The report published on Thursday by the House Oversight Committee made accusations against both the Commanders and the NFL. As to the latter, the Committee said the league “buried” the results of the Beth Wilkinson investigation.
The league has issued a response to the report.
“The NFL is committed to ensuring that all employees of the NFL and the 32 clubs work in a professional and supportive environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, or other forms of illegal or unprofessional conduct,” Chief NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy said, via Ben Standig of TheAthletic.com. “The NFL and the 32 clubs have implemented substantial and effective programs to advance this commitment at all of our facilities.
“The investigation into the Commanders’ workplace that was conducted by Beth Wilkinson’s firm was independent and thorough. No individual who wished to speak to the Wilkinson firm was prevented from doing so by non-disclosure agreements. And many of the more than 150 witnesses who participated in the Wilkinson investigation did so on the condition that their identities would be kept confidential. Far from impeding the investigation, the common interest agreement enabled the NFL efficiently to assume oversight of the matter and avoided the potential for substantial delay and inconvenience to witnesses.
“Following the completion of Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation, the NFL issued a public release and imposed a record-setting fine on the club and its ownership. The club also implemented a series of recommendations by the Wilkinson firm and an independent firm has monitored the implementation of those recommendations through regular reviews of the Commanders’ workplace. All of these reviews, which were shared with the Committee, have concluded that the Commanders have made significant improvements in workplace culture and policies.
“Over the past 13 months, the NFL has cooperated extensively with the Committee’s investigation, producing nearly a half million pages of documents, responding to dozens of written inquiries, and voluntarily participating in a two-and-a-half hour public hearing during which Commissioner Goodell answered 128 questions.”
That’s all fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that the league did indeed bury, as a matter of fact not opinion, the outcome of the Wilkinson investigation. She was supposed to produce a written report. Ultimately, the league didn’t want one.
Her written report would have included a recommendation that Commanders owner Daniel Snyder be forced to sell. That was initially reported by 106.7 The Fan, which got its hands on a portion of her written but unpublished report in early 2021, and it was confirmed by PFT in February 2022.
The NFL continues to justify its decisions by pointing to the promise of anonymity given to some of the Commanders employees who cooperated with the Wilkinson investigation. The NFL continues to insist that anonymity could not have been preserved by simply changing names to something neutral, like John or Jane Doe.
The Oversight Committee’s report chides the NFL for this flaw of basic logic, pointing out that the NFL issued a lengthy report nine years ago after the bullying scandal in Miami, with certain names concealed. That easily could have been done here.
In July 2021, the NFL was protecting Snyder — possibly to avoid creating a precedent that would apply to other owners now or in the future, or possibly to protect the league office from tough questions about what 345 Park Avenue knew and when it knew it as to years of toxicity within the Commanders’ front office. To the extent that the league should have been exercising the slightest amount of supervision as to the various franchises operating under the auspices The Shield, it had apparently failed to do so.
The league also possibly was treading lightly regarding Snyder to avoid retaliation by him.
Whatever the reason for the league’s actions, it wanted to brush the Wilkinsons findings, along with her big-picture recommendations, under the rug. The NFL has now been called out publicly for doing that which anyone who has been paying attention to the situation already knew it did.
Will that change anything at this point? Probably not. The league will continue to keep a stiff upper lip and claim it did nothing wrong. Others who know better will believe otherwise.
And the bright, shiny objects that are NFL games will continue to change the subject. Even though tonight’s offering (Raiders at Rams) isn’t very bright or shiny, it starts at 8:15 p.m. ET.
From the league’s perspective, kickoff can’t come soon enough.