The focus of the last week when it came to the NFL’s investigation into the Washington Football Team had been Jon Gruden’s emails to former president Bruce Allen, eventually leading to the resignation of the Raiders coach. However, now more details are emerging of correspondence that ran through Allen’s account as the league investigates sexual harassment complaints filed by former employees. These new details involve the NFL itself.
On Thursday night the New York Times published a third story about the details emerging in the NFL probe, and this centered on executive Jeff Pash. The NFL general counsel, it makes sense that the league’s legal representation would be in contact with Allen over the years, but the nature of their conversations were far beyond ordinary.
Here’s an outline of the most incendiary incidents:
Pash and Allen made fun of league diversity efforts
In 2016 Allen complained to Pash about the NFL’s decision to hire Jocelyn Moore, a black democrat, to be the league’s lobbying representative in Washington. In an email to Pash, Allen wrote:
“Curious — is there a rule against hiring Libertarians, Independents or even a Republican?” to which Pash responded, “No, but it can sometimes look that way!” In this same exchange Allen jokingly suggested implementing a “Lincoln Rule” in addition to the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” which mandates minorities are given opportunities to interview for coaching jobs. It’s presumed Allen was saying more republicans needed to be hired by the league.
On another occasion the pair discussed the league’s efforts to market the NFL to Latinx communities. Allen sent Pash a link to a song he said would appeal to Latino fans, to which Pash remarked “I am not sure this song will be as popular after the wall gets built.”
Pash revoked fines against Washington
In 2013 then-head coach Mike Shanahan doctored an injury report and the Washington Football Team was fined $15,000 as a result. Shortly after Allen emailed Pash saying the fine was “BS,” the lawyer responded that the team didn’t need to pay the fine, or “or any other amount with respect to this matter and you should consider the fine to be rescinded in its entirety.”
It’s unclear why Pash removed the fine against the organization, but this required overruling his own department. We also know that Allen and Pash were extremely close away from work, with Pash donating money to the election campaign of Allen’s brother, and (I assume) jokingly appreciating Allen gifting him a Hooters VIP card.
Pash routinely kept Allen in the loop on investigations
When Washington was being investigated in 2018 as part of the cheerleading sexual harassment scandal, Pash kept Allen award of where the process was. At one point he said the issue was being discussed internally, while adding that regardless of the result he wouldn’t look at Allen any differently.
On another occasion there were reports some teams may be penalized for breaking league rules on free agent signings. Allen inquired whether he was involved, with Pash telling him that it was another team getting in trouble, not him.
How has the NFL responded?
The Times reached out to the NFL for comment following their investigation, and were given the following response by executive VP of communication, Jeff Miller:
“Communication between league office employees and club executives occurs on a daily basis. Jeff Pash is a respected and high-character NFL executive. Any effort to portray these emails as inappropriate is either misleading or patently false.”
So, from the league’s perspective it’s appropriate to tip off an organization about investigations, rescind fines seemingly due to friendship, and bemoan hiring a woman of color to a position of influence.
This is the tip of the iceberg, and more details from this investigation are yet to come.