In 19 days, the United States House Oversight and Reform Committee will hold a hearing on workplace issues within the Washington Commanding Officers organization, the league’s investigation into them and the the league’s decision to conceal the results and conclusions – to the point where the league specifically asked the investigator not to even prepare written recommendations. The committee invited commissioner Roger Goodell and Washington owner Daniel Snyder to testify.
The league and team said they would respond to the invitation “in a timely manner.” Surely neither Goodell nor Snyder wants to testify. But suppose Goodell participates. (Snyder, with his ownership of the team on the matter, will surely do everything he can to avoid showing up and answering questions.) What will happen when he’s questioned?
In practice, anything and everything can happen. He will be questioned by the various members of the Committee in five-minute increments. Some of the committee members will use their time to make speeches. Some will complain that the hearing and investigation are a waste of resources. Some will take the opportunity to publicly grill someone who is rarely, if ever, truly grilled in a public place.
We recently mentioned one of the very real benefits of the press conference approach to commissioner access. One reporter asks a question, Goodell answers it (or, as the case may be, doesn’t answer it), then the next reporter asks a different question on a different topic. There is usually no follow-up question asked, even if the answer (or, as the case may be, non-answer) requires it.
It won’t happen before Congress. If Goodell is asked a direct question and doesn’t answer it, the next question will look like this: “Sir, you didn’t answer my question. Please answer my question.”
Goodell will face pointed questions over the decision to hide the results of the 10-month investigation led by attorney Beth Wilkinson. And the stupid and nonsensical argument that they chose to keep all findings and conclusions secret because some of the employees interviewed requested anonymity will not work in this context.
This can work at a press conference, where no reporter has the authority to say, for example, “Sir, you haven’t answered my question. Please answer my question.” This won’t work until after Congress, when one or more committee members are ready to pounce on the fallacy that because some employees didn’t want their names released public, all evidence, information and findings had to be kept secret.
Here is the other reality. Committee members will not be limited to asking questions about the situation of commanders and how the league is handling it. They can grill Goodell on the leaked emails from Jon Gruden, which served as the spark for the current congressional investigation. They can ask about Deshaun Watson. They can ask about the Brian Flores litigation. They can ask questions about the Stephen Ross Inquiry.
It can go in a bunch of different directions. And the more Goodell tries not to answer one or more of the questions, the more likely he is to face the kind of resistance he never sees at a press conference and rarely experiences in an online interview. one-on-one because: (1) he rarely does them; and (2) he never does them with someone who will ask pointed questions about topics Goodell would prefer not to be asked about.