WFT investigation: Congressman details concerns before Nov. 4 deadline
The trade deadline was not the only important NFL due date this week.
The league is under renewed pressure to release a detailed report of what it found during its investigation into the Washington Football Team's toxic workplace culture. While 40 former WFT employees who alleged mistreatment by the team continue to demand the release of information, Congress added additional support with a deadline of Thursday for the NFL.
"The manner in which the investigation was handled by the NFL, it raised a lot of eyebrows," Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, said during an exclusive interview. "One of the things that caught everyone's attention was that the NFL told the lead investigator, a former federal prosecutor, not to write anything down."
Last month, Rep. Krishnamoorthi and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a five-page letter requesting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell release "all documents and communication obtained in connection with the investigation into the WFT" by Thursday, Nov. 4.
The allegations, originally reported by the Washington Post, detailed the accounts of 15 women saying they experienced sexual harassments, including a report that former broadcaster and team executive Larry Michael ordered a lude video shoot of a team cheerleader. Michael has denied the allegations.
Rep. Krishnamoorthi described the reports as disturbing, distressing and revolting.
Congress is asking questions of the NFL:Here's what it means, and what might happen next
"What is really troubling is we don't really know what the NFL found during it's investigation and why they ended up doing what they did," Rep. Krishnamoorthi said.
Instead of releasing full details of its findings in July that concluded that the culture within the team was "highly unprofessional," the NFL fined the team $10 million and owner Daniel Snyder stepped back from his day-to-day roles. Tanya Snyder, Daniel's wife, took more of a leadership role within the organization.
"We have to look at the documents to see exactly what happened," Rep. Krishnamoorthi said. "At this point, we just can't answer the question sufficiently to our satisfaction that the $10 million fine of the football team, not of the owner or other personnel, is sufficient at this time."
The NFL's special counsel for the investigation said the investigator for the Washington Football Team, Beth Wilkinson, a former federal prosecutor, did not file a written report for the accounts she found during the investigation.
This isn't something Rep. Krishnamoorthi has heard of happening in any other case.
"In almost every instance of sexual harassments, usually the investigation involves a written report, and in a lot of cases, especially with a sports team, they will release it to the public."
Last month, the National Hockey League shared a written report of the investigation into the sexual abuse by former Chicago Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich and subsequent inaction within the organization.
"The Blackhawks issued a report of more than 100 pages detailing the findings and leading to certain consequences for certain officials with the team," Rep. Krishnamoorthi said of his hometown hockey team. "And yet in this particular instance with the Washington Football Team, none of that happened."
The emails spanning 2011-2018 involved exchanges between then-Washington executive Bruce Allen and former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who resigned last month after his emails were exposed containing homophobic, misogynistic and racist language.
The information contained within the NFL's investigation of the Washington Football team is of public interest, which is why Congress is getting involved, Rep. Krishnamoorthi said.
"Congress bestows that anti-trust exemption on the NFL and in return we expect the NFL and other leagues that enjoy that exemption to act, at least in part, in the public interest," Rep. Krishnamoorthi said. "We will be scrutinizing whether they did in this instance."
The goal is to review all documents, information and emails to determine if the league acted in the public interest. Rep. Krishnamoorthi expects the league to comply voluntarily based on his previous experience on the oversight committee. If the league does not comply, Congress has tools to extract the information and review the documents.
"If we really want to have safe workplaces we need to make sure what happened at the Washington Football Team doesn't happen again and that the way it was investigated was done properly."