The Washington Post coincidentally (or not) timed the publication of its latest bombshell regarding Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder to land one day before the NFL’s quarterly ownership meeting. Which means it also landed one day before the next press conference held by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has claimed that he is available to the media almost every day but who is as a practical matter available roughly 5-7 days per year, at most.
Inevitably asked about the report that Snyder attempted to interfere with attorney Beth Wilkinson’s investigation, Goodell downplayed the accusations.
“I haven’t read the story, but you know we went through a very lengthy period of investigation and discussions,” Goodell told reporters. “The one thing I can say with 100 percent assurance is that it didn’t interfere with the work that our investigator did. We were able to access all the people that she wanted to access, have multiple conversations with those people. There’s always a little bit of a tug and a pull particularly of lawyers and law firms. That’s something that I think we were able to overcome and make sure that we came to the right conclusion.”
But why was there tug and pull? Who was tugging? Who was pulling? It’s one thing for witnesses to be reluctant to speak. It’s quite another for Snyder to be reluctant to have them speak. He pledged full cooperation with the investigation; any effort to limit or shape the information gathered necessarily shows that Snyder was far more interested in engineering a desired outcome than letting the truth come to light, whatever it may be.
While Goodell is surely busy, how and why didn’t he take the time to read a report from the newspaper of record in the nation’s capital accusing Snyder of trying to interfere with the probe? Maybe Goodell already knew the facts. Maybe he didn’t want to know them. Regardless, claiming willful ignorance of such an important story is a bad look.
Then again, it’s better if Goodell can say he doesn’t know what’s in the report. That way, he doesn’t have to deal with the substance of it. That way, he can serve most effectively as a $65 million per year pin cushion for the owners. That way, he can offer up nonsensical suggestions that exonerate any potential attempts by Snyder to interfere with the investigation by saying “it didn’t interfere” (“it,” as in the attempted interference) with the probe.
Here’s the reality, given the recent Washington Post report. If Wilkinson had generated a written report, it likely would have included a section about efforts by Snyder to obstruct the probe. And that would have made it even harder for Snyder to keep the team, if all relevant facts and findings had been reduced to writing for public consumption.
We’ve long believed that, by protecting Snyder, the American oligarchs protected themselves from similar entanglements in the future. That said, there’s also a chance the league office is protecting itself from another Ray Rice-style scandal regarding questions as to what the league knew, when the league knew it, and why the league waited so long to do anything about it. What if WFT employees, with no viable mechanism for reporting misconduct to the team, reported it to the league office? What if the evidence of wrongdoing was so pervasive and consistent that there’s no way the league didn’t know about it?
Last week, former NFL employee Mike Silver candidly admitted that the Rice scandal created a sense within the building that it could take down the whole operation. Maybe, just maybe, the over-the-top effort to conceal the truth as to Snyder and the Washington Football Team flows in part from an effort to prevent calls for accountability, and ultimately dramatic change, at the upper reaches of 345 Park Avenue.