It’s unclear who has access to the 650,000 emails from the WFT investigation that supposedly would be kept secret and safe. It is clear that one or more people have failed to kept these emails secret, or safe.
Joining Jon Gruden on the selective-leak hit list is Jeff Pash, the NFL’s general counsel who may or may not be facing jeopardy after his emails with former Washington president Bruce Allen were leaked and reported both by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal on Thursday night.
Although Pash’s comments land nowhere near the poisonous ballpark in which multiple Gruden emails resided, Pash has been a lawyer for decades. He should be able to understand the very clear connection between reducing words to writing and having those writings show up later. At a minimum, his emails show a too-cozy relationship with Allen, the kind of relationship that could undermine the competitive integrity of the league.
Setting aside for now (but not for long) whether decisions about concealing the emails were aimed at protecting Pash, the problem remains that the documents are not fully concealed. They’ve become weaponized, and the weapon has been used twice in less than a week.
Someone wanted Gruden out. They got their wish. Someone wanted to at least discredit and at most destroy Pash. The former has happened; the latter still could.
Although releasing all of the emails would create consequences for any others who have sent problematic emails to Allen (or whose emails otherwise were included in the broader probe), it would obliterate the ability to selectively target people for embarrassment and/or unemployment.
Gruden got what he deserved, but he has been treated unfairly. Both can be true. And it likewise would be unfair for others to have to worry about whether they’ll eventually say or do something to land on someone’s enemies list to the point where their past emails will be used against them.
For example, what if former Washington assistant Sean McVay, who now coaches the Rams, says or does something to sufficiently piss off someone with access to those 650,000 emails? What if that person (or persons) then dips into the 650,000 emails to see if there’s anything that remotely could be used against McVay?
This doesn’t mean McVay has anything to worry about. However, anyone who sent or received emails on a WFT server in the decade or so preceding the investigation now has to worry about whether they have something to worry about.
It’s a great way, frankly, to keep a wide swath of people in line. Even if there’s nothing in the emails sent by any one person that would cause problems, anyone whose emails are in that 650,000-document stack has a reason to not tug on Superman’s cape. To not say or do anything that would motivate whoever has access to those emails to take a fresh look and to see if that person can be silenced in the same way that Gruden was.
That’s why EVERYTHING should be on the table. And that’s why media and fans should keep clamoring. Ultimately, it’s why someone in Congress should convene a hearing on this matter and demand that all of the emails be released.
Does Congress have better things to do? Yes. But Congress can do many things at once. The NFL has become a key part of our shared public life. Most of the teams rely on public money for their stadiums. The Washington Football Team had a sufficiently toxic work environment to justify a full-blown investigation. Now, the results of an investigation into serious wrongdoing is being used to (wait for it) potentially commit unrelated serious wrongdoing.
It needs to end, and the only way to do it is to release all of the documents.