WASHINGTON — One day after a Congressional roundtable where more allegations of sexual harassment in the now-Washington Commanders organization were revealed, the NFL now faces a Valentine's Day deadline to turn over all documents regarding the investigation into the alleged toxic culture of the Washington organization.
If the league fails to do so, the committee says it "will consider alternate means of obtaining compliance."
New documents released on Friday reveal that both the NFL and the Washington Commanders football organization had a legal agreement in place -- that both sides had to agree about the release of information concerning the sexual harassment investigation into Washington football.
That essentially handed team owner Dan Snyder the power to hide information he didn't want to become public.
On Friday, a letter addressed to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pointed to a joint legal strategy entered into by the Washington Commanders and the NFL that indicates "either the WFT or the NFL could try to bury the findings of the investigation" conducted by NFL attorney Beth Wilkinson.
The committee referenced a “Common Interest Agreement” signed by the NFL and the Commanders days after the NFL took over the investigation from Wilkinson in September 2020. According to that agreement, the NFL and Commanders pledged to pursue a “joint legal strategy” and agreed not to share any privileged documents or information exchanged during the investigation without the other’s consent, the committee said.
"Under this agreement, the NFL may not have been able to release the results of the Wilkinson investigation to the public without the permission of team owner Daniel Snyder—who himself has been accused of multiple acts of sexual misconduct by his employees, most recently during yesterday’s Committee roundtable," a letter from the Oversight and Reform Committee read.
COMMON INTEREST AGREEMENT
A change in usual procedures also was cited as a "stark departure" when it came to how investigation findings were ordered to be delivered to Goodell. A letter between the football team and Wilkinson's law firm from August 2020 stated that a written report of the findings and recommendations on any remedial measures would be completed.
AGREEMENT FOR WRITTEN REPORT FROM LAW FIRM
The committee asserts, however, that Goodell "personally instructed" that Wilkinson's findings were to be presented verbally, not written into a report. At the investigation's end in July 2021, the NFL released a four-page press release. U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) has noted that Wilkinson examined "tens if not hundreds of thousands of documents" related to this investigation.
LETTER FROM CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE TO GOODELL
NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy provided a statement that asserts the league will "continue to cooperate."
“We have received the Committee’s letter. We will review it and respond to them. We will continue to cooperate, as we have throughout the investigation. To date, we have shared nearly 80,000 pages of documents and made many others available for the Committee to review, in addition to responding to questions from the Committee, both in writing and in the course of numerous discussions.
“The Committee has requested many documents which are clearly protected by the attorney-client privilege or are attorney-work product. The League, and not the team, has and will determine which information it is in a position to produce.”
An attorney for Snyder issued a statement on his behalf Friday afternoon, addressing Thursday's new allegation and the letter released by the committee.
"The former team employee who spoke for the first time yesterday resigned through a thankful and cheery resignation note more than 13 years ago – citing her '5 and a half wonderful years working for the Washington Redskins.' We understand that she was approached by the Wilkinson law firm in 2020 as part of its investigation, but she refused to be interviewed. The unsworn allegations she made for the first time yesterday against Mr. Snyder are false, and have been categorically denied by Mr. Snyder.
"Regarding today’s letter from the Committee to the NFL, neither Mr. Snyder nor the team has ever done anything to block the Committee from receiving any documents it has requested from the NFL that are not expressly protected by attorney-client privilege or attorney work product.
"Finally, all remaining non-privileged emails are being provided to the Committee shortly."
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), hosted a two-hour roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill with six former Washington Football employees about claims of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct.
The collective ire of the former employees centered on team owner Dan Snyder personally and his management.
"Daniel Snyder should not be managing any human beings," said former employee Melanie Coburn. "He should not be in a power position. He needs to be held accountable for his actions."
"Agree 100%," responded Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC).
During the roundtable, former employee Tiffani Johnston shared a story about Snyder with committee members for the first time. She claimed Snyder put his hand on her thigh during a dinner engagement and then later aggressively pushed her towards his limousine.
"The only reason Dan Snyder removed his hand from my back and pushing me towards his limo is because his attorney intervened and said, 'Dan, Dan. This is a bad idea. A very bad idea, Dan," Johnston said.
Snyder released a statement later calling the accusations "outright lies" but committee chair Maloney read from a letter sent in from former team Vice President Jason Friedman that corroborated Johnston's allegations.
"He says, 'I witnessed Dan Snyder grab the arm of my coworker Tiffani Johnston and attempt to pull her into his limousine,'" Rep Maloney read aloud. "This took place over a dinner in D.C. I was shocked. Thankfully, Tiffani was able to quickly pull away.'"
An NFL spokesman provided a statement Thursday to WUSA9 in response to the new allegations.
“We are grateful to the witnesses who again demonstrated courage by sharing their painful experiences. The NFL is reviewing and will consider Ms. Johnston’s allegations as we would any other new allegations regarding workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders. We will determine any further action as appropriate."