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The NFL’s cowardly cover-up doesn’t 'protect' women. It shields team owners.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said a report on sexual misconduct by Washington Football Team executives would remain private. The women in the report are pushing back.
Image: National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell in New York in 2014.
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell in New York in 2014.Alex Goodlett / Getty Images file

The National Football League will not be releasing a report on its monthslong investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by Washington Football Team executives, league commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday.

For fans of accountability, the news is sure to disappoint.

During a news conference, Goodell claimed the decision not to release a report on the investigation’s findings was made to “protect” the people who came forward with stories of mistreatment within the organization. 

“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.”

National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell in New York in 2014.Alex Goodlett / Getty Images file

Goodell claimed a few vague paragraphs released when the league fined the team and sidelined its owner, Daniel Snyder, amounted to a sufficient “summary” of what happened. So there you have it: Nothing to see here, folks. Grand opening, not-so-grand closing. Right?

Not so fast, according to the accusers. 

Minutes after Goodell finished his conference, one of the women interviewed for the investigation tweeted that his excuse for withholding the report was a lie.

“We were told our identities would be kept confidential in a written report,” the woman, Rachel Engleson, tweeted Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, two accusers hand-delivered a letter signed by several others calling on the NFL to make the investigation’s findings public. 

Goodell’s claim that the league chose not to release a damning sexual harassment report out of concern for women is entirely unbelievable. NFL team owners, who pay Goodell’s salary, have an obvious incentive to keep the findings secret: Publishing the investigation’s discoveries could endanger the team owners themselves. 

Last month, reports said the investigation unearthed racist, sexist and homophobic emails that Washington’s former general manager, Bruce Allen, received from friend and former NFL coach Jon Gruden. When those emails were leaked, speculation immediately began over which NFL executive would see their offensive emails shared next. Bringing the Washington investigation to a blunt end could very well have the effect of shielding other NFL higher-ups from embarrassment. 

The NFL has demonstrated a pattern of ignoring and covering up stories of abuse within its ranks. In many cases, the most prominent stories to make news have involved players. Markedly less-famous team executives generally have the privilege of doing their dirt in the dark. By playing defense for the Washington Football Team, Goodell is trying to keep it that way for now. 

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