NFL responds to Congress, and Congress isn’t satisfied with the NFL’s response

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Fifteen days ago, the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee asked the NFL for information and documents about the Washington Football Team investigation and the league’s handling of it. On Thursday, the league responded.

On Friday, Congress made it clear that it’s not happy with the NFL’s response.

“Commissioner Goodell said the NFL will cooperate with Congress, and we expect him to make good on that promise by producing the documents requested,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney said. “In the spirit of transparency, I am calling on the NFL and Washington Football Team to honor the Commissioner’s public statement that witnesses to the team’s hostile workplace culture are ‘welcome’ to come forward. Congress has a responsibility to combat harassment and discrimination in the workplace. If the NFL shares our commitment to address these issues, it will be fully transparent about the findings of the internal review and will allow all individuals to speak freely without fear of retaliation.”

The other member of Congress who signed the letter, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, joined in the call for more information.

“While Commissioner Roger Goodell has told the press that victims and witnesses are free to take their story public, he should know many of them do not have that option,” Rep. Krishnamoorthi said. “Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Football Team, has saddled them with gag orders, preventing them from coming forward due to fear of retaliation. If the NFL and the WFT are serious about addressing, among other things, sexual harassment within their organizations, they must allow these individuals to speak freely. The NFL has committed to producing documents. We look forward to seeing them.”

The NFL says it is willing to produce documents, but that has to balance the concerns against that.

“The NFL on Thursday submitted responses to the questions in the Committee’s October 21 letter,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “As we have discussed with the Committee, we are in the process of identifying responsive documents while working through issues of privilege and anonymity promised to participants in the investigation.”

The league didn’t cite any specific privilege that may apply. The question of whether the attorney-client privilege applies to the investigation conducted by lawyer Beth Wilkinson has yet to be fully explored. On one hand, she wasn’t hired to give legal advice to the Washington Football Team. On the other hand, she made recommendations to the NFL. Do any of those communications fall within the attorney-client privilege?

As to protecting the anonymity of participants, the NFL has resisted the idea that names can be redacted. They most definitely can be. And as to the 650,000 emails that come from (supposedly) Bruce Allen’s official account with the Washington Football Team, the league already has said that those emails fall beyond the scope of the workplace investigation, so the issue of anonymity doesn’t apply.

Look for this to continue. The question becomes whether and to what extent Congress will push aggressively, issuing subpoenas for documents or for testimony. Chances are that Congress won’t simply accept whatever limited information the NFL will provide, and then move on.

NFL responds to Congress, and Congress isn’t satisfied with the NFL’s response originally appeared on Pro Football Talk