Despite saying very little, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says a lot. In some cases, he says things are one way - like teams' hiring practices being "unacceptable" - though our eyes clearly tell us otherwise. I would like to know if there is any way to get Goodell to be candid once in a while and find out if he regrets the way he handled the investigation into the Washington Commanders' toxic workplace culture. There are so many people watching the league and some of its teams these days, and it's not for the sake of applauding its increased television ratings.
In connection with Wednesday's news from The New York Times, it was reported that Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington attorneys general wrote a joint letter to James letter to the NFL threatening to investigate the league's offices after an investigation of the Times published in February detailed a workplace that demeaned and demoralized women and minorities. As reported by The New York Times on Wednesday, the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington wrote a letter to New York state attorney general Letitia Jamesich it is supposed to share with the league's 31 other teams. The Commanders have denied the accusation.
As reported by The New York Times on Wednesday, the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington wrote a letter to New York state attorney general Letitia James team's business practices as well. And there was also a Capitol Hill roundtable in February, during which several former employees recounted years of uncomfortable at best, nightmarish at worst misconduct they endured or saw in team offices.
As the NFL trots out public service announcements to give the impression it is doing better, it is easy for the league to claim to do better. Goodell and his employers, the franchise owners, may be made to squirm by Congress and state AGs digging into this. That brings us back to the initial investigation in Washington, and Goodell's management of it that contributed to this domino effect of negative headlines and closer examinations. The commissioner promised to do better after the Ray Rice suspensi
on in 2014. The public outcry against Goodell following Rice's assault on his then-fiancee and dragging her off the elevator where it took place was too strong to dismiss after he initially suspended Rice for two games.
NFL offices have added more women and non-white employees and executives, but women interviewed for The New York Times' February article say the league is still highly committed to preserving its "overall whiteness."While he claims the NFL will be more transparent, the findings of the investigation into Washington's workplace culture have been protected as fiercely as nuclear weapons. A report wasn't only not released, but Beth Wilkinson's firm was also told not to produce a written report, ostensibly because anything written could be leaked (just ask Jon Gruden).
Washington, not Snyder, received a small fine, and Snyder was instructed not to interfere with the team's daily activities. In addition, he was allowed to buy out the franchise's minority owners. For most hardcore NFL fans, none of these stories matter off the field. Washington doesn't seem to care that female employees were abused and harassed, or if Snyder was effectively sharing revenues with the other franchise owners as he was supposed to (although judging by Washington's attendance in recent years, they weren't missing out on much revenue).
There are many Commanders fans who care about the team's performance, and they are aware that the franchise has made few playoff appearances, and that its quarterbacks have been changed on a regular basis. Washington's ownership class hasn't let that stop them from protecting him, as if there weren't another billionaire who is slightly more likable and who would pony up to bring some respectability to one of the league's oldest clubs. If, however, you look beyond the standings and have been following some of the terrible stories swirling around the league in recent months, you might wonder if Goodell regrets not telling the public some of what the women in Washington team offices went through and not taking a harder stance with Snyder. Since then, things have seemed to get worse.