The National Football League is now overseeing the investigation into the Washington Football Team’s workplace culture and harassment allegations, an NFL source told WTOP.
Team owner Dan Snyder and Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke about the decision Monday night.
As a result, a number of the women who are being represented by a law firm led by Lisa Banks and Debra Katz are among those who will be released from nondisclosure agreements they signed with the team. That way, they can contribute to the investigation without fear of being sued themselves.
An NFL source told WTOP that attorney Beth Wilkinson, of law firm Wilkinson Walsh, is retained by the league will report only to the league.The Washington Football Team initially hired the firm.
A different law firm led by Banks and Katz, which is representing over 15 former employees of the Washington Football Team, said it has recently had a “productive discussion” with the NFL regarding its investigation into sexual harassment and exploitation of female employees, including front office personnel, administrators and cheerleaders.
Firm representing 15 fmr @WashingtonNFL employees says of talks with @NFL: “We also learned that the NFL has secured a critical agreement from the team to release employees or former employees from any non-disclosure agreement for …speaking with the investigators
— Megan Cloherty (@ClohertyWTOP) August 31, 2020
The exploitation of cheerleaders for the entertainment of Snyder’s friends was detailed in a story published by The Washington Post last week. The story also alleged that the team produced a “special” video that showed the cheerleaders changing their costumes and swimsuits during an overseas calendar photo shoot that it planned to send to important clients.
In addition, the story outlined worries female employees had about whether their mistreatment concerns could be properly handled by the team’s small human resources department.
Snyder issued a release Monday night after news of the investigation. In the statement, Snyder said he and his wife Tanya requested the league assume oversight of the investigation to ensure players, employees and the public could trust the results.
“Recently, The Washington Football Team launched an independent third-party investigation into allegations about our culture and incidents of harassment,” Snyder said in the statement. “In conversations with Commissioner Goodell, Tanya and I suggested that the NFL assume full oversight of the investigation so that the results are thorough, complete and trusted by the fans, the players, our employees and the public.
I appreciate Commissioner Goodell agreeing to our suggestion and the entire Washington Football Team remains committed to fully cooperating with all aspects of the investigation.”
The NFL has been engaged with the team throughout the summer. In early July, the team announced it would initiate a name change; the team was also was the subject of a separate Washington Post article that outlined the many ways senior male employees harassed both their female colleagues and reporters who covered the team.
That story and its fallout prompted the team to hire a law firm, Wilkinson Walsh, to launch an internal investigation.
When the investigation started, observers wondered how an organization hired by the team could complete an independent investigation.
Now, it seems as if Wilkinson Walsh will be reporting directly to the NFL.
The law firm representing the women released from nondisclosure agreements called the step “critical” in a news release Monday night.
Many of the new concessions stem from a letter Katz and Banks recently sent to the NFL regarding their concerns about the Washington Football Team’s investigation.
Snyder, the team’s owner for 21 years, has previously denied wrongdoing on his part and said he will take steps to change the team’s workplace culture.
According to a report Monday night by The Washington Post, the NFL will now receive daily updates from Wilkinson Walsh regarding the investigation. It had previously been getting news every few days.
The NFL said it doesn’t comment on the investigative process.
In a tweet, team president Jason Wright wrote he is “fully supportive.”
Fully supportive. https://t.co/WlrT72s3cZ
— Jason Wright (@whoisjwright) September 1, 2020
WTOP’s Megan Cloherty and Jared Ruderman contributed to this report.