Protecting Their Own in the NFL: Using Media Could Have Changed a Broken Culture

By Max Newton

The National Football League (NFL) has a history of protecting its own. Time and time again they have been pushing certain issues with players or team personnel under the rug in hopes of not tarnishing their reputation. There is a sense that the NFL is an old boys club and with that, they will do what they have to in order to protect their own no matter the situation at hand.

This type of culture was once again brought to the forefront when 15 former female employees of the Washington Football Team came forward accusing team staff of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. After both an internal investigation and an external investigation done by the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell decided that a 10 million dollar fine was to be assessed to team owner Dan Snyder, the fine was stated as being “unprecedented” by Roger Goodell but is $10 million really that substantial to someone worth 4 billion? I would say not really.

Pictured is Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner since 2006

There are plenty of issues that could be discussed on how this whole process was handled. Personally, the biggest issue is how the media team working with the NFL handled the outcome. The NFL has not released any of their findings from the investigation and there is a major push for that information to be released and rightfully so. As of right now, there are only rumors of what happened, especially surrounding the owner Dan Snyder and his major role in the creation of this toxic culture and how he has failed to hold his employees and himself accountable. Not releasing the investigation that was conducted, allows for this type of culture to be continued not only in this specific organization but the sports world as a whole. This was a giant missed opportunity for the NFL and the media to show that they are taking a stance on this unacceptable behavior and provide examples (anonymously) of the specific behavior that needs to be completely eliminated from this industry.

Dan Snyder, Washington Football Team Owner and at the forefront of the sexual harassment claim from his former employees

By not releasing the report, or at the very least, explaining the nature of the issue and giving the public more of an explanation the NFL basically protected their own and let them off the hook with a slap of the wrist. Was there a possibility for the NFL to use this poor decision making by one organization as an example for the rest of the sports world by releasing their findings to the public, allowing their media team to share this information, knowing it will be a black eye on the league but in the long run it will allow for growth because the media can raise awareness by being able to speak about the issue? Absolutely there was. The PR team that is involved with the NFL, along with the NFL executives were clouded in their judgment and focused on protecting their own instead of using this incredibly disappointing situation for a chance to change the culture that has been created through sports by entrusting the media and their team to pass along crucial information. To further show this, business academic Paul Nutt’s was quoted as saying “the NFL executives are checking every box in Nutt’s analysis of “debacles” and “blunders””

The NFL and the sports industry as a whole have primarily worried about protecting their own, while there has been a slow change in the sports industry in terms of accountability in recent years, there is still plenty of room to grow. This situation specifically presented the NFL an opportunity for growth in terms of the culture but was missed because of their lack of awareness on how media could properly address the issue at hand. Using a negative situation and finding ways to ensure it never happens again should be at the forefront of NFL executives anytime a situation like this arises, hopefully, that is the case in the future.