The NFL is under new pressure to release its full investigation into sexual harassment allegations inside the Washington Football Team after the disclosure of years-old racist and vulgar email exchanges between the team’s former top executive and then-television analyst Jon Gruden.
The disclosure of the emails cost Gruden his job as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Gruden, the brother of former Redskins coach Jay Gruden, stepped down late Monday following a report that he used homophobic slurs and other derogatory language to describe the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and others in email exchanges with former Washington president Bruce Allen over a seven-year period.
Those messages were uncovered while league officials were reportedly sorting through 650,000 emails unearthed as part of the NFL’s investigation into the Washington Football Team’s workplace culture.
Gruden’s resignation stands in contrast to the perceived lack of punishment toward Washington owner Dan Snyder. Mr. Snyder’s franchise was fined $10 million for having what the league deemed as a “very toxic” work environment, but the billionaire owner was not suspended.
When the NFL unveiled the findings of its investigation into Washington’s workplace in July, a league official said investigator Beth Wilkinson, a D.C.-based attorney, delivered a “series of oral reports” to Goodell and thus did not create a formal written report “due to the sensitivity of the allegations.” More than 40 women said they were sexually harassed while working for the team.
But months later, and after Gruden’s resignation, that explanation still doesn’t sit well with former Washington employee Megan Imbert and others who have called on the NFL to be more transparent.
Imbert, a former video producer who participated in the league’s investigation, said she hopes the NFL will “rip the Band-Aid off” and share the report.
“The only way we’re ever going to have true transparency and accountability is when that report is shared,” Imbert told The Washington Times. “It’s really insulting to all of us (who cooperated) when we see other investigations going on … and there are consequences.
“This is one set of emails that they’ve reviewed and Gruden has lost his job. We’re over here sharing all these different experiences to investigators and nothing is (resolved).”
Imbert’s attorneys, Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, released a statement Tuesday, chastising the league for failing to release the full findings of the investigation. Together, they represented the 40 women who accused Washington of having a toxic workplace.
“It is truly outrageous that after the NFL’s 10-month long investigation involving hundreds of witnesses and 650,000 documents related to the longtime culture of harassment and abuse at the Washington Football Team, the only person to be held accountable and lose their job is the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” the attorneys said. “If the NFL felt it appropriate to release these offensive emails from Jon Gruden, which it obtained during its investigation into the Washington Football Team, it must also release the findings related to the actual target of that investigation.
“Our clients and the public at large deserve transparency and accountability. If not, the NFL and Roger Goodell must explain why they appear intent on protecting the Washington Football Team and owner Dan Snyder at all costs.”
Banks also tweeted the NFL “chose to bury the Wilkinson investigation and all its damning facts” about the franchise.
More than 150 people were interviewed for the investigation.
“After a nearly year-long investigation of the deeply misogynistic WFT, with hundreds of witnesses and 650,000 documents, the only two people exposed by the NFL are Jon Gruden, who insulted Roger Goodell, and Bruce Allen, who crossed Dan Snyder,” Banks tweeted. “Coincidence?”
The Banks tweet indirectly refers to the fact that Allen, fired in 2019, and Snyder got into a series of legal battles earlier this year.
Court documents revealed that Snyder accused Allen of helping coordinate a misinformation campaign against him when Snyder was in an ownership dispute with his (now former) minority partners. Allen, in turn, denied the allegation and responded that Snyder tried to withhold a portion of his severance pay before the issue was settled.
Snyder’s dispute with the partners was resolved when he agreed to buy them out for $875 million in March. The transaction gave Snyder and his family 100% control of the franchise, purchasing the 40% stake that FedEx CEO Fred Smith, developer Dwight Schar and investor Robert Rothman owned.
Those who participated in the NFL’s investigation aren’t the only ones calling for more action. USA Today reported Tuesday that the players’ union plans to petition the NFL to release all the emails related to the Washington investigation.
“We have had communications with the league,” said Smith, the union’s executive director.
The NFL told the outlet that it had no plans to release additional emails, citing confidentiality concerns.
Gruden’s scandal started when the Wall Street Journal reported the coach, then a broadcaster for ESPN, used a racist trope to mock Smith, who is Black, in an email to Allen during the 2011 NFL lockout. Gruden apologized for the comment, though defended himself by saying he wasn’t a racist.
On Monday, The New York Times revealed more Gruden emails. Beyond criticism of Goodell, Gruden and Allen reportedly exchanged emails that included photos of topless Washington cheerleaders. They also mocked transgender activist and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner.
Gruden quit hours after the publication of the report. He said in a statement that he did not want to be a distraction and was sorry.
Still, the damage done led a number of media outlets to call for more information related NFL’s investigation into Washington. Sports Illustrated ran an opinion piece with the headline: “Gruden Has Resigned. Now, It’s Time for the Rest of the Washington Investigation to Be Made Public.” Pro Football Talk posted a similar article. ESPN personality Mina Kimes said there needs to be “more sunlight” shined onto the matter.
“What we’re seeing is a bit of a smoke-and-mirrors situation,” Imbert said. “It’s taking the attention off of the leader that allowed this culture to perpetuate.”
• Matthew Paras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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