WASHINGTON, DC – The NFL did not provide documents before the deadline set by members of Congress in connection with its investigation of the Washington soccer team, according to a statement released Friday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. and confirmed by the league.
But an NFL spokesperson said the league had sent responses to questions in the committee’s Oct. 21 letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“On Thursday, the NFL provided responses to the questions in the Committee’s October 21 letter,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “As we have discussed with the committee, we are in the process of identifying response documents as we work on issues of privilege and anonymity promised to research participants.”
The league faced a deadline Thursday to submit “documents and information” on the team’s work culture and the league’s investigation into it. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, DN.Y., chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat of Illinois, requested the documents in a five-page letter that also posed several questions to the NFL commissioner. Roger Goodell.
Among the questions the committee wanted to know: the role of the league in Beth Wilkinson’s research on the work culture of the Washington soccer team; why there was no written report after talking to 150 people; what was the role of NFL general counsel Jeff Pash during the investigation after his close relationship with former WFT team president Bruce Allen was revealed in multiple emails. Allen was fired after the 2019 season.
“Commissioner Goodell said that the NFL will cooperate with Congress and we hope that he will fulfill that promise by submitting the requested documents,” Representative Maloney said in a statement. “In a spirit of transparency, I ask the NFL and the Washington football team to honor the commissioner’s public statement that witnesses to the team’s hostile workplace culture are ‘welcome’ to come forward. Congress has the responsibility to combat harassment and discrimination in the workplace. If the NFL shares our commitment to addressing these issues, it will be fully transparent about the findings of the internal review and allow all people to speak freely without fear of retaliation “.
“While Commissioner Roger Goodell has told the press that victims and witnesses are free to make their story public, you should know that many of them do not have that option,” added Rep. Krishnamoorthi. “Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington soccer team, has loaded them with gag orders, preventing them from coming forward for fear of retaliation. If the NFL and WFT are serious about addressing, among other things, sexual harassment within their organizations must allow these people to speak freely. The NFL has committed to producing documents. We look forward to seeing them. “
Some of the 650,000 emails accumulated during the investigation were leaked to media organizations last month, prompting the resignation of Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden on October 11. He had sent emails to then-WFT team president Bruce Allen containing misogynistic, racist, and anti-gay language.
Goodell has said no report was released after the league’s nearly year-long investigation into the WFT and owner Dan Snyder because some of those interviewed wanted anonymity and therefore no public report. The NFL announced its findings on July 2 and fined the franchise $ 10 million.
But since the Gruden emails were released, the league has come under public pressure, including from attorneys for 40 women who have reported sexual harassment while working for the team, to release the full findings, including more emails.
“The way they handle race and gender issues and the way they treat their employees really influences the way society handles those same issues,” Krishnamoorthi told ESPN last month. “We are very interested in learning more about exactly why the NFL did what it did and how it did it.”
The committee’s letter raised concerns about the nondisclosure agreements the former employees signed and sought more information about the role of NFL attorney general Jeff Pash in the investigation. Pash’s emails to Allen, among which were recently leaked to the media, showed a friendly relationship between the two, and representatives want to know how that may have affected the investigation. Allen was fired after the 2019 season.
Krishnamoorthi said the committee wants to determine whether new or stricter laws are needed to help employees in similar settings. He said they also want to make sure the NFL doesn’t cover up information through nondisclosure agreements signed by former Washington employees.
They also searched the names and titles of everyone who supervised the investigation.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky), the highest-ranking minority member of the Oversight committee, said Democrats on the committee are out of touch to think that Congress has a role in settling the WFT issue.
“Americans are currently facing an unprecedented border crisis, skyrocketing inflation, a supply chain breakdown and an underperforming economy,” Comer said in a statement. “The latest theatricals by the Democrats are clearly a last-ditch effort to distract the American people from President Biden’s self-inflicted crisis.”
The Oversight and Reform Committee is one of the most powerful committees in Congress. Employees described it as “broad powers” that allow it to research any industry or topic chosen by its members.
Democrats have the majority of the House and therefore control what will happen next in the WFT investigation. Several committee staff members told ESPN that the next few weeks will likely be a time of negotiation between the NFL and senior committee staff. A Congressional source told ESPN the league had contacted Republican committee staff at least three times before Thursday’s deadline.
A pair of Republican employees told ESPN that they felt the investigation was an overreach, arguing that Congress should not get involved in a human resources investigation of a private organization.
But some Democrats’ staff members said they wanted the entire committee to hold a hearing regardless of what documents the NFL eventually produces, in hopes of pressuring the NFL to change its culture.
When and whether to hold a hearing is still being debated. The Committee generally schedules hearings three months in advance. Congress already has a tight schedule to tackle before the end of the year, including voting on the president’s national agenda and government funding. There is also a general expectation that Congress will focus heavily on the anniversary of the January 6 insurrection.
Still, employees on both sides cautioned that the NFL is high-profile and “fresh” enough that they can’t rule out a hearing before the end of the year.
At a hearing, Republicans would be allowed to invite one witness for every three witnesses called by Democrats. Due to Covid-19, witnesses have been allowed to testify virtually.
The Committee has the legal authority to subpoena documents and compel witnesses who would prefer not to testify, similar to a court case. But subpoenas are generally considered a last-ditch effort if negotiations and hearings don’t satisfy the Democrats who lead the committee.
Since the investigation ended, Snyder has turned day-to-day operations over to his wife and co-CEO, Tanya. But he remains involved, focusing on finding a site for a new stadium and also attending the games.
Notable members of the committee include Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-Washington, DC, who represents the team’s hometown and has long faced Snyder. She and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced last year that the team would never be allowed to build a stadium in the District unless the team dropped its previous moniker. He did it a few months later. Snyder’s desire for a new stadium could continue to give Norton an advantage during the investigation.
The team currently plays in Maryland and practices in Virginia, whose suburbs could also become home to a new stadium. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-MD, Rep. John Sarbanes, D-MD, Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-MD, and Rep. Gerrald Connelly, D-VA, all serve on the committee.
There are at least 10 more Democrats on the city committee with an NFL team, including Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nashville and Chicago.