The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform wants to know more about the Washington Football Team workplace misconduct investigation and the manner in which the league handed it. There’s another important, but largely overlooked, aspect of the Congressional inquiry.
The Committee wants to know more about the use of non-disclosure agreements by NFL teams.
Last Thursday’s letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell asks the league to “confirm the number of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements reported to the NFL, or entered into by the NFL, from January 1, 2016, through the present, including the names of the teams involved, dates of the agreements, and whether the agreements resulted from allegations of discrimination and retaliation.”
The letter also asks this question: “What actions has the NFL taken, if any, regarding the use of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements in matters related to workplace abuses since January 1, 2016?”
It’s an important subject, because it was the disclosed terms of multiple non-disclosure agreements in late 2017 that resulted in Panthers founder Jerry Richardson promptly deciding to sell the team.
Mary Jo White, whom the league hired to conduct an investigation regarding the Carolina situation, recommended that the league ban the use of NDAs. The league has never said whether it followed her advice.
NFL owners, like other people of extreme means, use NDAs to buy silence. The problem is that, by dangling a stack of cash to resolve potential claims and also buy silence, misconduct never comes to light. However, when certain types of misconduct come to light, owners may end up being forced to sell.
That’s what the league is trying to avoid.