What began as just a simple campaign to push for a name change has blown up into something much larger. The Washington Football Team (WFT) caught enough heat for its former name, the Washington Redskins, that it changed to its current vanilla name until something more profound surfaces. Soon after, a report surfaced that the team’s leadership had engaged in long-running sexual misconduct that was allegedly unknown to its owner, Dan Snyder. While almost no one believed he couldn’t have known, he promised to investigate the issue and be more involved in the team’s operations. However, the NFL seemed to be willing to not get involved, which didn’t sit well. After catching flak for seemingly not taking the issue more seriously, the NFL is now getting involved and is going to investigate the allegations.
According to a report by the Associated Press, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stepped in and taken over the investigation. Snyder had hired a law firm out of Washington, Wilkinson Walsh LLP, to dig into the team’s culture, and attorney Beth Wilkinson of the firm will now report directly to the NFL, instead of to the WFT. This should help to overcome concerns that any findings would be biased, since Wilkinson previously would have been responsible for investigating the man who hired her.
At least 15 former employees have come forward to confirm that they were victims of long-running sexual misconduct inside the organization, with a few specifically targeting Snyder as being involved. The NFL’s dismissive attitude forced lawyers defending the victims, Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, to contact the NFL and seek a different course of action. The attorneys, who make up part of the Katz, Marshall and Banks LLP law firm, then sent a letter to Goodell, asserting, “Our clients would gladly participate in such an NFL investigation but do not feel safe speaking to investigators hired by Mr. Snyder and do not trust the investigation that is currently underway.”
As part of the ongoing investigation, the WFT has, undoubtedly against its will, canceled non-disclosure agreements the former employees had previously signed, which will allow things to run more smoothly. The lawyers are happy with the way things are going, and said in a statement, “We are pleased and encouraged that the league is taking this matter seriously and we expect that it will take appropriate action against Daniel Snyder and the Washington Football Team upon conclusion of the investigation.”
Snyder, for his part, continues to deny any wrongdoing. The team has released a statement saying that it is “deeply distressed” by the accusations, which reportedly continued for years under Snyder’s nose. It isn’t clear how long the investigation will take, but it will definitely have an impact on the team’s performance this year. It went 3-13 last season, and it isn’t likely this season will see much of a change.