On at least two occasions during Tuesday’s press conference after the first day of the first in-person ownership meetings since December 2019, Commissioner Roger Goodell justified the absence of transparency regarding the Washington Football Team investigation by explaining that the league released a “summary of findings” from attorney Beth Wilkinson, who conducted the probe.
Some were confused by the references to a “summary of findings,” because no specific factual findings were disclosed when the discipline of owner Daniel Snyder was disclosed on July 1.
Per the league, the “summary of findings” appears in these two paragraphs from the press release issued that day:
“Based on Wilkinson’s review, the Commissioner concluded that for many years the workplace environment at the Washington Football Team, both generally and particularly for women, was highly unprofessional. Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear, and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace.
“Ownership and senior management paid little or no attention to these issues. In some instances, senior executives engaged in inappropriate conduct themselves, including use of demeaning language and public embarrassment. This set the tone for the organization and led to key executives believing that disrespectful behavior and more serious misconduct was acceptable in the workplace. The problems were compounded by inadequate HR staff and practices and the absence of an effectively and consistently administered process for reporting or addressing employee complaints, as well as a widely reported fear of retaliation. When reports were made, they were generally not investigated and led to no meaningful discipline or other response.”
These broad, general conclusions lack any specifics or examples of conduct that caused the Commissioner to determine that the workplace environment “was highly unprofessional,” that “bullying and intimidation frequently took place,” that “many described the culture as one of fear,” that “numerous female employees” experienced sexual harassment, and that ownership and senior management ignored the situation and provided no meaningful mechanism for reporting complaints. The league continues to hide behind the notion that, just because an unspecified number of former or current employees requested anonymity, the ENTIRE INVESTIGATION must be cloaked in secrecy.
The league’s position offends the intelligence of the average person, or even the below-average person (like me). Some wanted their names left out of it, so the entire investigation is kept under wraps? It’s malarkey. It’s nonsense. It’s bovine excrement.
The league is keeping the specifics quiet because, if we knew about the specific words and/or actions that sparked the conclusions contained in the “summary of findings,” Washington owner Daniel Snyder likely would have to sell the team. And, more importantly, other owners would have to worry about similar entanglements for themselves.
What if, for example, an employee of some other team saw in writing the specific actions that sparked the conclusions reached by Wilkinson and said, “I deal with that every day”? It wouldn’t take all that much to give employees of other teams a roadmap for making similar allegations.
So by protecting Snyder, they protect themselves. That’s why the NFL won’t be disclosing any of the information — and why it will take whatever nonsensical position that it has to take to justify disclosing none of the specific findings that led to the very broad and troubling conclusions that the Commissioner made.