NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a memorial service for NFL legend Bart Starr at the Wright Center in Birmingham, Ala., on Sunday, June 9, 2019. 

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Roger Goodell: NFL won’t release WFT report

The NFL will not release the details of the investigation into workplace misconduct involving the Washington Football Team, commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday.

Speaking after a meeting of the league’s owners in New York, Goodell cited the request for anonymity made by some of those who were interviewed by investigators.

Goodell said, “We’re very conscious of making sure we’re protecting those who came forward. They were incredibly brave, incredibly open, and we respect the pain that they probably went through all over again to come forward. That was a very high priority.”

However, one of the whistleblowers, ex-Washington Football Team employee Rachel Engleson, disputed Goodell’s assertion regarding the report and asked for it to be made public.

She tweeted, “This is false @nflcommish. We were told our identities would be kept confidential in a written report. Meaning, if I spoke about something that happened to me, there would be no way Dan (Snyder) or others could trace the info back to me. Not that there would be no written report. C’mon.”

Attorney Lisa Banks also tweeted, “I represent 40 former employees of the WFT who participated in the investigation. Goodell’s statement is false.”

Snyder, who owns the Washington Football Team, was replaced as head of the team’s day-to-day operations as a result of the report, with his wife, Tanya, taking over. The team also received a $10 million fine based on the investigation’s findings.

Goodell said Tuesday of Daniel Snyder, “I do think he’s been held accountable. More importantly, steps were put in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Two members of Congress last week asked for the report to be made public. The five-page letter stated, in part, “We have serious concerns about what appears to be widespread abusive workplace conduct at the WFT and about the NFL’s handling of this matter. …

“The NFL’s lack of transparency about the problems it recently uncovered raise questions about the seriousness with which it has addressed bigotry, racism, sexism, and homophobia — setting troubling precedent for other workplaces.”

–Field Level Media

Jul 22, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Scott Frost speaks to the media during Big 10 media days at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Scott Frost under investigation for improper use of analysts

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost is under investigation by the NCAA for improper use of analysts and consultants, The Action Network reported Wednesday.

Frost and new athletics director Trev Alberts acknowledged an investigation Wednesday without going into specifics.

The allegations are that Frost used Jonathan Rutledge, senior special teams analyst, to conduct special teams drills during practices, despite Rutledge not being one of Nebraska’s 10 full-time on-field assistant coaches, per the report. Analysts and consultants may only communicate with Frost and the coaching staff, not players, per NCAA rules.

Nebraska has significant video evidence of Rutledge interacting with players during practice in front of Frost and other assistants, per the report.

“The University of Nebraska Athletic Department has been working collaboratively with the NCAA to review a matter concerning our football program,” Alberts said. “We appreciate the dialogue we have had with the NCAA and cannot comment further on specifics of this matter.”

Rutledge and Frost’s chief of staff Gerrod Lambrecht both left the program in the past eight months. Rutledge was fired Jan. 14, 2021, ostensibly for poor special teams play. Frost announced Lambrecht’s departure earlier this month, saying he was pursuing another opportunity.

The NCAA is also investigating Nebraska for holding unauthorized off-campus organized workouts under the supervision of the Cornhuskers’ strength and conditioning staff last year during the coronavirus pandemic, per the report. Lambrecht is linked to those activities, per the report.

The NCAA has interviewed Frost, assistant coaches, staff and players, and Frost has obtained legal counsel, per the report.

Frost, 46, could be suspended a certain number of games, among other punishment, pending the results of the NCAA’s probe.

A former star quarterback at Nebraska (1996-97), Frost is 12-20 at his alma mater entering his fourth season.

Alberts took over as athletic director last month and said he first learned of the probe after he started.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) rolls out of the pocket against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Report: NFL investigators ‘patronizing’ to Deshaun Watson accusers

Two of Deshaun Watson’s accusers told Sports Illustrated that NFL investigators followed a demeaning line of questioning regarding acts of sexual misconduct allegedly committed by the Houston Texans quarterback.

In a story published Friday, Sports Illustrated revealed what two women, who were among the 22 who have civil lawsuits pending against Watson, thought of the interview process conducted by the NFL. And they weren’t complimentary.

“This woman asked me what I was wearing, which honestly really pissed me off,” said Ashley Solis, who was the first woman to publicly accuse Watson of sexual misconduct during a massage session. “She explained that that’s something that she has to ask — which I don’t believe at all.”

The interviews were conducted by Lisa Friel and Jennifer Gaffney, former prosecutors who are running the league investigation. Another Watson accuser, Lauren Baxley, backed up Solis’ statements in a separate interview.

Baxley said she, too, was asked what she wore during a massage appointment with Watson in June 2020, and she said the investigators were “patronizing” and “victim-blaming.” She also asked why she just didn’t end the session when she felt Watson was out of line.

