The NFL continues to struggle to put the investigation of the Washington Football Team in the rearview mirror.
According to the Washington Post, WFT owner Daniel Snyder — through his lawyers and investigators — allegedly engaged in behavior that can be characterized as attempted interference with the investigation conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson.
For example, the lawyer representing a woman who received a $1.6 million settlement with the team in 2009 reportedly claims that Snyder’s lawyers tried to keep Wilkinson from speaking to the accuser. The lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, reportedly claimed that Snyder’s lawyers offered even more money beyond the original settlement if she agreed not to speak about her allegations or the settlement. Wilkinson, per the report, described the activities as an effort to “silence” the accuser.
The Post claims that a review of court records and interviews with more than 30 people revealed “several instances” of lawyers and private investigators who worked for Snyder taking steps viewed as efforts to interfere with the investigation. Also, investigators allegedly showed up at the the homes of several former employees or contacted their friends and relatives, conduct that was regarded as intimidating the former employees from participating in the investigation.
Wilkinson eventually interviewed the 2009 accuser, a female employee who accused Snyder of sexual misconduct on his private plane.
The allegations of efforts to interfere with the investigation make the league’s decision not to request a written report from Wilkinson or to share any details whatsoever regarding the findings even more suspicious. From the moment the league decided to bury the evidence, the league (in my opinion) believed that disclosure of the facts harvested by Wilkinson would make it untenable for Snyder to continue to own the team — in the same way that the release of the Jon Gruden emails made it impossible for him to continue to coach the Raiders. Without the specific details made available for public consumption and discussion, a groundswell for Snyder’s ouster can never get going.
The report comes at a time when Congress has been attempting to get more (any) information from the NFL about the investigation. This new information should do nothing to chill the efforts of the House Oversight and Reform Committee to push the league for transparency. Fans and media should do the same. If anything, it should make the committee more determined and zealous.
I continue to believe that the NFL is taking these steps because it is hiding something significant, and that the league believes that the consequences of making clumsy, illogical efforts to hide the evidence will be much less severe than the consequences of having the facts come to light.
Remember, this isn’t about protecting Snyder. It’s about protecting the rest of the American oligarchs who don’t want to be in a position of helplessness if disgruntled former employees begin making allegations and spilling the beans about their behavior. If the allegations against Snyder bring him down, other employees of other teams could be tempted to make false or embellished allegations that could spiral out of control. To avoid those situations, the league likely believes that it needs to prevent setting a precedent.
As more allegations and details come to light, it may be impossible to do that. Here’s hoping that’s the case.