- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2022

The NFL and the Washington Football Team, now known as the Washington Commanders, signed a legal agreement that barred either side from disclosing information from the league’s investigation into the team’s workplace, according to a document released Friday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. 

The document — known as a “Common Interest Agreement” — calls into question whether the NFL was being truthful when the league said it could not release a full written report of lead investigator Beth Wilkinson’s investigation in order to protect the anonymity of those participating in the probe, House Democrats said. 

The committee said the document shows the league “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.”

The Democrats said the agreement also raises concerns about whether Mr. Snyder “played a role in blocking the public release of the findings of Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation.” 

They added the agreement gave the NFL or Washington permission to “bury the findings” from the investigation. 

The agreement, released a day after Thursday’s congressional roundtable involving six former Washington employees — was dated Sept. 8, 2020, weeks after the league took over the workplace probe from the team. It also was retroactively applied to July 16, shortly after the team announced an investigation was underway in the wake of a slew of sexual harassment allegations from former employees that were made public. 

The committee also released a second document from August 2020 that shows an agreement between Washington and Wilkinson’s law firm in which Ms. Wilkinson would compile a written report upon completion of the probe. 

But the committee says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell instructed Ms. Wilkinson to provide only a series of oral reports about the findings instead of a written report. The NFL has said Ms. Wilkinson delivered the findings verbally so that identities could be protected.

In a letter to Mr. Goodell, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Illinois Democrat, wrote that the league’s own documents raise “serious doubts” about the league’s explanation.

“This new information raises doubts about the NFL’s purported commitment to independence, transparency, and integrity in addressing workplace misconduct at the WFT,” the Democrats wrote. 

“In light of these developments, we call on the NFL to immediately produce to the committee the findings of Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation, as well as the documents underlying those findings, so that the committee can evaluate any workplace misconduct that occurred and the extent to which the NFL may have attempted to conceal those findings.”

The committee is giving the NFL until Feb. 14 to produce the documents. 

If the league fully fulfills the request, the Democrats wrote that the committee would consider “alternate means.” The House committee, specifically Ms. Maloney, has the power to subpoena documents.

Friday’s documents were released after the committee received them from the NFL, which has provided some information to Congress but not everything. An NFL spokesman previously said the league was continuing to work with the committee. 

An NFL spokesman said Friday the league received the committee’s letter to Mr. Goodell and will respond.

“We will continue to cooperate, as we have throughout the investigation,” the spokesman said. “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.”

Congress got involved with the NFL’s probe in October following renewed criticism over the league’s handling of the matter. In July, the NFL fined Washington a record $10 million, but did not suspend Mr. Snyder. 

On Thursday, Mr. Snyder faced several new accusations from former employees, who said the billionaire acted inappropriately while they worked for the team. One woman, former cheerleader Tiffani Johnston, said Mr. Snyder made an unwanted sexual advance at a work dinner when he touched her thigh underneath a table and later tried to push her into his limo. 

Mr. Snyder called the accusations “outright lies,” though they prompted the NFL to say the league would investigate the matter.

In a statement, Jordan Siev, Mr. Snyder’s attorney, said Ms. Johnston quit the team through a “thankful and cheerful resignation note more than 13 years ago — citing her ‘5 and a half wonderful years working for the Washington Redskins.”

Mr. Siev said his client played no role in blocking materials from the league’s investigation.

“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,” he said. “Finally, all remaining non-privileged emails are being provided to the committee shortly.”

Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, attorneys who represent the former Washington employees who participated in the league’s probe and in the committee’s roundtable, said in a statement they would be exploring legal options in light of the Common Interest Agreement.

“Goodell was anything but an honest broker when it came to this investigation,” Ms. Banks and Ms. Katz said. “He was an active co-conspirator with Dan Snyder and is now carrying his water in stonewalling Congress’ efforts to ensure accountability by making the results of the Wilkinson report public.”

“Our clients and the public at large have been lied to and deceived by Commissioner Goodell. … Had they been told the truth — that the NFL and the WFT were operating under a ‘common interest privilege’ and joint defense agreement – witnesses would likely not have come forward.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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