By contrast, she said, her interview with the Houston Police Department was professional. Houston police are conducting a separate investigation that could lead to criminal charges. Baxley has sued Watson and also filed a complaint with Houston police.

“They (Houston police) let me speak uninterrupted, whereas with Lisa Friel and the (other NFL investigator), they would cut me off, they would question things, they would circle back,” Baxley said, adding she thinks the NFL investigators were “trying to trip me up. They didn’t, but they were really looking for the weaknesses that they thought they could exploit.”

The interviewers are charged with collecting evidence that will help the league determine whether Watson violated the league’s personal conduct rules, which could lead to suspension. Commissioner Roger Goodell can place any player on the exempt list if he finds a violation could have occurred.

A player on the commissioner’s exempt list receives full pay but doesn’t account against the team’s 53-man roster. Those on the list cannot practice or attend games but can work out, receive treatment or attend meetings at the team facility.

So far, 10 women have been interviewed by the NFL, according to the Sports Illustrated report.

The publication said the women consented to an interview because they are disturbed that Watson is still on the Texans’ active roster.

But in training camp, Watson has been anything but active. He has been demoted to fourth-string quarterback and has been working off the side with a trainer as he copes with a calf injury. Veteran Tyrod Taylor is taking first-team reps.

Watson, who turns 26 next month, largely was an observer for the first two weeks of training camp and isn’t expected to accompany the team to Green Bay for Saturday’s preseason opener against the Packers. He has requested a trade, but he signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension that is scheduled to kick in with the 2022 season.

Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents all 22 women, said that after his first three clients were interviewed, he was present and that subsequent interviews had a changed tone.

The NFL told ESPN on Friday that the review of the “serious allegations” against Watson is ongoing.

–Field Level Media

Feb 7, 2020; Tampa, FL, USA;  General view of the NFL Shield logo on the field before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

NFL to investigate alleged comments made to Eugene Chung

The NFL on Monday said it will investigate comments allegedly made to former NFL player and assistant coach Eugene Chung that he was “not the right minority” during a job interview with a team.

Chung, who is Korean, made the assertion last week during a webinar with the Boston Globe. Chung did not get the job for which he was interviewing and he didn’t identify the team or the executive who made the comment.

“We will review the matter,” the NFL said in a statement. “That comment is completely inappropriate and contrary to league values and workplace policies. The NFL and its clubs are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all personnel in a manner that is consistent with our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Chung is a former assistant coach with the Kansas City Chiefs (2013-15) and Philadelphia Eagles (2010-12; 2016-19), who didn’t renew his contract after 2019.

“It was said to me, ‘Well, you’re really not a minority,’” Chung told the Boston Globe. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute. The last time I checked, when I looked in the mirror and brushed my teeth, I was a minority.’”

In a follow-up, Chung said he was told he was “not the right minority that we’re looking for.”

“I asked about it, and as soon as the backtracking started, I was like, ‘Oh no, no, no, no, no, you said it. Now that it’s out there, let’s talk about it,’” Chung said. “It was absolutely mind-blowing to me that, in 2021, something like that is actually a narrative.”

Chung played in 55 games (30 starts) with the New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts from 1992-97. The Patriots selected him No. 13 overall in the 1992 NFL Draft.

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, an independent organization that promotes diversity in the NFL, reached out to the league on Monday asking for an investigation.

“Alleged comments made to Eugene Chung by an NFL team during a recent interview should be investigated by the NFL,” the organization said in a statement obtained by the NFL Network. “If the comments regarding his status as a Korean American are true, it is further evidence that despite good faith changes to diversity-related policies, the NFL’s actual hiring practices are still riddled with discrimination.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) warms up before a game against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston police open investigation of Deshaun Watson

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, the target of 21 lawsuits alleging inappropriate behavior and sexual misconduct, is now the subject of a police investigation.

Houston police tweeted Friday, “Today, a complainant filed a report with the Houston Police Department concerning Deshaun Watson. As with any allegation, the Houston Police Department is now conducting an investigation and will not comment further during the investigation process.”

Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, responded in a statement, “We welcome this long overdue development. Now we will learn the identity of at least one accuser. We will fully cooperate with the Houston Police Department.”

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement to multiple media outlets, “We are continuing to monitor all developments in the matter which remains under review of the Personal Conduct Policy.”

Watson, 25, has denied the accusations of nearly two dozens masseuses who allege he used massages as pretext to prey on them. In the lawsuits, he is accused of exposing his genitals to the women and forcing one to perform oral sex.

Tony Buzbee, the lawyer for the 21 women who have filed suit against Watson, previously said his clients wouldn’t be taking their cases to the police.

Watson agreed to a four-year, $156 million contract extension last September, and he subsequently produced his third consecutive Pro Bowl season for the Texans. However, he requested a trade in January.

–Field Level Media