Pat Leonard: Washington email leaks are tearing down NFL’s impenetrable facade: ‘It’s only going to get worse’

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Now we know why Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.

The quarterback’s DeflateGate investigation, the implied culpability of smashing his cellphone, and his four-game 2016 suspension were stains on his legacy.

But wouldn’t it have been worse for Brady’s private text messages, emails and photos to be leaked and made public, after being handled by lawyers and league investigators?

Jon Gruden deserved to be fired by the Las Vegas Raiders this past week for the racist, misogynistic and homophobic language uncovered in his emails with former Washington team president Bruce Allen and others.

Jeffrey Pash, the NFL’s executive VP of labor/league counsel, should be canned for the cozy relationship he shared with Allen in their leaked email exchanges, reported by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Pash even allegedly wrote an email to Allen, after the Washington president shared an audio file of a team song aimed at attracting Latino fans, that read: “I am not sure this song will be as popular after the wall gets built.”

So much for not mixing politics and football, something that got quarterback Colin Kaepernick blackballed from the league.

This is no longer about what we already know, though. This is about the emails that haven’t yet come out, and how damaging they will be, and to whom.

“This looks like it’s only going to get worse,” one league source told the Daily News.

Someone has a hold of the 650,000 emails gathered in the NFL’s investigation of workplace misconduct in the Washington Football Team’s front office. And drip by drip, damning emails are coming out, taking down some of the most powerful people in the league.

The Associated Press published what amounted to an NFL press release on Friday evening to help the league try to nip this in bud.

The report cited a “person familiar with the documents” telling the AP that the NFL has found no other “current team or league personnel” to have sent emails like Gruden’s. And the person said the league had not identified “other areas or individuals it has to contact at club leadership or league leadership levels.”

The NFL has lost the benefit of the doubt here, however, and the AP should be ashamed for publishing an image-repairing statement on behalf of the exact organization whose lack of institutional control — or honesty — led to this in the first place.

ESPN insider Adam Schefter even got caught in the crosshairs by sending a full story for review to Allen, jokingly calling him “Mr. Editor,” per the Los Angeles Times.

“Please let me know if you see anything that should be added, changed or tweaked,” Schefter allegedly wrote.

Schefter said in a statement that he shouldn’t have done it and that criticism of him is fair, while qualifying: “in no way did I, or would I, cede editorial control or hand over final say about a story to anyone, ever.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy is on the record telling the AP that the NFL has nothing to do with the leaks and doesn’t plan to make the emails public, either.

“Based on the material that we have reviewed, we haven’t identified anything that needed to be reported to club or league leadership,” McCarthy told the AP. “We have released no emails during this process.”

The initial question being asked by many in the league was whether NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was behind this, or at least how much he knew.

The first email leak — of Gruden’s disgusting racist language in a 2011 exchange describing NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith — happened on the same day of Smith’s reelection vote. And Smith is widely viewed as a Goodell ally or a 33rd owner more than a player advocate.

Then, when Raiders owner Mark Davis didn’t fire Gruden and let him coach against the Chicago Bears, a second leak destroyed Gruden’s reputation beyond repair, forcing Davis’ hand to “accept Gruden’s resignation.”

Goodell grew up protecting a gay younger brother, Michael, from bullies. Gruden’s language crossed all kinds of lines.

Davis unbelievably has not spoken to the assembled media since, only telling an ESPN reporter: “I have no comment. Ask the NFL. They have all the answers.”

But now Pash, whose profile sits not far below Goodell’s on the NFL masthead, has been implicated in public leaks of damning documents, as well.

The NFL of course brought this on itself by sweeping the investigation into Washington’s rampant violations and allegations of sexual harassment of cheerleaders under the rug.

The league produced no written report on a horrible culture overseen by Washington team owner Dan Snyder and replaced Snyder with his wife temporarily as a face-saving attempt to move on.

No one with a conscience was satisfied with that result, but now, in unprecedented fashion, someone appears to be striking back.

Even Washington further damaged its own reputation in the wake of these leaks by announcing last-minute that the organization intended to retire the jersey number of late safety Sean Taylor this coming Sunday.

The team apologized quickly for its insensitive timing, promising that there had been plans in the works for months. But fans are angry that there was no advance notice of this celebration, and because Washington has lost all benefit of the doubt, the announcement certainly looked like an attempt to change the spiraling narrative.

Snyder’s organization will not escape this, though. The only question is who else is going to go down with him.

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