The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

NFL assumes oversight of investigation into Washington Football Team workplace

Washington owner Daniel Snyder, left, and Stephanie Rivera, wife of Coach Ron Rivera, watch the team work out Monday at FedEx Field. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The NFL has assumed oversight of the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, sexism and mistreatment in the Washington Football Team workplace, according to multiple people familiar with the situation. According to these people, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and team owner Daniel Snyder discussed the issue and agreed it was best if attorney Beth Wilkinson, who is conducting the investigation, reports to the league instead of the team.

Snyder has told the NFL he will release current and former team employees from nondisclosure agreements for the sole purpose of cooperating with Wilkinson and the Wilkinson Walsh law firm looking into the findings of two reports by The Washington Post that detailed years of demeaning, exploitative treatment of 40 female employees during Snyder’s 21-year tenure, according to Lisa J. Banks, a partner of the D.C. firm Katz, Marshall & Banks, which represents more than 12 such former employees, based on her conference call with league officials Monday.

“I think that will be extremely helpful in making employees and former employees come forward and share their experiences with the investigators,” Banks said following the call.

Snyder has denied any allegations involving him personally and has pledged to address problems within his team’s workplace culture.

Lewd cheerleader videos, sexist rules: Ex-employees decry Washington’s NFL team workplace

Banks went on to say: “The NFL was getting information every couple days, a few times a week. Now they are talking to the investigators every day. Whatever information they were getting, they decided to take a more active role.”

Last week, in the wake of The Post’s most recent report, Banks, along with law partner Debra Katz, called on Goodell to take several corrective steps.

Among them: Launch the league’s own investigation and suspend Snyder pending the outcome of its probe; commit to removing Snyder as majority owner of the team if the NFL’s investigation substantiated The Post’s findings; and direct Snyder to release employees from their nondisclosure agreements so they could speak to investigators without fear of reprisal.

On Monday, Banks and Katz had a conference call with NFL Senior Vice President Lisa Friel, the league’s special counsel for investigations, which represented a progress report of sorts on those issues. Later in the day, Banks addressed limited portions of the conversation, which she characterized as a “good and productive discussion” that covered the numerous allegations of harassment.

Last month, after The Post’s first report detailed the harassment allegations by 15 former employees and two reporters, Snyder announced the team would fund an investigation he characterized as “independent” led by Wilkinson, a D.C.-based attorney recommended by the NFL. Banks indicated she came away from Monday’s conversation with a greater understanding of the NFL’s involvement in that process.

“What we understand now is that the NFL is coordinating directly and daily with the independent [Wilkinson] investigators,” Banks said. NFL officials “are receiving information on a daily basis and will receive the full report once complete.”

Last week, after the latest Post report detailing allegations from 25 addition female former employees, including some involving Snyder, Goodell condemned the “unprofessional, disturbing and abhorrent behavior” detailed in the story, but he stopped short of announcing the NFL would launch an investigation.

Regarding the request by Banks and Katz that the NFL commit to removing Snyder as majority owner if investigators substantiate The Post’s reporting, Banks said they were told simply “the repercussions with the team will be commensurate with the report’s finding.”

Among the disclosures in The Post’s recent story, which was based on interviews with more than 100 current and former employees, was that the team’s broadcast department created unauthorized videos culled from lewd outtakes of footage chronicling the making of the team’s annual cheerleader swimsuit calendars in 2008 and 2010. The Post obtained both videos from a former employee who was troubled by their creation and by an earlier statement by Snyder distancing himself from the team’s workplace culture.

Snyder has denied any awareness of the existence of the videos or any role in their creation.