Well, it did not take quite a full year for the NFL to act regarding allegations made by former female employees of the Washington Football Team regarding a “toxic culture” in the Front Office there and some awfully sleazy allegations that border on calling some folks “peeping Toms”. Yesterday, the NFL announced that it has fined the team $10M – which the league will beneficently donate to charity – and simultaneously, the team announced that Danny Boy Snyder will not be the team CEO any longer because he is turning over those duties to his wife Tanya Snyder.
To be clear, no individual was suspended by the league for even a day nor was the team penalized in any way related to performance – – such as losing a draft pick or two. The penalty here has two dimensions:
- A monetary dimension
- A cosmetic change to the team’s “wiring diagram”.
That’s it; that’s the list…
In September 2020, Forbes estimated the value of the Washington NFL franchise to be $3.5B. That means the NFL fined the team to the tune of three-tenths of one percent of its value. Ten million dollars is a lot of money in normal life; ten million dollars is petty cash in the world of NFL franchises and their owners. Make no mistake; this is not even a slap on the wrist; this “penalty” is the equivalent of having your mother wag her finger at you and telling you not to do whatever it was that get her angry in the first place.
The investigative report done into the allegations here found the team’s Front Office workplace to be “highly unprofessional” – – particularly for women. You can read about the first wave of allegations made by 15 women as documented by the Washington Post last July here. After you take a moment to do so, I want to pose a few questions when you get back.
Now that you have refreshed your memory about the first wave of allegations – – remember these were augmented about a month later when more women came forward – – ask yourself a couple of questions:
- If the findings of the investigation were serious enough to merit a seemingly large fine, should you not conclude that at least some of the charges levied by these women were found to have had some merit?
- Now, if even a few of the allegations were found to be real, how come there are no suspensions? Would not the NFL want to disassociate itself with people who engaged in behaviors such as the ones alleged by these women?
So … either the NFL took the investigative report and found it to be “frivolous” but figured that it had to do something that looked dramatic so it fined the team 0.3% of its value or the NFL took the investigative report and found at least some of the allegations to be credible and decided to make it look as if they were acting in a way to assure such behavior would never again darken the doors of the institution and gave us a meaningless fine and a cosmetic change in the team hierarchy.
Here are four significant problems with the NFL’s current position:
- The league – as of now – will not make the investigative report public even in a redacted form. That leaves the door open for anyone who wants to cast aspersions on the report or the league’s action(s) based on the report to have at it.
- The league punished the New England Patriots with a nominal fine AND the loss of a draft pick based on flimsy evidence in Deflategate. It also suspended some folks. So, the questionable air pressure in a football is more important to the league than sexual assault on women and “peeping Tom” activities?
- The allegations leveled last summer were sufficient for the team to fire two individuals named as “perpetrators” and for the then Director of Communications to decide to retire about 24 hours after the story hit the papers. So, based on the current status, we should conclude that they are the only bad actors here? Really?
- At least one allegation made involved Danny Boy Snyder directly. The league announcement of what it calls the conclusion of this matter does not even mention that “trivial matter”.
To my mind, the most telling and troubling aspect of this matter is that the league will not release the report done by Beth Wilkinson and that the league is now trying to frame its decision in light of this overview statement:
“Wilkinson was not specifically tasked with confirming or rejecting any particular allegation of inappropriate conduct …”
Excuse me? Then how come it took a year for the league to get the report and decide to take “action”?
Please take another moment today and read Sally Jenkins’ column in this morning’s Washington Post. If you have the idea that I find the NFL’s position on this matter less than honorable, you should see what Ms. Jenkins has to say.
Finally, at the heart of this sordid mess is the issue of equal treatment of women in the workplace. So, let me close with this observation by the French novelist, Honoré de Balzac:
“Equality may perhaps be a right, but no power on earth can ever turn it into a fact,”
To which I add – – “Especially if they don’t even try.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………