Washington Post, multiple advocacy groups sent a letter to Goodell urging that the results of the investigation be made public.
“There cannot be accountability without transparency,” the letter argues. “Many dozens of women courageously came forward, at great risk to their careers, livelihood and well-being, to expose the practices that you correctly labeled as abhorrent. . . . If the NFL fails to release the report, these women will feel — correctly, we believe — that the risk they took was in vain and that Mr. Snyder succeeded in silencing them.”
The league could tiptoe around transparency by citing privacy concerns relating to the alleged victims and witnesses. Their identify easily could be concealed or redacted, however.
The league has a history of making the reports generated by outside investigations public. The league published the #Deflategate report from Ted Wells, as well as Wells’ prior project from the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal. The NFL likewise held nothing back when trying to hammer the Saints for the bounty scandal. However, full transparency was not provided in the investigation sparked by the confidential settlement agreements executed by former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. Given that Richardson voluntarily chose to sell the team, it wasn’t critical to get into all of the details.
If, as it has seemed from the get go, the league isn’t inclined to force Snyder to sell, it’s important to know why that decision was made. It’s important to have a basis for scrutinizing that decision. It’s important to understand whether and to what extent the outcome has been influenced by concerns that the precedent potentially set in Snyder’s case would impact other owners who may have engaged in similar activity — or who may fear a rash of threatened civil lawsuits brought by disgruntled former employees who realize the power that they hold over owners who fear that past behavior, actual or alleged, could create significant problems in the present and future.
Regardless, the public needs to know what the investigation uncovers. That becomes even more important if the end result for Snyder will be nothing more than a fine.