The attorneys representing a large number of former employees of the Washington Football Team continue to assail the punishment dispensed by the league to the team and the “voluntary” suspension to be served by owner Daniel Snyder.
“I think it’s outrageous,” attorney Lisa Banks told Scott Abraham of WJLA-TV. “I think we have seen that there’s been no transparency and no accountability here, and I have over 40 clients who are truly devastated.”
She’s right. The stunning and irregular decision to not commission investigator Beth Wilkinson to generate a written report cuts off any and all potential pressure on the league to release the written report.
“We asked the NFL to release this on multiple occasions, ” Banks said regarding the report that never was written. “The league seems to be in the business of protecting the owners and that’s certainly what they did here. If [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell doesn’t have a written report in his hands, he doesn’t have the tough decision about whether to make it public or not.”
That said, it’s possible (but unlikely) that there is a written report, and that the official position is that there isn’t one. It’s also still possible that a written report could be generated after the fact, if the league is willing to hear and heed the legitimate criticism of the effort to conceal specific facts discovered during the investigation, hiding behind the overly broad and excessively vague notion that the information must be protected in deference to those who came forward to make complaints about the treatment they endured.
The former employees represented by Banks and Debra Katz obviously aren’t interested in keeping things confidential.
“They’re devastated, they are absolutely devastated,” Banks said regarding their clients. “I’m getting call after call, text after text, telling me that they’re physically ill hearing this news, and they are just feeling so disappointed and dispirited.”
While we agree wholeheartedly with the disappointment arising from the lack of any transparency and thus the absence of full accountability, there’s another reason for Banks, Katz, and their clients to be upset. The existence of a written report would have greatly simplified any litigation that still could be in the offing regarding the misconduct that occurred.
That said, the information contained in Wilkinson’s files likely would be discoverable and ultimately admissible in such lawsuits; there’s likely no attorney-client privilege that attaches to the fact-finding in which Wilkinson engaged. Likewise, the substance of her communications with the league regarding the investigation likely can be explored, through questioning under oath.
The process necessarily becomes a little more convoluted and imperfect, however, without the availability of written materials created contemporaneously with such communications — and especially without a full and complete narrative from the firm that conducted an investigation that entailed more than 150 interviews.
And let’s not lose sight of the broader reality. The fact that Goodell reached such damning conclusions without the benefit of a written report proves just how bad the contents of the report would have been, and still could be, for Snyder. Specific details about things said and done to current and former employees under the culture created by Snyder could be more than enough to create the kind of groundswell that would force Snyder to sell the team — voluntarily, of course.