When it comes to transparency, the National Football League has never been a model organization.
But the recent investigation of the Washington Football Team might be too big to keep under the rug.
Two former WFT employees showed up at the NFL owners’ meeting today with a letter addressed to the owners’ Social Justice Working Group.
That group includes the Cleveland Browns principal owner Jimmy Haslam.
Two former WFT employees hand-delivered a letter, signed by 12 former team employees, addressed to the NFL owners at their meetings in NYC. They want the league to release materials from the investigation into the #WashingtonFootball
The letter 👇🏾 pic.twitter.com/qCdGtTUb2M
— Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) October 26, 2021
Gayle Benson (Saints), Michael Bidwill (Cardinals), Arthur Blank (Falcons), and Shahid Khan (Jaguars) round out the group.
But the letter was copied to each of the 32 NFL owners and signed by 12 former employees involved in the investigation.
In the letter, the former employees asked the owners to publicly share the results of their extensive analysis of management practices of the WFT.
“Now is the time for the NFL to change course and take action to denounce past racist, sexist, and homophobic conduct,” the employees wrote. “The first step in doing so is transparency. The NFL must make public the findings of the investigation into the WFT. We are calling on you to demand that the NFL make the findings public. We are calling on you to do the right thing.”
But if New York Jets owner Woody Johnson’s attitude represents the league, it seems the NFL will ignore the matter.
When asked about the WFT investigation today at the NFL owners meeting, the Jets’ Woody Johnson reportedly told the media: “We’re here for football.” If ever an answer reflected the collective thoughts of the owners, that was it. Wow. Just … wow.
— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) October 26, 2021
“that’s something between the league and the various people involved in that. We’re here for football matters.”
But the pressure to release details and the NFL’s response to the investigation is mounting.
What Can Jimmy Haslam Do To Help?
Jimmy Haslam sits on a committee working on social justice.
But that working group is focused on external, or visible efforts to promote equality and justice.
As far as internal matters, he is at the mercy of the other owners and the commissioner.
U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee is ready to serve subpoenas to NFL if it doesn't cooperate with request for information about WFT investigation. https://t.co/ZOVRNXXmEv
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) October 23, 2021
And they did not see fit to include the WFT matter on the agenda for their 2-day meeting.
Of course, Haslam can speak out and fight behind the scenes.
Cleveland is known as a progressive organization when it comes to hiring and social practices.
But he will need some allies if he is to break the wall of silence surrounding this matter.
As a lawyer I view discipline by precedent.
We have NFL precedent where the former owner of the Panthers – a longtime respected figure in league circles – was pushed out for behavior that, while bad, seemed relatively benign compared to what we hear on WFT.
— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) October 18, 2021
External pressure might eventually wear down the NFL’s resistance.
Right now, the hope is probably that playing football drowns out the noise of those claiming injustice.
But the NFL should realize the WFT debacle is a league-wide issue because of their lack of transparency.