The NFL and Dan Snyder’s team agreed that both parties had to sign off before releasing any information from the league’s investigation into widespread workplace sexual harassment in Washington, a new document shows. The agreement appears to effectively give Snyder veto power over whatever was released from the investigation.
The document, a “common interest agreement,” was released by congressional Democrats holding hearings on the matter on Friday.
The House Democrats blasted the agreement and sent NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a letter demanding the full Wilkinson report and the thousands of documents the investigation turned up. In the letter, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) threaten “alternate means of obtaining compliance” if the NFL doesn’t turn over the documents by Feb. 14. Maloney, the chair of the House Oversight committee, has subpoena power.
Calls to release the full report and its documents have been ongoing for months.
In July, Snyder was fined $10 million for the report’s finding of chronic sexual harassment in his Washington workplace, but Goodell claimed the report was delivered orally and no written version existed.
The blast radius from the investigation shook up the NFL in the months that followed. A tranche of offensive emails turned up in the investigation led to the firing of Raiders coach Jon Gruden, and emails with the same Washington executive deeply embarrassed ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Testifying in front of Congress Thursday, a former Washington employee said Snyder sexually harassed her at a work dinner, only stopping when his lawyer intervened. Snyder called her account “outright lies.”
After Tiffani Johnston, the former Washington employee, described being groped and harassed by Snyder, a league spokesman said “The NFL is reviewing and will consider Ms. Johnston’s allegations.”
Debra Katz, a lawyer for many of the sexual harassment victims in Washington, called the Wilkinson investigation a sham after the release of the common interest agreement.
“The NFL deceived our clients and the public,” Katz wrote. “Not a single witness — not one — would have participated in the Wilkinson investigation had they been told the truth about the NFL and the WFT’s joint defense agreement. This reeks.”
The agreement, signed by the NFL and Washington team in September — less than two months after the “independent” Wilkinson investigation was announced — points to a “common legal interest” between the league and team.
“The common interest agreement may have been intended to prevent the public release of certain information related to the investigation absent the agreement of both parties,” the House Democrats wrote in their letter, “meaning that either the WFT or the NFL could try to bury the findings of the investigation.”
The NFL pulled out of the agreement in October and is refusing to turn over the documents because Snyder’s consent is required, according to the letter.
“By dissolving their common interest agreement and withholding consent, the parties may be attempting to create a legal limbo to stop the Committee from obtaining these key Wilkinson investigation documents,” the representatives write. They speculate that the ultimate aim may be for Snyder to “prevent the release of information that implicated him personally.”
“The Committee has requested many documents which are clearly protected by the attorney-client privilege or are attnorney-work product,” the NFL said in a statement Friday. “The league, and not the team, has and will determine which information it is in a position to produce.”