NFL EVP/general counsel Jeff Pash’s e-mails with former Redskins exec Bruce Allen raise serious questions

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The leaked e-mails in the NFL’s investigation of the culture of the former Washington Redskins and current Washington Football Team in the wake of bombshell reports from the Washington Post have already derailed the career of former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. Now, more e-mail leaks from that investigation have put Jeff Pash, the NFL’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel since 1997, firmly in the crosshairs.

Gruden resigned this week after e-mails were revealed by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times in which the ex-coach wrote racist, sexist, and homophobic screeds to Bruce Allen, the Redskins’ EVP and general manager from 2010 through 2013, the team’s President and general manager from 2014 through 2016, and the team’s President from 2017 through 2019. Gruden and Allen worked together when Gruden was the Buccaneers’ head coach from 2002 through 2008, and Allen was the team’s general manager from 2004 through 2008, and also in Oakland when Gruden was the Raiders’ head coach from 1998 through 2001, and Allen was a team executive from 1995 through 2003.

Allen’s relationship with Pash, one of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s closest advisors, is far more troublesome in that multiple potential conflicts of interest have been raised. On Thursday, Ken Belson and Katherine Rosman of the New York Times, who also broke the story of the expanded Gruden e-mails, reported that Allen’s friendship with Pash came with some alarming perks.

From the Times report:

Allen’s exchanges with Pash, sent from 2009 to 2018, reveal a larger story about a clubby relationship between a top league official and team executives and owners he is expected to oversee.

When the N.F.L. fined the Washington Football Team $15,000 for manipulating its player injury report, Allen reached out to Pash and the penalty was rescinded. In another email, Allen expressed concern that the commissioner would accuse him of breaking rules on the signing of free agents, prompting his friend to reassure him, “He knows who it is and that it is not you.”

And after a crisis erupted over allegations of sexual harassment of the Washington cheerleaders, Allen contacted Pash, who offered reassuring words.

“I know that you are on it and would not condone something untoward,” he told Allen.

The NFL responded quickly to the report, but have not made Pash available to the media.

“Communication between league office employees and club executives occurs on a daily basis,” Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, said in a Thursday statement. “Jeff Pash is a respected and high-character N.F.L. executive. Any effort to portray these emails as inappropriate is either misleading or patently false.”

The NFL’s investigation of the team’s sexist and harassment-filled treatment of its cheerleaders was supposed to be handled by Beth Wilkinson, a Washington D.C.-based attorney hired by team owner Daniel Snyder. But when the league took over the investigation, the power structure shifted, and Wilkinson would report to Pash. The NFL has never revealed the results of that investigation, and the only thing that happened to Snyder is that he expanded his control of the team. Snyder was fined a record $10 million by the league, and vowed to stay away from the team for an undetermined period of time, but that was the end of the repercussions.

Pash’s cozy relationship with Allen over the years now had to be seen as a determining factor in the relatively lenient penalties given to Snyder.

From the Times report:

In October 2013, an N.F.L. executive had turned down Allen’s appeal of a $15,000 fine because the team’s coach at the time, Mike Shanahan, had doctored the injury report. Allen wrote back to Pash and the other league officials copied on the email: “BS.”

Pash overruled his staff’s decision to issue the fine, replying to Allen’s email by saying that the team did not need to pay the $15,000 “or any other amount with respect to this matter and you should consider the fine to be rescinded in its entirety.”

Pash and Allen also communicated on matters relating to diversity and inclusion in ways that seem far too similar to Gruden’s offensive communiques over the years.

In 2016, the league hired Jocelyn Moore, a former assistant to several Democratic senators, to be the NFL’s chief lobbyist.

“Curious — is there a rule against hiring Libertarians, Independents or even a Republican?” Allen asked [Pash].

“No,” Pash replied, “but it can sometimes look that way!”

Referring to a rule that requires N.F.L. teams to interview minority candidates for coaching and executive jobs, Allen said, “We have the Rooney rule …. So I’m going to propose a Lincoln Rule at the next meeting.”

And when Allen shared with Pash an audio file of a team song aimed at attracting Latino fans, Pash responded, “I am not sure this song will be as popular after the wall gets built.”

In 2012, when the Redskins and Cowboys were penalized by the league for going outside the league’s salary cap parameters during the 2011 NFL lockout, Allen called Pash and asked to speak with him.

“Still talking internally about this,” Pash replied. “I am not making any promises as to an outcome. But I can assure you that I am not blowing you off.”

After Allen thanked him, Pash added: “We may not see this the same way. But that does not change my respect or affection for you. After all, nobody else has ever given me a Hooters VIP card.”

The relationship between Allen and Pash was clearly closer than any such personal relationship should be, and it climbed into all kinds of thorny ethical issues — on and off the field.

Sprinkled into the correspondence about league business are notes highlighting Allen and Pash’s close friendship. When Allen’s brother, George, ran for U.S. Senate in Virginia in 2012, Pash donated $1,000 to his campaign. Pash was not shy about saying how much his wife and family loved the team, and Allen sent Pash the club’s fight song after rare Washington victories.

At Christmas and New Year’s, the pair exchanged heartfelt holiday greetings, with Pash emailing in January 2013 to congratulate Allen on making the playoffs. “Happy New Year — even though 2012 was not the easiest year in many respects, I continue to value our relationship and your advice,” Pash wrote.

Allen and Pash were also united in their distaste for NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. In 2010, Allen bragged to Pash that he had refused to give Smith a field pass to a home game. “New sheriff in town.” Pash replied to Allen, who was in his first season with the Redskins.

And once, when Pash wrote to Allen asking to speak, Allen replied, “Please give me a few minutes — I’m trying to lower a player’s salary at the moment.”

“The Lord’s work,” Pash responded.