On Tuesday, a dozen former employees of the Washington Football Team asked members of the NFL’s Social Justice Working Group, which includes several team owners, to push the league to release what it found in its investigation of the team’s culture under owner Dan Snyder.
“The NFL should not be allowed to encourage employees to come forward at great personal and professional risk to speak to investigators, only to sweep the results of that investigation under the rug,” the former employees wrote. That evening, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had an answer for them: He can’t release the report because the NFL promised sources anonymity.
“When you make a promise to protect the anonymity, to make sure that we get the right information, you need to stay with it,” Goodell said. “And so we’re very conscious of making sure that we’re protecting those who came forward. They were incredibly brave.”
As it happens, there is in fact a way to protect one’s sources in a piece of written material: You don’t name them, and you redact identifying details. Such a feat was recently pulled off by the Chicago Blackhawks, which hired an independent law firm to investigate allegations of sexual assault by a coach. You can read it online right now. It’s painful, it’s uncomfortable, and it draws on what the investigators learned from 139 witnesses. The firm that conducted the investigation “anonymized” the contributions from people who hadn’t spoken to journalists.
Meanwhile, some self-identified sources for the WFT report have expressed exasperation about this dumb saga:
This is false @nflcommish. We were told our identities would be kept confidential in a written report. Meaning, if I spoke about something that happened to me, there would be no way Dan or others could trace the info back to me. Not that there would be no written report. C'mon. https://t.co/gVbqnw8PKl
— Rachel Engleson (@rachel_engleson) October 26, 2021
— EmilyApplegate (@emilyapplegatee) October 27, 2021
Lisa Banks, an attorney who represents some of the ex-employees, said none of them asked for the “protection” the NFL is offering.
My clients did not ask the NFL for “protection” when they participated in the investigation. They asked for transparency and accountability —and received neither. https://t.co/V3JIJjxXzR
— Lisa Banks (@LisaBanksKMB) October 27, 2021
Racist and misogynistic emails sent between Jon Gruden and former WFT GM Bruce Allen that passed through the NFL’s hands did get out recently—but unlike Snyder or the members of the league’s Social Justice Working Group, neither of those men owns an NFL team.