Congressional Committee Seeks Information From NFL On Washington Football Team Investigation

Hide Caption

NFL Power Rankings 9.0: Pittsburgh Steelers are on the riseThere were a lot of unexpected outcomes from NFL Week 8 action, expect some shakeups heading into Week 9's power rankings.SportsPulse

For more than three months, attorneys Lisa Banks, Debra Katz and their clients called on the NFL to release a detailed report on the findings of its investigation into a toxic workplace culture within the Washington Football Team. They released statements blasting Commissioner Roger Goodell. They sent letters to NFL sponsors and team owners. And at every turn, the league resisted their calls. 

Then, members of Congress got involved.

A little less than two weeks ago, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., sent a letter to Goodell, asking him to turn over documents pertaining to both the Washington Football Team probe and the league's general use of non-disclosure agreements. The deadline is Thursday.

Goodell said in a news conference last week that the league would be "cooperative" with the request, which seeks "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." But he did not specify whether that means the NFL will turn over all of the requested documents by the deadline.

An NFL spokesperson did not respond to an email asking if any of the material had been provided as of Monday morning.

Banks, who represents 40 former WFT employees, said she isn't sure what steps Congress will take after reviewing the league's response. But she said she believes there is "a strong interest" among lawmakers in continuing to examine the matter.

"They're asking questions obviously of the NFL, but they’re also looking to speak with my clients and with me, to understand the issues around this situation better," Banks said. "They have decided – (or) at least some of them have decided – that they want to start looking at this more closely. And probably have hearings on this."

Banks added that her clients are prepared to speak with Congress in any setting, including a public hearing on Capitol Hill. "And I will do the same," she said.

The NFL departed from precedent by declining to release a written report on the findings in the WFT investigation, with Goodell citing a need to protect the anonymity of employees who spoke with attorney Beth Wilkinson and her team of investigators.

NANCY ARMOUR: Goodell's stance sparks more questions than answers

Instead, the league summarized the findings of the investigations in two paragraphs of a news release, describing the workplace environment in Washington as "highly unprofessional," particularly for women. The NFL also fined the team $10 million. In addition, owner Daniel Snyder relinquished control of day-to-day operations to his wife, Tanya.

The absence of a written report is part of what piqued the interest of lawmakers.

"I just don't know of an investigation where someone is not allowed to document what happened or to document the findings, but that appears to be what happened here," Krishnamoorthi, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, told ESPN late last month.

Other Democrats on the Oversight Committee, including Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier of California, have since spoken out in favor of the probe. And Rep. Eleanor Norton, who represents the District of Columbia, told WUSA-TV that she believes the group is "very likely" to hold a hearing on the matter.

Republicans on the committee appear less enthusiastic, however. 

"The Democrats’ latest theatrics are clearly a last-ditch effort to distract the American people from President Biden’s self-inflicted crises," Ranking Member James Comer, R-Ky., said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports. "Now is the time to utilize this Committee’s resources, hold the Biden Administration accountable, and focus on the issues that actually impact Americans."

Members of Congress have not been shy about flexing their oversight authority in the world of sports over the past two decades – often with mixed results.

In 2005, the House Oversight Committee held a blockbuster hearing on the use of steroids in baseball, questioning some of the sport's brightest stars under oath for roughly 11 hours on Capitol Hill. Additional hearings followed in subsequent years, becoming a damaging spectacle for the sport.

In other instances, however, lawmakers have requested documents from sports leagues or raised the possibility of Congressional hearings but declined to publicly follow-up.

Should Goodell be summoned for a hearing, it would be at least his sixth appearance on Capitol Hill – but his first since 2009. He has previously testified on issues ranging from the league's retirement system and doping to concussions. 

Executive vice president Troy Vincent addressed Congress in Goodell's place at a 2014 hearing on domestic violence in professional sports, held 10 months after Ray Rice was arrested for assaulting his wife in a casino elevator.

In the years since, the league has continued to ramp up its operation on Capitol Hill, hiring in-house lobbyists and spending more money on lobbying than the other pro sports leagues combined. The NFL spent $910,000 on lobbying in the first three quarters of 2021, according to lobbying disclosures.

Tom Davis, a former chair of the House Oversight Committee, said in an interview that the next steps for in the NFL inquiry will depend in large part on the league's response.

"It depends on what’s in the documents, and how forthcoming everybody is," said Davis, who chaired the committee from 2003 to 2007. "Major League Baseball, had they been forthcoming, never would have had to go through hearings. ... We only went to the hearing because they resisted us at every stage."

Davis anticipates that the NFL will comply with House Democrats' inquiry, but only to an extent. He said Congressional document requests such as this usually start broad and are whittled down after discussions between the parties, with an agreement that the material will remain confidential.

"You usually ask for the kitchen sink and you end up with a faucet," he said.

Banks, meanwhile, said she has been encouraged by her limited discussions with members of Congress. She believes their interest in the NFL's handling of the probe is authentic. And she knows that, by wielding the power of hearings and subpoenas, the House Oversight Committee might be able to achieve the transparency that she and her clients have sought.

"While Goodell said that he was trying to protect the people who participated in the investigation, it’s clear that that’s not who he’s protecting," Banks said. "He’s protecting somebody, but it’s not my clients. And it’s not the other people who came forward in the investigation. So we need to find out, the public needs to know, what it is that the NFL is (trying) to hide."

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2021/11/03/nfl-facing-questions-congress-washington-football-team-probe/6179939001/

1541
Congress is asking questions of the NFL. Heres what it means, and what might happen next

Source:USA Today

Congress is asking questions of the NFL. Heres what it means, and what might happen next

Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden files lawsuit against NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell

Source:MSN

Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden files lawsuit against NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell

NFL Should Have Monitored Emails To Prevent Hate Speech

Source:Law360

NFL Should Have Monitored Emails To Prevent Hate Speech

Gruden sues NFL over publication of his offensive emails

Source:The Day

Gruden sues NFL over publication of his offensive emails