The investigation of the Washington Football Team generated 650,000 emails that supposedly would be hidden from view forever. Until they weren’t.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, a very small group of people had access to the WFT emails. As mentioned yesterday, Washington owner Daniel Snyder met with Commissioner Roger Goodell and a small group of owners at some point in June. Those people had access to the emails.
Someone from that small group leaked to the media emails that had been sent by Jon Gruden, who at the time was working for ESPN, to former Washington president Bruce Allen. Then, someone (maybe the same person, maybe not) leaked emails sent by NFL general counsel Jeff Pash to Allen.
The league has denied that it leaked any of the information. But even if the league office didn’t leak it (assuming that’s the truth), someone connected to the league did it. Unless someone hacked the files, someone with “the league” (i.e., the league office or an owner or league or team lawyers involved in the situation) decided to give Gruden emails to the Wall Street Journal on October 8 and to the New York Times on October 11. The first leak created a major issue; the second leak sealed Gruden’s fate.
If the emails never had been leaked, Gruden may still be coaching the Raiders. Given the short but loaded comments from team owner Mark Davis, it’s safe to say he’s not happy that he was forced to change coaches during a season. Thus, it’s safe to assume Davis would not have fired Gruden (at least not during the season) for emails that he sent before he returned to the Raiders.
Thus, whoever leaked them brought down Gruden. Whoever leaked the Pash emails created a separate problem for the NFL’s general counsel that, barring additional leaks (and who knows whether there will be), apparently won’t force Pash out.
Someone with access to these emails has used them as a weapon. The league recently declined comment to PFT on whether it’s investigating the source of the leak. If the trail of bread crumbs doesn’t lead back to 345 as to Gruden, it may lead to the owner of one of the NFL’s teams.
As to Pash, it’s much more likely that the league office didn’t leak the materials. In other words, it’s much more likely that someone in ownership or connected to someone in ownership has decided to dip into the trove of otherwise secret emails and secretly make them not secret anymore.
Whether they’ll say it or not, the league should be investigating, aggressively. Whether they’ll do it or not, the people who have weaponized these emails should be made accountable. Whether the NFL will release the rest of the emails or not, they should do it in order to prevent others from being victimized by selective leaks.