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Congressional panel threatens ‘further action’ if NFL doesn’t fulfill documents request

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media during a news conference Monday following Super Bowl LVI. (Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty)
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The NFL provided a congressional committee with additional documents related to its investigation of the Washington Commanders’ workplace that the panel’s Democratic leaders requested last fall, partially complying with a deadline that had been set for midnight Monday.

But the House Committee on Oversight and Reform made clear in a statement that partial compliance would not be enough.

“We have been clear that the NFL must stop hiding the results of the Wilkinson investigation and fully comply with the Committee’s requests, or the Committee will have no choice but to take further action,” the statement read, referencing all documents related to attorney Beth Wilkinson’s 10-month investigation into allegations of widespread sexual harassment and mistreatment in Washington’s NFL team, including claims leveled directly at owner Daniel Snyder. “The Chairs are committed to uncovering the truth about what happened within the Washington Commanders organization and how allegations were handled by the NFL in order to inform legislative efforts to make workplaces safe for everyone.”

In the statement provided by a committee spokesperson, the panel acknowledged receiving additional documents from the NFL that it was currently reviewing. The committee did not disclose the nature of the documents it received Monday, nor the number of pages that the league has turned over.

NFL tells Congress that Commanders are blocking access to documents from workplace probe

The committee’s chair — in this case, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) — has the power to subpoena documents not willingly provided and to convene public hearings on matters deemed in the public interest.

Tuesday’s development was the latest incremental step in an increasingly strained, four-month dialogue between the committee, which serves as the investigative arm of Congress, and the league over its handling of claims of employee harassment and mistreatment spanning nearly Snyder’s full two-decade tenure as owner of the team.

The committee opened its probe in October, troubled by the NFL’s lack of transparency in refusing to release Wilkinson’s findings, which were based on interviews with more than 120 people and a review of more than 650,000 documents.

The issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as the use of nondisclosure agreements to hide employers’ bad behavior, has been a legislative priority of Maloney, as well as the panel’s co-chair, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), and others on the panel.

The league says it has had already shared approximately 80,000 pages of documents with the panel, but it has not produced everything requested that’s related to Wilkinson’s investigation. After NFL officials only partially complied with a Nov. 4 deadline to produce those documents, the committee invited six former Commanders employees to discuss their experience in the workplace during a Feb. 3 roundtable that was live-streamed to the public.

During the two-hour session, former cheerleader and marketing manager Tiffani Johnston leveled a new claim of sexual harassment against Snyder, recounting having to remove his hand from her thigh during a work dinner and, upon departing, resisting his insistence that she join him in his waiting limousine for a ride to her car.

Snyder has called Johnston’s claims “outright lies,” but the NFL has announced it will investigate, raising the possibility of further sanctions.

In the aftermath of the roundtable, the committee gave the NFL a Feb. 14 deadline for providing the full, requested documents. It also released a legal agreement between the league and the Washington team, known as a “Common Interest Agreement,” in which both entities pledged a mutual legal strategy in response to any legal claims arising from Wilkinson’s investigation. They also agreed that neither side would release details or documents related to the probe without the consent of the other, effectively giving Snyder veto power of what information is released.

In a Feb. 9 letter to leaders of the House committee, the NFL stated that all decisions about the investigation’s findings had been made by the league and not the team. It also stated that the Commanders were blocking access to documents the league claimed it would willingly provide. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Washington Post.

It was the NFL’s second sharp rebuke of Snyder and the Washington team over its response to the congressional probe.

Within hours of the Commanders’ announcement that the team had hired two former assistant U.S. attorneys to oversee an “independent” investigation of Johnston’s claims, the NFL announced that it — and not the team — would independently investigate the new allegations, which had not previously been shared with Wilkinson’s team.

Amid signs that the NFL’s willingness to defend Snyder may be straining, the House committee remains focused on both organizations. Its leaders want to know what Wilkinson discovered about how employees were treated, particularly female employees subjected to pervasive sexual harassment; and they want to know how seriously the NFL responded to evidence of improper behavior.

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The latest: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced that the committee intends to issue a subpoena to compel the testimony of Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.

Exclusive: An employee of Washington’s NFL team accused Snyder of asking for sex, groping her and attempting to remove her clothes, according to legal correspondence obtained by The Post. A team investigation concluded the woman was lying in an attempt to extort Snyder.

Civil suits settled: Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has reached settlement agreements in 20 of the 24 active civil lawsuits filed against him by women who accused him of sexual misconduct, the attorney for the women announced.

Jerry Brewer: “The Browns were prepared for initial turbulence, but they assumed they were getting Watson at the end of his troubles. Now his disgrace is their disaster.”

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