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The NFL saw one of its most well-known personalities step down this week, with Raiders coach Jon Gruden quickly resigning in the wake of reports about a pattern of insensitive and derogatory emails. But Gruden’s departure stemmed largely from an investigation that had nothing to do with him. What, exactly, was the original investigation? And could there be more dominoes to fall?
Here’s everything we know about the scandal so far:
In July 2020, amid Washington Football Team’s announcement that it would drop its original nickname after 87 years, The Washington Post published a bombshell report, with 15 former female employees alleging sexual harassment by team staff over the course of 18 years. Team owner Daniel Snyder launched an investigation into his franchise’s workplace culture before the NFL took over in August. That same month, The Post published a follow-up report with former employees alleging Snyder “has presided over an organization in which women say they have been marginalized, discriminated against and exploited.”
Yes. This July, almost a year after beginning its investigation with the help of independent lawyer Beth Wilkinson, the NFL levied a $10 million fine against Washington after finding a “highly unprofessional” work environment, “particularly for women.” Snyder, meanwhile, formally stepped back from day-to-day duties as team owner, with his wife, Tanya, taking over as CEO.
On Oct. 8, The Wall Street Journal reported that the NFL’s investigation into Washington’s culture included the examination of more than 650,000 emails from team staff. Among those emails were exchanges between Gruden and Bruce Allen, then Washington’s team president and a longtime confidant of Daniel Snyder — one of which saw Gruden use a racial trope to criticize NFLPA executive DeMaurice Smith. On Oct. 11, The New York Times reported that the emails revealed that Gruden had actually engaged in a pattern of “misogynistic and homophobic” language from 2010-2018, criticizing everything from the idea of gay players and female officials, and exchanging pictures of topless Washington cheerleaders.
Gruden subsequently resigned, prematurely bowing out of a 10-year contract with the Raiders, and essentially becoming “collateral damage” from leaks of the Washington investigation.
Perhaps. This week, attorneys for 40 former Washington team employees called the for the NFL to fully disclose the 650,000+ emails that were examined before this summer’s investigation “conclusion.” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy has since said no further investigation details will be released for confidentiality reasons.
But now The New York Times has reported Bruce Allen, the former Washington president who corresponded with Gruden, received sympathetic assurances rather than “impartial” judgment from friend and NFL general counsel Jeff Pash during the investigation. Pash, a confidant of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, also joked with Allen about Native Americans and the league’s diversity efforts, The Times reported. It’s unclear if he’ll face any discipline, or if more emails will surface, but the reporting on the investigation — once considered wrapped up — remains ongoing.
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