NFL’s reasoning for secrecy in WFT investigation does not apply to the 650,000 emails

Washington Football Team Training Camp
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The passage of time often takes the steam out of a story. It shouldn’t, but it does.

Already, I find myself wondering whether and to what extent posting additional stories about the ongoing Gruden/WFT situation will prompt complaints from readers who have grown bored with the story, or who realize that the NFL will never relent in its refusal to release the 650,000 emails obtained during the workplace investigation of the Washington Football Team. Regardless, the story needs to continue to be pushed, until the league does the right thing and releases all of the emails.

As mentioned last night during Football Night in America, the failure to release all of the emails allows whoever has leaked some of the emails sent by former Raiders coach Jon Gruden and current NFL general counsel Jeff Pash to former WFT president Bruce Allen to eventually leak more of them. Or maybe someone else who has access to the 650,000 emails (and not many do) and who has yet to leak any of them will decide to leak some of them.

Beyond the troubling reality that someone from a small group of people with access to the emails has weaponized them, the emails need to be released. A slice of the real-world NFL lurks in those emails. And just enough of the poison has spilled to the media to make it fair and appropriate to demand to see the rest of the documents.

Consider the NFL’s basis for keeping information from the investigation secret. The league has justified secrecy regarding the WFT investigation as a vehicle for protecting current and former employees who shared their workplace experiences. The league explained in July, and reiterates now, that it decided that it would be most appropriate to summarize the findings of attorney Beth Wilkinson, instead of making public the information gathered during more than 150 interviews or current and former team employees.

That’s fine (even if it isn’t), but the interviews and the emails constitute two independent sources of potential evidence. The league can hide the information provided during interviews and still reveal the emails. Gruden’s toxic comments impacted no current or former employees. To the extent that any emails amount to substantive evidence of misconduct (e.g., a management-level employee browbeating a subordinate in writing), names can easily be redacted.

Would it require time and effort? Yes. But the league hasn’t said that it’s not releasing the emails because it would take too long or be too difficult. The league continues to hide behind the misguided notion that the results of interviews must completely be hidden because some employees requested confidentiality. (As explained in early August, the names of the employees could easily be changed to protect them, like they were in the public report released arising from the chronic workplace misconduct of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.)

We’re left to assume that flimsy reasons for secrecy are being advanced because the league knows that admitting the true reasons would be unacceptable. Obviously, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash didn’t want the emails released. Whether that same mindset applies to other team or league employees, it’s obvious that keeping the emails hidden ensures that there will be no consequences for anyone who sent any of them.

Indeed, if the Gruden emails had never been leaked to the media, there’s a good chance Gruden would still be coaching the team.

Thus, because the reason for keeping the emails secret is not credible or reasonable, the emails should be released immediately. Just because the NFL got through a weekend of games with no further leaks or significant developments doesn’t mean we should just move on. They want us to move on. They can’t wait for this to die down.

Isn’t that all the more reason to believe that there’s value in continuing to push for the truth to come out?

31 responses to “NFL’s reasoning for secrecy in WFT investigation does not apply to the 650,000 emails

  1. Then all of your emails should be leaked too. And the players. And the coaches. And every other organization. Then let’s see if that’s how you and everybody else want to play this out.

  2. I think the real reason for not releasing 650,000 emails to the public is “We’re a private company, it’s none of your business.” They’re not a government agency subject to a FOIA request. I know of know company, publicly or privately owned, that will release hundreds of thousands of emails about the inner workings of their business to the public just because some busybodies demand to read them.

  3. These emails were not personal if they were sent into or under a work setting. Moral of the story is if you put it in writing private or not it exists and can be used against you if it becomes public. It is what it is in the times we live in. The selective leaking of the Gruden stuff stinks and smells of diversionary tactics.

  4. They will never release the emails for the very reasons you say they should. Incriminating for very rich & powerful people. They’ll open an entire field of rabbit holes leading to politicians, corporate executives (a couple of whom are already incriminated), entertainers, media/journalists, former players …

  5. Mike – please do keep on pressing as well as your colleagues and peers in the media. This does require your relentless persuit and pressure – and giving this the necessary attention it deserves.

    This league is getting ridiculous.

  6. The NFL is just as likely to release these emails as it is to release the results of the football PSI testing it’s been conducting for the past six years.


    Then why release any at all? To strong arm a franchise to get rid of someone that called the commissioner, a name that the fans scream at him at the draft every year. Its all weak. The league has become the WWE, a soap opera for grown men.

  8. It’s a TRAP! says:
    October 18, 2021 at 1:45 pm
    How much you wanna bet there is info about the league black listing Kaepernick


    This is one reason among hundreds of others.

