NEW YORK — For two days here at the InterContinental Hotel in Midtown Manhattan for the NFL’s owners meetings, almost all team owners passed through the lobby with no time for reporters.
Dolphins owner Steven Ross declined comment each time he descended the stairs from the meeting rooms. Some slipped behind the group of nearly two dozen reporters by using the elevators behind us. Representatives from the Washington Football Team were present at the meetings but were never spotted by anyone with a media credential, as far as I know.
Raiders owner Mark Davis? He stopped, took a seat in the lobby chair while wearing a white Raiders jacket and held court for 15 minutes with reporters to air most — but not all — of his thoughts in the wake of having to accept Jon Gruden’s resignation for racist, homophobic and misogynistic emails from the past.
It wasn’t surprising he was miffed at the league for its handling (or mishandling, but more on that later) of the emails. But he broke rank with his fellow NFL owners in agreeing with several women involved in the Washington Football Team investigation that the league should produce a written report on Dan Snyder and the toxic workplace culture he oversaw for years.
“Probably. Yeah,” Davis said when asked again if there should be a written report. “I think that there should be. Yeah. Especially with some of the things that were charged. Yeah, I believe so. Especially the people who were quote victims.”
Davis’ quote especially stood out considering 10 minutes earlier, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters he spoke for all of the league’s ownership when he said he was “very satisfied” with the punishment and “approve of the way the league handled it.”
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It was a breaking of ranks not normally seen so publicly in the league: a team owner contradicting both the most visible team owner in the NFL and the league’s commissioner.
On Tuesday night, Roger Goodell told reporters he felt Snyder had been held accountable and reiterated that there would be no written report. This came while the clock is ticking on the Nov. 4 deadline to meet the House Oversight and Reform committee’s request for all documents related to the WFT investigation. And it came hours after two former Washington Football Team employees, Melanie Coburn and Ana Nunez, hand-delivered letters to the hotel for individual team owners urging them to produce and release a written report.
“Yeah absolutely someone should be looking at this,” Davis said when I asked him if there should be a written report. “The league feels it has been looked at. They claim that nobody else said anything. They’ve seen all the emails, they’ve seen everything. We have not.”
These were the fullest comments Davis has made since the Oct. 8 Wall Street Journal article that first reported on Gruden’s racist email. Davis and the Raiders got word from the WSJ on Oct. 7, then got the emails from the league, then allowed Gruden to coach against the Bears on Oct. 10 before spending most of the day on Oct. 11 — according to Davis — hammering out details on a financial settlement for Gruden’s resignation just as the New York Times dropped another article on even more damaging emails.
Davis’ issue with the league is that these emails were in the NFL’s possession as early as June, but they were available to reporters more than four weeks into the regular season.
“I believe if we had gotten the information earlier in the summer when they learned about it, it would have been a lot easier for everybody involved,” Davis said.
Theories have abounded on where the leaks originated. Shrapnel from an investigation into the WFT has led to Gruden’s resignation, further disgraced from former WFT team president Bruce Allen and some mild embarrassment for NFL top lawyer Jeff Pash. Meanwhile, Snyder has been officially sidelined from day-to-day team activities while his wife has taken over, though he’s still been to games sitting in the owner’s suite. (Plus the thought that he and his wife don’t discuss matters related to the team strains credulity).
If the leaks came from the NFL, they harmed a well-liked lawyer and NFL lifer in Pash. That doesn’t seem likely. It’s hard to imagine investigator Beth Wilkinson, a highly esteemed attorney, would have overseen media leaks that compromised the Raiders and an NFL attorney but not the object of the investigation in Snyder. And once you eliminate those two parties — the league office and Wilkinson — you’re left with the Washington Football Team or some anonymous group that has access to documents from an investigation so extremely sensitive in nature that Goodell can’t fathom to produce a written report about it.
It’s unclear if team owners could ultimately compel Goodell to have that report produced, as Davis and many WFT victims wish. It’s unlikely that, if that were even possible, there’d be enough support among all owners to push that over the goal line. And so those wishing for a report now turn their attention to Congress, which so far has stopped shy of issuing a subpoena.