Try as it might, the NFL can’t seem to tamp down requests for the full results of an investigation into the Washington Football Team that ultimately revealed racist, sexist and misogynistic emails from former Raiders coach Jon Gruden and led to his resignation.
Up to now, the league has remained steadfast in its position that it won’t release anything else related to the probe. The league has also said that no other current team personnel were implicated or found to have committed any wrongdoing.
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That wasn’t enough for Congress. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is launching its own investigation into the NFL’s handling of the matter.
Here’s what we know:
What is the House Oversight and Reform Committee investigating?
The Oversight Committee is the main investigative body of the House and has broad latitude in terms of what it investigates.
The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the main investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. It has authority to investigate the subjects within the Committee’s legislative jurisdiction as well as “any matter” within the jurisdiction of the other standing House Committees.
In this case, the committee will look into “the Washington Football Team’s (WFT) hostile workplace culture and NFL’s handling of this matter.” The full statement can be read here. Also in question is the authority and independence with which former federal prosecutor Beth Wilkinson, who was retained by team president Daniel Snyder to oversee the investigation, operated.
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The committee is also looking into “the NFL’s lack of transparency about the problems it recently uncovered,” which it says “raise questions about the seriousness with which it has addressed bigotry, racism, sexism, and homophobia — setting troubling precedent for other workplaces.” That is an apparent reference to the Gruden emails.
What is the committee requesting?
The committee, which is chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., is asking the NFL for all documents and information related to the investigation of the WFT.
The committee is requesting three sets of documents and wants eight questions answered.
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- All documents and communications obtained in connection with the investigation into the WFT, its management, its owners, and any other matter relating to or resulting from the WFT investigation;
- All reports or findings made in connection with investigations into the WFT, including but not limited to semi-annual reports from the WFT, and all documents and notes referring or relating to any oral reports and findings; and
- All NFL policies and procedures referring or relating to the use of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements by the NFL and its teams.
- What reasons did the WFT provide for requesting that the NFL assume “full oversight” over Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation, and why did the NFL agree to assume this role?
- Please describe in detail the NFL’s role in overseeing Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation, and what changes, if any, were implemented as a result of the NFL’s role.
- Please describe in detail Mr. Pash’s role in the investigations described in this letter, if any.
- Please provide a list of all NFL employees who were involved in overseeing Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation, including their names and job titles, and describe in detail each of their roles
- How often did the NFL communicate with Ms. Wilkinson or members of her team during the investigation, and how did these communications occur (e.g., by phone, email, or in person)?
- Who directed Ms. Wilkinson to provide the NFL oral reports and investigative findings, rather than written reports and investigative findings, and why? Please provide a list of all meetings or briefings at which Ms. Wilkinson or any member of her team provided final or preliminary findings, interim reports, or read-outs to the NFL, the dates that they occurred, and all participants.
- Please confirm the number of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements reported to the NFL, or entered into by the NFL, from January 1, 2016, through the present, including the names of the teams involved, dates of the agreements, and whether the agreements resulted from allegations of discrimination and retaliation.
- What actions has the NFL taken, if any, regarding the use of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements in matters related to workplace abuses since January 1, 2016?
“Pash” refers to Jeff Pash, the NFL’s general counsel. He, too, has drawn scrutiny in recent weeks over his friendly relationship with former WFT president Bruce Allen and emails the two exchanged on myriad topics.
Most notably, Pash and Allen discussed a perceived bias the league has against hiring conservatives, and Pash told Allen his attempt to cut a player’s salary was “the Lord’s work.” The NFL came to Pash’s defense over the emails, while the NFLPA described them as “absolutely concerning.”
The House committee gave the NFL until Nov. 4 to produce the requested documents and answers to the questions. The full letter can be read here.
Will the NFL comply with the committee’s request?
According to CBS Sports, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed the league was in receipt of the committee’s letter and aware of its requests. He declined to say whether the NFL would supply Congress with the information it asked for.
“We have received the Chairwoman’s letter and share her concern that all workplaces should be free from any form of harassment and discrimination,” McCarthy said. “We look forward to speaking to her office soon.”
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The league has remained consistent that it won’t release anything more, though that was before Congress came knocking.
According to committee Rule 14, which deals with supplying documents, if the NFL can’t fully meet the Nov. 4 deadline, it needs to provide a reason as to why and needs to provide whatever it can by that date.
“If compliance with the request cannot be made in full by the specified return date, compliance shall be made to the extent possible by that date. An explanation of why full compliance is not possible shall be provided along with any partial production,” the rule reads.
The commitee set a Nov. 4 deadline for the league to submit all the materials, which gives the NFL 15 days to comply or explain why it could not.