Lawyers for more than 40 former Washington football employees have sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell alleging the league may have breached a confidentiality pledge that allowed their clients to speak to investigators about the owner of the Washington, Daniel Snyder, and the organization’s toxic work culture.
In an October 18 letter, attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz said that, based on reporting by ESPN article from last week by Don Van Natta, Seth Wickersham and Tisha Thompson, Snyder used Beth Wilkinson’s investigation as “a tip sheet” to compile an “enemies list” to create a detailed presentation “based on private messages and calls from nearly 50 people” to harass their customers who spoke to investigators.
“If true, it clearly violated a very specific promise the NFL made to our customers, through Ms. Wilkinson and her team, that the names of witnesses would be kept confidential and not shared with Mr. Snyder or the commanders in Washington,” said the letter reads.
Banks and Katz write that many of their clients agreed to participate in the survey “on the sole basis of assurances” of confidentiality because “they feared retaliation if their names were released.” The letter alleges that “several of our clients have been harassed by private investigators, some have been publicly disparaged and/or removed from team alumni groups, and at least one who still worked for the team has been fired” after the NFL revealed the names of the witnesses.
As a result, the lawyers threatened to sue the league, writing, “If true, the ‘tip sheet’ allegation is not only morally wrong, it also provides us with the basis to pursue legal action. against the NFL, which we will do given the serious harm caused to our customers by their reliance on the NFL’s promises.
Banks and Katz note the league’s ‘hypocrisy’ in not releasing the Wilkinson report after claiming they were keeping it private to protect witness confidentiality, when they say there are now reasons to believe the league released the names “freely”. to Mr. Snyder during this investigation.
The NFL and the Washington franchise signed a “mutual interest agreement” in September 2020, to share information during Wilkinson’s investigation of Snyder and the organization’s toxic workplace. The agreement states that the NFL and the team “share common legal interests, and that in pursuit of those interests, the parties have and will continue to share information and communications with Wilkinson Walsh and each other in connection with the ‘investigation,’ per ESPN, which first obtained Tuesday’s letter from Banks and Katz.
Ahead of the NFL owners’ meeting in New York, a team executive told ESPN that the “common interest agreement” troubled some league executives and owners because it allowed Snyder and the NFL to jointly monitor the Wilkinson investigation.
The team manager told ESPN the deal is “the league’s main exposure” and a “main weak point”.
The lawyer’s letter calls for the release of Wilkinson’s full report and the release of a full report of an ongoing investigation by former US attorney Mary Jo White.
John Brownlee, one of Snyder’s lawyers, was requested on Monday on the NFL franchise and Washington dissolving the “mutual interest agreement” and the release of Wilkinson’s findings. He said it was Goodell who “decided, and decided alone, that he didn’t want a written report”.
Brownlee reiterated that there was “no Wilkinson report to release” and “the team and Dan Snyder had nothing to do with it”.
Banks and Katz’s letter ends by requesting a meeting with Goodell to discuss whether the “tip sheet” exists and threatens further action.
“If you ignore our request, as you have with our past requests to speak to you directly, we will assume that reporting by [ESPN’s] Mr. Van Natta is true and we will be moving forward with formal legal action on behalf of our clients,” the letter reads.