The first paragraph of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s statement regarding the latest report from the Washington Post regarding 40 allegations (and counting) of sexual harassment in the Washington Football Team organization, a report that includes two specific allegations involving owner Daniel Snyder, strikes the right tone. The second paragraph completely misses the point.
“We strongly condemn the unprofessional, disturbing and abhorrent behavior and workplace environment alleged in the report which is entirely inconsistent with our standards and has no place in the NFL,” Goodell said in a statement issued earlier this hour.
That’s fine. That’s good. That’s appropriate. Here’s the paragraph that isn’t fine or good or appropriate: “An independent investigation into these issues is in process, led by highly experienced counsel recommended by our office. We will continue to monitor the progress of this investigation and ensure that the club and its employees satisfy their obligation to give full cooperation to the investigators. If at any time the club or anyone associated with the club fails to do so, the investigating counsel has been asked to promptly advise our office and we will take appropriate action. When the investigation concludes, we will review the findings and take any appropriate action at that time.”
In other words, the lawyer hired by Daniel Snyder will be investigating whether Daniel Snyder committed actions that Daniel Snyder already has denied in a public statement calling the report making the allegations a “hit job.” It is not an independent investigation.
Snyder hired Beth Wilkinson. Snyder is paying her. Snyder is her client. Beth Wilkinson has a duty under the applicable Rules of Professional Conduct to her client. She is not going to take a page from the climax to And Justice For All and declare to the jury and the rest of the world that her client is guilty.
Meanwhile, most of the information relevant to these allegations is coming from former employees, not current employees. Who’s better suited to get these former employees to talk when there’s no power to compel them to do so, the lawyer bought and paid for by Daniel Snyder or a lawyer hired by the league to conduct a truly independent and unbiased investigation?
This decision by the NFL taints the entire process. Also, it’s grossly inconsistent with past precedent, including most notably the allegations against former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.
Hopefully, we won’t be the only ones who are willing to say so.