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As scrutiny over leaked emails rises, Tanya Snyder tells owners the WFT was not the source

Tanya Snyder, shown here on the field before a game last month at FedEx Field, represented the team at this week's NFL owners' meetings. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
7 min

NEW YORK — Tanya Snyder, the co-CEO of the Washington Football Team, told fellow NFL team owners that the recent leaks of emails that have engulfed the league in controversy did not originate with her or her husband, Daniel Snyder, the team’s principal owner, and their franchise, according to multiple people present during a meeting of owners Tuesday.

According to one of the four people who heard and confirmed the remarks, Snyder made her comments unprompted. Another person who was not present at the meeting but is familiar with Snyder’s actions said she also apologized for what the league has experienced amid the fallout of an investigation into the Washington Football Team’s workplace.

The surfacing of the emails, which were gathered during the probe conducted by D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson, has brought fresh scrutiny on that case and the NFL’s handling of it, including from members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. According to one person familiar with the NFL’s view, some league officials believe the leaks originated with Daniel Snyder through representatives acting on his behalf.

“We have released no emails throughout this process,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

The league declined to comment further.

The emails, which first surfaced in stories in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, included correspondence between former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden and former Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen in which Gruden used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language. Gruden resigned Oct. 11 as the Raiders’ coach. Subsequent reports by the two newspapers detailed emails between Allen, whom Snyder fired as the team’s president in December 2019, and Jeff Pash, the NFL’s general counsel and executive vice president.

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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said during an interview Tuesday that “the league, of course, didn’t leak” the emails.

“We got a complete narration and review of how the information was gathered [and] how it was resolved,” Jones said.

Wilkinson was hired by the Washington Football Team in July 2020 following reports in The Washington Post of allegations of widespread sexual harassment and mistreatment of female team employees during Daniel Snyder’s tenure as owner. The following month, the NFL assumed oversight of her probe, during which the emails were obtained.

According to a person familiar with the situation, the NFL was alerted that the emails raised issues not directly related to the Washington Football Team workplace. League executives went through the emails and submitted their conclusions to Goodell. The emails involving Gruden were sent to the Raiders, and the league waited for that team’s owner, Mark Davis, to act.

The Raiders did not have access to the emails involving Allen and Pash, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Some of the emails between Gruden and Allen were filed as exhibits in federal court in Arizona in mid-June by attorneys representing Daniel Snyder. The emails were heavily redacted in the court filings but were identical to some of those later reported by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, as the Los Angeles Times first reported Oct. 12.

The NFL announced in July that, based on Wilkinson’s investigation, the Washington Team was being fined $10 million. The league said that Daniel Snyder would cede control over the team’s daily operations to Tanya Snyder, who had been named co-CEO shortly beforehand, for an unspecified amount of time. The NFL said then that Tanya Snyder would represent the franchise at league meetings during that time. She represented the team at this week’s meeting.

The league said in July that Wilkinson did not submit a written report to the NFL. The league has resisted calls by the NFL Players Association and former team employees to release materials from the investigation.

“We feel that this is the appropriate way to do it,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during a news conference Tuesday after the first day of the owners’ meeting. “We summarized the findings of Beth and made it very clear that the workplace environment of the Washington Football Team was not what we expected in the NFL and then held them accountable. But more importantly, steps were put in place to make sure that it does not happen again.”

Goodell cited the anonymity sought by — and granted to — some witnesses who participated in Wilkinson’s investigation. Goodell said Tuesday of Daniel Snyder: “I do think he’s been held accountable. I think the organization has been held accountable.”

Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, the attorneys for 40 former Washington team employees, responded to Goodell’s comments by sending him a letter Wednesday pushing back against what they described as “inaccurate claims.”

“You have chosen to hide behind the 'incredibly brave’ women and men who came forward to try to justify your decision to protect the WFT and Dan Snyder from whatever is contained in those findings,” the letter said. “You have misrepresented the wishes of our clients, and likely those of the other women and men who came forward, to justify your decision to bury what we know would be a damning report, having sat through dozens of interviews. Our clients came forward with details of the harassment and abuse that they suffered with the reasonable expectation that they and the public would be provided with the findings of the 10-month-long investigation.”

Also Wednesday, Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis told reporters that he would like to see a written report from the probe.

Two Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote last week to Goodell, asking the league to provide Congress with the findings of Wilkinson’s investigation and provide details about the NFL’s handling of the probe. Goodell said Tuesday that the NFL would cooperate with Congress.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), a co-author of the letter, said Wednesday he was “really disappointed” with Goodell’s response.

“On the one hand, I think the commissioner said they intend to cooperate, but on the other hand, he has actually said they don’t intend to cooperate by producing documents, so that’s disheartening to learn because I think a lot of people want to get to the truth of what’s really going on here,” Krishnamoorthi said.

“First we want to see what the formal response is. I have to say, if there was no wrongdoing in the way the investigation was handled — and that the NFL did everything above board — then they should produce the documents showing that. Then we can go from there. Take my word for it: This is not going to go over well with folks in Congress or our constituents.”

According to Goodell, all owners were told during this week’s meeting to make certain that their teams are being operated properly.

“Our focus — and our focus remains — is to make sure that all our clubs operate at the highest level as far as our workforce and workplace by making sure that we set the highest standards,” Goodell said Tuesday. “We actually spent some time talking about that [Tuesday], and we’ll continue those discussions going forward because it’s an important thing for us.”

Liz Clarke in Washington contributed to this report.

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