When assessing the NFL’s bogus claim that, in order to protect any current or former Washington Commanders employees who requested anonymity when cooperating with the Beth Wilkinson investigation, all facts and findings must be kept completely and totally secret, we’ve pointed to other situations in which it has been enough to simply redact the names of persons who feared retaliation or unwanted scrutiny.
As it turns out, we didn’t have to look as far afield as we did for examples. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) pointed out during his Wednesday questioning of Commissioner Roger Goodell that redaction was good enough for the league, in the report generated by the Miami bullying scandal involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.
“In the case of the Dolphins, my recollection is that no one asked for any confidentiality,” Goodell said.
“They did because their names were redacted,” Raskin pointed out.
“In Washington, not only did they ask for confidentiality, in many case, we also promised them confidentiality,” Goodell said.
“That’s what redaction is for,” Raskin replied.
Goodell, finally caught in a corner, gave this final justification: “Congressman, I promise you, redaction doesn’t always work in my world.”
But it did work with the Dolphins. And Goodell’s recollection is wrong as to whether anyone asked for confidentiality. Here’s the key passage from the Miami report:
“Because of the extraordinary public interest in this matter, the Commissioner made the decision that the full Report as presented to him, without any redactions or modifications, will be released to the public. Accordingly, we attempted to protect the privacy of certain individuals whom we interviewed or wrote about, recognizing that many of them never asked to be dragged into the spotlight. In some cases, witnesses specifically asked that their identities remain confidential — a few even seemed to fear potential retaliation for cooperating with our inquiry—and we honored their requests. The NFLPA was sensitive to the privacy concerns expressed by some witnesses and was helpful in obtaining the necessary cooperation. We hope that by demonstrating sensitivity to issues of privacy and requests for confidentiality, we will encourage witnesses to cooperate with any future investigations by the NFL (unconnected with this matter) that may result in public reports.”
That’s how to strike the balance between secrecy and transparency. That’s how the NFL has done it in the past. That’s the precedent that was genuinely forgotten (at best) or deliberately ignored (at worst) by 345 Park Avenue. (We’d bet the latter.)
The most plausible explanation is that the NFL thinks we’re stupid enough to buy the idea that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed without absolute secrecy. Or that the NFL is stubborn enough (and Goodell is skilled enough) to recite disingenuous talking points with a straight face until the awkward conversation inevitably ends.
It’s nevertheless possible, giving the NFL the benefit of the doubt, that the powers-that-be feared Commanders owner Daniel Snyder would reverse engineer the Wilkinson report in order to figure out the identity of anyone and everyone whose name was redacted from the final report. But if that’s the case — if the NFL reasonably believes that Snyder is so vindictive that he’d devote time and money to figuring out who the anonymous employees were in order to retaliate against them — why haven’t they already taken steps to get rid of him?