TAMPA — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday that attorney Beth Wilkinson is “nearing the completion” of her investigation into the Washington Football Team over allegations of sexual harassment and mistreatment of female employees.
The comments by Goodell at his annual state-of-the-league news conference during Super Bowl week were the league’s first substantive remarks in months on the investigation and ownership dispute.
“I have not met with her yet,” Goodell said of Wilkinson and her investigation, “so I don’t have any of her recommendations. She is nearing the completion of her work. So she’ll be sharing that work with me and her review at some point in the future.”
Goodell said that Wilkinson’s findings will be shared with the team, which he initially called the “Redskins” before correcting himself at the behest of a moderator and apologizing, calling the reference to the team’s former name “a bad habit.” Goodell said the findings also will be shared with “others” but did not specify whether they will be released to the public.
“To me, the important thing in the context of this is that the Washington football club has made a lot of changes already,” Goodell said. “They asked for this type of review. They asked for the recommendations on this. Dan and Tanya [Snyder] are going to be done making those changes for the football club. It’s really — it’s good to see that. But I expect that Beth’s recommendations will be something that will be added to that.”
The NFL assumed oversight of Wilkinson’s investigation in late August. Goodell and Daniel Snyder spoke and agreed it would be preferable for Wilkinson to report to the league instead of to the team, multiple people familiar with the situation said then. The team initially had hired Wilkinson after the first of multiple reports by The Washington Post detailing the harassment allegations by women who worked for the team and covered it as reporters.
Goodell said in a written statement in August that the league condemned the “unprofessional, disturbing and abhorrent behavior” detailed in the allegations made by the women. Goodell also said then that the NFL would “review the findings and take any appropriate action” once Wilkinson’s investigation is completed.
Wilkinson’s probe also includes information about a 2009 confidential settlement. That settlement appears to line up with a $1.6 million settlement the team paid to a female employee who accused Snyder of sexual misconduct, a copy of which was reviewed by The Post. The settlement reviewed by The Post contained no admission of wrongdoing. In a December court filing, Snyder called the woman’s claims “meritless” and said an insurance company opted to pay the settlement.
Of the team’s ownership dispute, Goodell said Thursday: “As you know, that’s in arbitration. I’m hopeful that that will get resolved shortly and that both parties or all parties can move forward and the Washington football club can continue to move forward.”
The attempt by Schar, Smith and Rothman to sell their ownership shares has been held up by increasingly acrimonious legal proceedings. A group of investors from California — Behdad Eghbali and Jose Feliciano, the billionaire co-founders of Clearlake Capital, and Feliciano’s wife Kwanza Jones, a singer, songwriter and philanthropist who grew up in the Washington area — offered $900 million for the ownership stakes of Schar, Smith and Rothman, according to two people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Post in November.
But Snyder blocked the potential sale, according to people familiar with the situation, by attempting to selectively exercise his right of first refusal to buy back minority shares of the team before they’re sold to other parties. Snyder was attempting to buy only the 25 percent held by Smith and Rothman, not the 15 percent owned by Schar.
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