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Lawyer says NFL needs to release Washington Football Team investigation findings

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Las Vegas Raiders play their first game today since their former coach, Jon Gruden, resigned last week, the resignation coming hours after reports of his use of slurs and derogatory language in emails to NFL executives came to light. About those emails - they came to light because of an NFL investigation into the workplace environment of the Washington Football Team, which is facing allegations that it fostered a degrading and hostile work environment, especially towards women, for years. And while the investigation concluded this past July, only emails related to Gruden have been made public.

The NFL has said it does not plan to release additional records from the investigation, but some people say more documents need to be released. One of the people saying that is Lisa Banks. She is an attorney who is representing more than 40 former employees of the Washington Football Team, and she's with us now to tell us more. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

LISA BANKS: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: You represent more than 40 former employees of the Washington Football Team. As part of the documents that were released, there are email exchanges between Gruden and former Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen that featured photos of topless women, including the team's cheerleaders. And I was wondering if you've spoken with any of your clients since the story broke and if you can share any of what their feelings are about all this.

BANKS: I represent, as you said, 40 clients, not all of whom are cheerleaders, but all of my clients are really devastated by the allegations about the content of these emails and the idea that there could be more.

MARTIN: Why do you want more emails to be released? What information do you think that they might have that would be relevant?

BANKS: It's not even just the emails. It's - there are findings to this investigation. It went on for 10 months or more. They interviewed 120 people. They looked at, as we know, over 600,000 documents. And my clients participated with the understanding that there would be some transparency and some accountability at the end of this. They would understand what the findings were and what steps were being taken as a result. And the problem is we haven't seen anything. We haven't heard anything. There hasn't been any information communicated to us. We haven't seen the findings. We have not seen a report as we have in most other NFL investigations. So, you know, effectively, this whole thing was swept under the rug, and my clients feel like they were duped.

MARTIN: The Washington Football Team was fined $10 million. The team owner, Dan Snyder, says he gave up daily operations. Does that indicate any accountability to you? And if not, what would?

BANKS: It doesn't necessarily show any accountability, in that we don't know the depth of the problems in the organization because we haven't seen the findings. And so we can't know whether the fine and Dan Snyder giving up day-to-day operation is commensurate with the harm and the allegations because we don't know the full extent of it. So no, I don't think there has been accountability. And what would be that accountability really would depend on what are the findings? You know, I know a lot of the allegations that were brought forward, and I know that this harassment and abuse and misogyny existed throughout the organization from the top down over a period of 20 years. So what is proper accountability for that? You know, opinions will vary, but it certainly isn't a slap on the wrist and putting your wife in charge.

MARTIN: Some people will look at these emails differently. You'll remember that when the former president as a candidate for the presidency was overheard talking about grabbing women by their genitals, it was dismissed by some as locker room talk, which many people certainly find offensive, but others don't. And many would say this doesn't rise to the level of a crime. But it does speak to a culture, right? So given your background in employment law, how do you change a culture? I mean, can you just give us a way to think about that?

BANKS: I mean, first thing I'll say is this situation is about more than emails. In fact, it has very little to do with emails. The allegations that I'm aware of are allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, assault, not just inappropriate emails. So it runs the gamut. And as with any organization or any company, the culture and the tone is set at the top. And if you have the top levels of the organization harboring a view that is racist or sexist, it's going to filter down through the organization. And so the best way to change that culture is to change the tone at the top. And sometimes that necessitates changing who sits at the top.

MARTIN: That is attorney Lisa Banks. She represents more than 40 former employees of the Washington Football Team. Lisa Banks, thank you so much for joining us.

BANKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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