NFL: Washington Commanders Block Access to Documents Related to Investigation

In a Wednesday letter addressed to the House Oversight Committee, the NFL blasted the Washington CommandersFor preventing access to more than 100,000 documents that were related to their investigation into workplace culture. This was a charge that the team denies but which highlighted a growing gap between the two sides.

This letter was written by the NFL's lawyers and sent to Rep. Carol Maloney, New York, the chairwoman of the committee, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Illinois. It came just one week after new sexual harassment allegations against Washington owner Dan Snyder were made. The NFL and team were divided by the letter, which prompted more investigations.

A spokesperson for the committee said that it had received the NFL’s letter. However, he maintained that documents that were released last week showed that the NFL was in agreement with Commanders to pursue a “joint strategic legal approach” to the investigation.

“While the Commanders and NFL continue their sexism, it is clear that the NFL has not given the Committee the Wilkinson investigation's findings or the underlying documents,” the statement said. “Until the NFL holds Mr. Snyder responsible and stops hiding truths about the scandalous workplace conduct that he witnessed, the League will continue to claim transparency and accountability.”

The NFL's response was to a February 4th letter from the Oversight committee, in which it stated, among others, that the NFL pulled out of a common interest arrangement with the Commanders in order to “justification to not turn over key documents that were being sought by the Committee.”

Wednesday's NFL letter stated that they had sought 109,000 documents in the possession of a third party vendor, which Wilkinson Stekloff had used during their investigation. Because the vendor was worried about its potential lawsuit, the vendor refused to grant the NFL or Wilkinson Stekloff access to the documents.

According to the league letter, Washington was immediately asked by the NFL to give its consent to the vendor. However, Washington repeatedly refused.

This was refuted by the team.

Snyder's attorney Jordan Siev said that “the Commanders have not prevented the NFL obtaining any non-privileged document and will continue to do so in future.”

The NFL also stated why it signed a common interest agreement to Washington. It was to avoid delays during the investigation.

Beth Wilkinson, a Beth Wilkinson employee, was hired by the team on July 16, 2020, to conduct an investigation of its workplace. According to the letter, the NFL took over the investigation six weeks later. The lawyers claimed that the NFL would have to interview multiple witnesses once again if it had not signed a common interests agreement. This would have delayed the result and made the process more difficult.

The letter stated that the common interest agreement had been created to allow the NFL to supervise the investigation and not to limit it. “The NFL has made all decisions regarding the investigation's findings. The team did not make them. Therefore, any suggestion that the NFL prevented the release or consent to the findings of an investigation is completely false.

In the letter, the NFL stated that it feared that if the NFL waived its original common interest agreement, any third party could serve discovery request seeking all confidential interviews.

The NFL denied that it had withdrawn from the common interests agreement. According to the letter, the NFL was asked to enter into a new mutual interest agreement regarding the congressional investigation. Although the NFL declined to enter into a new agreement, the letter suggests that the NFL might withdraw from the existing agreement. The NFL denied that this was true.

It stated in the letter that “this claim by the team shouldn't be used as an excuse to block access to documents needed by the NFL by complying with the Committee’s requests.” The NFL stated Monday that Washington submitted a revised proposal to the NFL, assuring them “that their release would not result in any waiver by them of privilege.”

The league needs clarification from Washington. According to the letter, the NFL said it is open to considering any of the proposed approaches for the committee.

The league also stated in the letter that it has “devoted considerable resource to obtain, review and produce approximately 80,000 pages” of documents. It stated that the league continues to provide documents to the committee both orally as well as in writing.

“In no manner is the NFL trying to block or obstruct the investigation of the Committee, and valid assertions by the NFL of applicable privileges should never be characterized in that way,” the NFL wrote.

It is still controversial that Wilkinson gave her report orally. The attorneys claimed that Wilkinson delivered her report orally in spite of the fact that previous investigations into the Carolina Panthers, and the deflating games balls, were conducted by the NFL using written reports. They “didn’t have the same confidentiality concerns as this one.”

The letter also stated that internal investigations are often delivered orally.

“It is simply incorrect to suggest the submission of a formal written report is necessary or an accepted practice by all companies or the NFL,” said the attorneys. The letter described the investigation as comprehensive and stated that regular updates were provided to the league.

The lawyers for the NFL also stated that Commanders claimed it had asserted privilege on “only four documents” in a letter sent to the committee. The NFL claimed that it had in fact asserted privilege over “several more documents”, bringing its total privilege to 92.

Tisha Thompson contributed this report.

Leave a Comment