WASHINGTON -- According to a statement by the House Oversight and Reform Committee and confirmed Friday by the league, the NFL failed to provide documents within the deadline that Congress set for it in relation to its investigation into the Washington Football Team.
A spokesperson for the NFL said that the league had responded to the questions raised by the Committee in its Oct. 21 letter addressed to Roger Goodell.
Brian McCarthy, a spokesperson for the NFL, stated that the NFL submitted its responses on Thursday to the questions contained in the October 21 letter. "As we discussed with the Committee we are currently in the process to identify responsive documents while we work through issues of privilege, anonymity, and promise to participants in this investigation."
The deadline for the league to submit "documents, information" regarding the team's workplace culture was Thursday. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of this committee, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) requested the documents in a five page letter. The letter also asked several questions to Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner.
The committee requested information about the league's involvement in Beth Wilkinson’s investigation into Washington Football Team's workplace culture. They also asked why there wasn't a written report after 150 people were interviewed. Finally, they wanted to know what Jeff Pash's role was during the investigation that followed his close relationship with Bruce Allen, which was revealed in multiple emails. After the 2019 season, Allen was fired.
Maloney stated that Commissioner Goodell had promised the NFL cooperation with Congress and that he would produce the requested documents. In the spirit of transparency, I call on the NFL to honor Commissioner Goodell's public statement that all witnesses to the team’s hostile workplace culture are welcome'. The Congress has the responsibility to stop harassment and discrimination at work. If the NFL agrees with our commitment to address these problems, it will fully disclose the findings of its internal review and allow everyone to speak freely without fear of reprisal.
Krishnamoorthi said that while Commissioner Roger Goodell told the media that victims and witnesses can freely tell their stories to the public, he should be aware that many of them don't have that option. Dan Snyder, owner of Washington Football Team has placed gag orders on them, which prevents them from speaking out for fear of reprisal. The NFL and WFT must allow individuals to speak freely if they are serious about dealing with sexual harassment in their organizations. The NFL has promised to produce documents. We look forward seeing them."
Some of the 650,000 emails gathered during the investigation were leaked to media outlets last month. This led to Jon Gruden, the Las Vegas Raiders' coach, resigning on October 11. Allen had received emails from him that contained racist, misogynistic and anti-gay language.
Goodell said that no report was made public following the nearly one-year-long investigation into Snyder and WFT. This is because Snyder's interviewees wanted anonymity. The NFL released its findings July 2nd and issued a $10 million fine to Snyder.
However, since Gruden emails were made public, the league has been under pressure from many people, including 40 lawyers for women who alleged that they were subject to sexual harassment while working for the league. They have also been pressured by the public to release more emails and the entire findings.
Krishnamoorthi stated that how they deal with issues of race, gender, and the treatment of their employees has a significant impact on the way society deals with these issues. He spoke to ESPN last month. "We are very interested in finding out more about why and how the NFL did it.
The letter by the committee raised concerns about former employees signing nondisclosure agreements and demanded more information about Pash’s involvement in the investigation.
Krishnamoorthi stated that the committee would like to examine whether stronger or new laws are necessary to assist employees working in similar situations. He also stated that the committee wants to ensure that the NFL does not conceal information through nondisclosure agreements between former Washington employees.
The panel is also seeking names and job titles for all those who were involved in the probe.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the ranking minority member on the oversight committee, stated that Democrats are too out of touch to believe Congress can play a role in resolving the WFT issue.
Comer stated that the Americans are facing a "unprecedented border crisis", skyrocketing inflation and a breakdown in supply chains, as well as an underperforming economy. "Democrats' latest theatrics clearly represent a last-ditch attempt to distract Americans from President Biden’s self-inflicted crises."
This committee is the most powerful in Congress. Staff described the committee as having "broad powers," which allow it to investigate any topic or industry it chooses.
Democrats control the next steps in the WFT inquiry because they hold the House majority. ESPN was told by multiple committee staffers that negotiations between the NFL's senior staff and the panel's top staff will take place in the coming weeks. ESPN was told by a congressional source that the league had spoken to Republican staffers at least three time before Thursday's deadline.
ESPN was told by two Republican staffers that they thought the inquiry was excessive. They argued that Congress should not be involved in HR investigations of private organizations.
However, some Democrats staff members stated that they would like the entire committee to hear the NFL's final documents regardless. This is in the hopes of influencing the NFL to change its culture.
It is still unclear when and if a hearing will take place. The hearings are usually scheduled three months ahead of time by the committee. The Congress already has a full schedule of tasks to complete before the end year. These include voting on the president’s domestic agenda and funding government. It is expected that Congress will be focusing on the anniversary the Jan. 6 Insurrection.
Staffers from both sides warned that the NFL is high-profile enough and newsworthy enough to not rule out a hearing before year's end.
Republicans could invite one witness to a hearing for each three Democrats. Covid-19 allows congressional witnesses to testify virtually because they are allowed to.
The legal authority for the committee to subpoena witnesses and to compel them to testify is similar to a court case. Subpoenas can be used to subpoena documents and compel witnesses who are not willing to testify.
Snyder, his wife and coCEO Tanya, has taken over day-to-day operations since the end of the investigation. He is still involved in the game and continues to work towards finding a suitable site.
Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-Wash.), who represents the team's hometown, has been a longtime opponent to Snyder. Muriel Bowser, D.C. mayor, announced last year that the team would not be allowed to construct a stadium in the District without her consent. A few months later, it did. Norton could still benefit from Snyder's desire to build a new stadium during his inquiry.
The team currently plays and practices in Maryland, but could soon move to Virginia's suburbs. The committee is composed of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Rep. KweisiMfume (D-Md.) and Rep. Gerrald CONnelly (D-Va.).
At least 10 additional Democrats are represented by cities that have an NFL team, such as Detroit, San Francisco and Los Angeles.