The U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee wants to learn more about the Washington Football Team workplace investigation that resulted in a leak of emails that triggered the abrupt resignation of Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Via John Keim of ESPN.com, one of the representatives who signed Thursday’s letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell fears that the Gruden emails represent the “tip of the iceberg.”
“The way they handle issues of race and gender and the way they treat their employees really influences the way society handles those very issues,” Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) told Keim. “We’re very much interested in learning more about exactly why the NFL did what they did and the way they did it.”
Krishnamoorthi (pictured) justified the probe by pointing to the fact that the NFL “holds a special place in American life.”
The NFL also secures significant public funding for stadiums, generates billions from public interest in the product, and enjoys a Congressionally-granted exemption from antitrust liability for broadcast negotiations. Krishnamoorthi alluded to the latter in his comments to Keim.
“The Washington Football Team and the NFL enjoy special privileges under our antitrust laws,” Krishnamoorthi told Keim. “We thought it was important to get to the bottom of what’s going on in the NFL, in regards to the Washington Football Team in the way they handled their employees. What we’ve seen so far is deeply disturbing.”
The question is whether Gruden is an outlier or a symptom of a deeper problem.
“The biggest fear is that what Jon Gruden appears to engage in is much more common than what we otherwise thought,” Krishnamoorthi told Keim. “That’s what a lot of people are concerned about.”
The NFL has said it “look[s] forward” to communicating with Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chair of the Committee. However, the league has said nothing about cooperating with the request that a wide range of documents and information be provided. If the NFL refuses to comply voluntarily, subpoenas could be issued.
“If the NFL were not to cooperate after we attempted to work with them to enlist their cooperation, then we do have the tools to compel the production of documents,” Krishnamoorthi told Keim. “But our hope is it doesn’t get there. I hope we can work with them to get this information.”
The league has repeatedly said it won’t disclose the results of the investigation. The question becomes whether the league will unleash the legal hounds to fight Congress, in the same way the league has fought the litigation over the relocation of the Rams. Then, the question becomes whether the league will erect fair and proper barriers, or whether it will engage in the same game of “three-card monte” of which the judge in St. Louis recently accused some owners of playing.
Regardless, the truth needs to come out. Someone within the NFL is hiding it. The harder they try to hide it, the harder the efforts to get to the truth should proceed.