    Releasing this data would affect owners, executives, players, reporters, sponsors, etc. This info getting out would pull back the curtain that the league has been hiding behind for years.

  9. The e-mails should remain private. It is none of yours, mine or anyone else’s business.

  10. Unless Congress gets involved and waves that tax exempt status flag at the NFL, we ain’t hearing squat about the other emails. And as we all know, Congress has too many things to worry about than this mess.

  11. The NFL knew about the Gruden emails for a while. So why did they decide to release them now? What specifically happened that triggered the need to force Gruden to resign?

  12. Keep on it, Mike. No reason Gruden should be the only one to take the hit for the WFT’s malfeasance.

  13. They won’t release them, and frankly I don’t see why they would. It’s an internal investigation. What good would it do to release them? The only possible reason is if they think many more horrific emails are going to leak. Then they could try and get ahead of it. The real problem is that someone who had it out for Gruden leaked those emails. Who else do they have it out for?

  14. As a lifelong Raiders fan and a father of three girls I feel sad for my team; but, content that John Gruden had to go and what he said no matter how long ago has no place in the Raiders organization and society. Having said this, I don’t believe that out of the 650,000 emails, only Gruden made inappropriate and/or controversial statements. I do believe that there probably are some statements from very powerful and/or influential people in those other emails that would embarrass the NFL. Amy Trask did an interview with CBS and disclosed some interesting information about Gruden and Allen. People like Mike Florio and others should continue to push for full disclosure. Behind you all of the way…

  15. Keep this story burning until the truth is told. The NFL is just going to wait for or create a shinny object, or wait for the attention span of a two year old, that Americans seem to have to wane. The reasons given by the NFL to keep the emails secret are mute, because some of them have been released. It’s just someone we all know of, committing crimes or malicious acts in direct view of the public eye and then claiming Executive Privilege, it just doesn’t wash.

  16. If I’m Gruden, I’m suing the NFL until they are fully transparent and every detail (good or bad) comes out. Anything less is a perceived witch hunt against one individual.

  17. This isn’t a public corruption case; the NFL is a private business. Gruden may have a case, but not the rest of us.

  18. Mike,

    Keep up the good work.

    I am sure there are threads about how the league can strong-arm local and state governments to fund their play toys (stadiums) and how we, the taxpayers, get screwed in the end.

  19. BayAreaBrownsBacker says:
    October 18, 2021 at 4:56 pm
    If I’m Gruden, I’m suing the NFL until they are fully transparent and every detail (good or bad) comes out. Anything less is a perceived witch hunt against one individual.

    Gruden has no cause of action against the NFL or anyone else. Only one person is responsible for Gruden’s situation, Gruden himself. Gruden said what he said, he wrote what he wrote. No one forced him, and no one has a duty to hide his dirty laundry.

    Whether or not there was a witch hunt against Gruden is irrelevant. If Gruden was a decent human being who did not hold abhorrent beliefs he would have no problem.

  20. Again, why would anyone keep 650,000 emails from over 10 years ago unless they are required by law to do so? How many of you save old emails? Do you feel comfortable knowing someone out there is saving every one your emails, texts, tweet, and forum posts from 10, 15, 20 years ago? What if someone was recording and saving all your personal phone conversations? What if there were cameras recording you 24/7, would you want to live in that type of world? This is more of a privacy issue than anything else. Mr Florio wants them all released but I think they should all disappear after a certain amount of time. This is dangerous ground we are treading on here. It’s a confidentiality and privacy issue.

  21. I wanna see the suits that run the NFL(Goodell etc) and see what those emails to refs look like. Let’s see where all the funds are going as well. Some of it is going in these refs pockets to fix games and it isn’t spoken about enough!

  22. number1 says:
    October 18, 2021 at 6:29 pm
    Again, why would anyone keep 650,000 emails from over 10 years ago unless they are required by law to do so? How many of you save old emails? Do you feel comfortable knowing someone out there is saving every one your emails, texts, tweet, and forum posts from 10, 15, 20 years ago?…

    The 650,000 emails are not all from over 10 years ago. The total represents the aggregate amount of emails over a 10+ year period.

    The emails were not necessarily “saved”. Deleted emails can be recovered easily by any competent cyber technician. Additionally, many, many people never delete their emails.

    Why would anyone care if someone has his/her emails, texts, etc. from 10+ years ago? Presumably you meant what wrote in said emails, texts, etc. If you did not believe what you wrote back then you should never have sent the communication.

  23. There’s exactly zero upside to the league from releasing all the emails. Indeed, it’s entirely predictable somebody said something that will be controversial in 2021. It’s no surprise reporters want to troll through other people’s messages but expecting them to hand over a large cache of messages is unrealistic.

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