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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified this past week as part of a congressional investigation into the Washington Commanders’ workplace practices. The Commanders have been criticized by more than a dozen former employees who said it was a "toxic" environment that included sexual harassment of female workers. Howard Bryant, sports journalist and ESPN contributor, joins Geoff Bennett to discuss.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified this past week as part of a congressional investigation into the Washington commanders workplace practices. The commanders have been criticized by more than a dozen former employees who said it was a toxic environment that included sexual harassment of female workers. For more on this, I spoke yesterday with sports journalist and ESPN Contributor Howard Bryant.
Howard, it's great to have you with us. And these allegations, as you know against the Washington football team, they date back 20 years and at the House oversight hearing this past week, Roger Goodell said that the team's negative culture no longer exists. But he said that the environment under owner Daniel Snyder was unprofessional and unacceptable. So why then does Goodell and the rest of the team owners continue to stand by Dan Snyder?
Howard Bryant, ESPN Contributor:
Number one, Roger Goodell simply cannot say that a certain workplace culture doesn't exist anymore. That's his opinion, whether it works or not. If you talk to the people who work at that place, they're still talking and they're still talking off the record to many people in the media. The biggest reason why they abide by it is because they're part of a private club. Once you're an insider, you don't criticize other insiders, it's part of that club. And because they all know that, if you turn on them one day, they may turn on you. That's exactly what this sort of this ownership group is. It's a private club, they decide who's in it, and they keep it as private as possible. The short answer really is that the owners do not want to break ranks, even if it includes enabling someone like Daniel Snyder.
So what does that all then mean for Goodell's credibility? Because the other thing that struck me was that in that hearing, he confirmed many of the claims about the commanders culture found in that investigation by Attorney Beth Wilkinson. But he still refused to release the full report, he only released a summary of it.
Well, I think, Geoff, the biggest mistake that we make, and we do it in all sports, it's not simply the NFL, but especially in the NFL, because it's the biggest sport out there financially, is that the commissioner is some sort of moral arbiter that the commissioner is a moral guide for the sport. And he's not, he is the mouthpiece for the owners. He works for the owners, they pretty — they pay his salary. And so in terms of credibility, his job is to protect them. He gets that $44 — $50 million a year for that to appear, for that very type of testimony to protect this team — to protect every team, whether it's Washington or whether it's the Patriots or the Cowboys or any of the other ones.
Yeah. I also want to ask you about what happened this past week, you had Browns QB Deshaun Watson settling 20 of the 24 lawsuits against him over allegations that he sexually harassed and even assaulted massage therapists in the Houston area. Four of Watson's accusers didn't settle. So that could be bad news for him, not only in court, civil court, Criminal Court, potentially, but also in the court of the NFL, what kind of punishment is he looking at?
Well, the way that it's been described so far is that he's probably looking at a year suspension. Clearly the Browns are expecting a year suspension. And the reason why I say that with such certainty is when you look at Deshaun Watson's contract when he was brought into Cleveland, that contract was structured to essentially mitigate a suspension. And instead of deciding whether this is the sort of character that you want in your franchise that you want this person to represent you, you've decided to protect his money by structuring a contract that essentially protects him and his salary from a potential suspension.
And Howard, as you well know, I mean, in the years after the Ray Rice scandal, the NFL said it was going to redouble its efforts to look at its culture across the board. I think these two instances, incidents, what's happening with the commander's and what happened with Deshaun Watson, I mean, it's clear that the league has much more work to do.
One of the things with the NFL is the question as to whether or not you can have a financial juggernaut and a moral decline happening simultaneously. And people enable the NFL simply because it's a $15 billion machine, it's supposed to — revenues are going to balloon out to $25 billion over the next decade. And it's essentially a too big to fail operation. But that doesn't mean that it's an honorable operation.
Howard Bryant, appreciate you, I appreciate your insights as always. Thanks for being with us.
Watch the Full Episode
Geoff Bennett serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour. He also serves as an NBC News and MSNBC political contributor.
Kaisha Young is a general assignment producer at PBS News Weekend.
Andrew Chambers is an associate producer at PBS News Weekend.
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