In its handling of the WFT investigation and punishment, the NFL opted (I believe) to protect owner Daniel Snyder and, in turn, to protect other owners who may face similar accusations or issues in the future. Someone else benefited indirectly from the league’s decision to choose secrecy over transparency.
Former team president Bruce Allen.
It’s widely believed that Snyder escaped a more serious sanction than up to $17 million fines and fees and a “voluntary” suspension that may or may not require Commissioner approval to be lifted because the league bought the notion that Snyder was, for years, an absentee landlord. The number of his annual days in the office making the rounds is 28. The rest of the time, someone else was in charge.
That someone else, for much of the time covered by attorney Beth Wilkinson’s investigation, was team president Bruce Allen.
Wilkinson’s investigation prompted Commissioner Roger Goodell to conclude “that for many years the workplace environment at the Washington Football Team, both generally and particularly for women, was highly unprofessional,” that “[b]ullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear, and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace,” that “[o]wnership and senior management paid little or no attention to these issues,” and that “senior executives engaged in inappropriate conduct themselves, including use of demeaning language and public embarrassment.”
Allen was a senior executive for a decade, from 2010 through 2019. His name, however, appears nowhere in the 29-paragraph, 2,084-word press release announce the outcome of the Wilkinson investigation.
There’s no reason to believe that the league tiptoed around Allen as a favor to him. Instead, the thinking is that the deference shown to Snyder incidentally encompassed Allen, allowing him to not be directly tied to any of the general conclusions because the league decided to conceal any specific findings or accusations. Thus, to the extent that a full and complete report potentially would have contained sentences beginning with “Bruce Allen said” or “Bruce Allen did” or “Bruce Allen knew,” the fact that no written report was created kept Allen from facing the music for anything he may have done, actually or allegedly.
That won’t save him completely, especially if/when litigation is filed by any current or former employees for whom the statute of limitations has not yet run. Given his former employer’s propensity to litigate, chances are that Snyder and the WFT will make third-party claims or cross-claims directly against Allen, blaming as much of the misbehavior as possible on Allen, and pushing as much responsibility away from Snyder.
Make no mistake about it, even at a time when many believe that the league went way too easy on Snyder, he likely won’t (in my opinion) pass on the chance to point a finger at someone else. The most obvious target is Bruce Allen.