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Gruden’s Emails Were Collateral Damage in Washington Football Saga


Throughout the end of 2020 and into 2021, both the investigation into Washington’s workplace culture and the N.F.L.’s mediation of the ownership dispute proceeded more quietly. In March, the N.F.L. tentatively approved an agreement in which Snyder would be allowed to take on more debt than the league traditionally allows in order to buy out his three partners. It was a sign that the outside investigation, while not yet complete, would largely exonerate Snyder personally.

Three months later, in July, that was exactly what happened. The N.F.L. finally resolved the yearlong investigation. The Washington Football Team was ordered to pay a $10 million fine and reimburse the cost of the investigation, and Snyder said he would cede day-to-day control of the team to a new co-chief executive, his wife, Tanya Snyder, through at least October. The team’s human resources department was ordered to be monitored for the next two years.

But the investigation’s findings were not made public, and nothing was said about allegations about Snyder’s behavior toward female employees. Not only did the N.F.L. not release a thorough report, it did not even ask for one. Instead, Beth Wilkinson, the lead outside investigator, briefed the N.F.L. on her findings orally.

“We felt it was best due to the sensitivity of the allegations and the requests for confidentiality,” Lisa Friel, the N.F.L. executive in charge of investigations, told reporters.

Part of the investigation, however, involved the review of the emails sent and received by Bruce Allen, the team’s longtime general manager and president, and a close confidant of Snyder, until Allen was fired in 2019. The review of Allen’s inbox and outbox is what ultimately led to Gruden’s resignation, and showed that Allen participated in inappropriate and offensive conversations, including the sharing of pornographic images.

Allen was a senior executive with the Raiders during Gruden’s first stint as the head coach there, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and both eventually went to work for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where they won a Super Bowl following the 2002 season. Both left the team in 2008. Gruden went on to work for ESPN as a color analyst for “Monday Night Football,” and Allen was eventually hired by Washington. As general manager there, Allen hired Gruden’s brother, Jay Gruden, who coached the team from 2014 to 2019.

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