Last week, it appeared that Raiders coach Jon Gruden would weather the storm of a single email containing a racist trope. Then, more emails were leaked and Gruden’s ongoing employment became untenable.
So what happens with NFL general counsel Jeff Pash, who had multiple emails to former Washington president Bruce Allen leaked to multiple outlets on Thursday? Few have called for Pash to go, even though his actions (while not as shocking and blatant as Gruden’s) suggest not only favoritism toward one team but also a casual, nonchalant brand of racism and disregard of players. From a flippant comment about the wall along the Mexican border to a reference to efforts by Allen to squeeze a player to take less money as “the Lord’s work,” there’s a subtle poison oozing from Pash’s remarks to Allen.
Also, Pash occupies a high position in the league office. One of a handful of direct reports to Commissioner Roger Goodell, Pash is the top lawyer for the league. Many would say he should be held to a higher standard. Many would say he’s not fit for the job based solely on the emails released to date.
Then there’s the question of whether more emails will emerge. A week ago tonight, we all thought the Jon Gruden email regarding DeMaurice Smith was the lone bad apple in a bushel of Gruden emails to Allen. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. It’s fair to wonder, then, whether whoever leaked the Pash emails has a similar multi-step plan in mind. That if Pash doesn’t walk away after the first wave, a second will follow.
It’s also fair to wonder whether the league’s request for an oral report only from investigator Beth Wilkinson came from Pash. On July 1, when the NFL announced the punishment levied against Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder, Pash participated in a media conference call but said little or nothing, while Lisa Friel recited talking points either crafted or approved by Pash. Low profile notwithstanding, Pash was neck deep in all decisions made about how the WFT investigation would be handled.
Did Pash want no documents to be released in order to conceal his communications with Allen? Did Pash recommend no transparency to protect an organization that he apparently favored? Those are fair questions. It’s also fair to wonder how much power Pash holds in the organization. Although not in football operations per se, it’s long been believed that he serves as the overseer of the football department, acting as the liaison, the consigliere, to Goodell.
Would Goodell give up his consigliere? That’s ultimately the question. Unless more Pash emails are leaked, it’s unlikely that his position will become as untenable as Gruden’s — even if it should be.
Time will tell whether it will be.