By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The selective leaking of NFL emails continues. The latest person to come under the microscope is Jeff Pash.
Pash is the general counsel and executive vice president for the NFL, and his emails with former Washington Football Team general manager and president Bruce Allen were among the 650,000 emails to have been examined during the league's investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and a toxic workplace culture within the football team's organization. Some of those emails were published by The New York Times on Thursday night.
The emails paint a picture of a more-than-cordial relationship with Allen, as well as some messaging that's certainly unbecoming for an executive like Pash.
After allegations of sexual harassment of Washington's cheerleaders became public, Pash calmed Allen, saying, "I know that you are on it and would not condone something untoward."
When Allen sent Pash an audio file of a song that was made to attract more Latino fans, Pash responded, "I am not sure this song will be as popular after the wall gets built." That comment was, one can assume, in reference to Donald Trump's quest to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
In response to the Times story, the NFL executive VP of communications Jeff Miller released a statement, saying, "Jeff Pash is a respected and high-character NFL executive. Any effort to portray these emails as inappropriate is either misleading or patently false."
Putting aside the clumsiness of the statement that suggests an effort is false, Miller and the NFL are approving all of the words written by Pash in these communications.
The emails detailed a very friendly relationship, and also detail a time when Allen emailed Pash after Washington had been fined $15,000 for manipulating the injury report. Allen's appeal of that fine was denied, but "Pash overruled his staff's decision to issue the fine, replying to Allen's email by saying that the team did not need to pay the $15,000 'or any other amount with respect to this matter and you should consider the fine to be rescinded in its entirety.'"
Pash also communicated with Allen about potential sanctions for violating an unofficial salary cap of sorts. Pash reassured Allen that even if the league handed down punishment, his opinion of the Washington president/GM would not change.
"We may not see this the same way. But that does not change my respect or affection for you," Pash told Allen. "After all, nobody else has ever given me a Hooters VIP card."
While such a relationship is not quite scandalous, it nevertheless exposes a severe conflict of interest for one of the most important decision-makers in the NFL's front office. It's also certain to inspire some phones to be picked up in Foxboro, asking why requests to correct false reports and plug league leaks were steadfastly denied by Pash in 2015, at the birth of what came to be known as the DeflateGate scandal.
Pash became a well-known figure in New England during DeflateGate, as it came to light that the NFL's executive vice president actually was the co-lead investigator, along with "independent" investigator Ted Wells. Before "the Wells report" was made public, Pash edited the document, eliminating any sense of "independence" from the investigation.
It was that conflict of interest that helped lead Judge Richard Berman to rule in favor of Tom Brady in the summer of 2015, though the NFL appealed Berman's ruling and had Brady's suspension reinstated by the Second Circuit in New York a year later.
When the Patriots emailed Pash to correct the public record on false reporting -- false information which had to have come from the NFL's offices, as nobody else was privy to any information regarding PSI measurements -- Pash told the team that "once the investigation is completed and the facts are known, any incorrect reporting will be shown for what it is." The final report, however, was not released until more than two months later, and that report did not mention any false reporting.
Certainly, that treatment contrasts rather starkly with Pash's decision-making regarding an alleged minor rule violation by Washington.
Likewise, Pash's relationship with Washington is certain to come under question in Dallas. In the case of allegations of domestic violence against Ezekiel Elliott, the investigator on that case -- Kia Roberts -- recommended no punishment for the running back, based on the interviews she had conducted and the facts she had gathered. The NFL then did not include Roberts' recommendation in the final report, with Lisa Friel (a die-hard Giants fan who became the head of investigations for the NFL) reportedly barring Roberts from the meeting on the final decision. That decision was made by Friel, Roger Goodell, Adolpho Birch and ... Jeff Pash, determining that the running back would face a six-game suspension.
Pash's emails aren't on the same level with Jon Gruden's, which resulted in the coach swiftly removing himself from his position as head coach of the Raiders. They do, however, add fuel to the idea that the Washington Football Team and owner Dan Snyder were let off very easily for the allegations of sexual harassment from dozens of women that prompted a multi-month investigation last year and this year. The NFL did determine that these allegations were valid, and the league did fine the Washington Football Team a record $10 million. However, the league declined to share any written report of its findings, and declined to share any of the evidence that was discovered over the course of the investigation.
Because of that, there may be an outcry from teams who feel as though Pash didn't give them fair treatment in the past, or from teams who feel as though Washington received preferential treatment. (Those of us who wasted several years doggedly following the deflated football accusations wouldn't mind seeing what Pash was really saying behind the scenes on that matter. It would be illuminating, that is for sure.)
The leaking of these communications is interesting, too, because it adds further mystery as to where the leaks are originating. The emails, as mentioned, came about during the league's investigation into the Washington Football Team's workplace culture. The league has refused to publicize any of those emails -- despite concluding that the organization was guilty of many of the accusations. Now, with multiple leaks to The Wall Street Journal and New York Times, it's still not known who's getting these emails in front of the eyes of reporters. It's not known why that's happening. And it's not known if the NFL is doing anything -- or can do anything -- to stop it from happening.
It's also not known what will come out next. For anyone involved in the NFL in any way over the past decade, some tension-filled days (and weeks?) lie ahead.
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