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NFL says it will control investigation into Commanders owner Dan Snyder, not the team

Team co-owner Dan Snyder speaks during the announcement of the Washington Football Team's name change to the Washington Commanders. The NFL says the League will head an investigation into the allegations against Snyder and workplace culture.
Rob Carr
/
Getty Images
Team co-owner Dan Snyder speaks during the announcement of the Washington Football Team's name change to the Washington Commanders. The NFL says the League will head an investigation into the allegations against Snyder and workplace culture.

The NFL said it will investigate claims of sexual misconduct by Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder — emphasizing that the league will hire an investigator to lead the probe, not the team.

Earlier Wednesday morning, the Commanders announced that the team hired an outside investigator, Pallas Global Group LLC, to look into the allegations of sexual harassment against Snyder brought on by former team cheerleader and marketing manager Tiffani Johnston at a congressional roundtable.

Johnston, who worked for the team for eight years until 2008, claims that at a work dinner, Snyder placed his hand on her thigh under the table and later pushed her aggressively toward his limo and asked her to ride with him.

But hours after the team's announcement of its investigation, the NFL said the team "would not control the probe."

"I do not see any way that a team can do its own investigation of itself," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in his annual news conference during Super Bowl week. "That's something we would do. We would do it with an outside expert that would be able to help us come to the conclusion of what the facts were."

Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi told ESPN Wednesday that the latest move by the Commanders was "disturbing."

"Dan Snyder already called Tiffani Johnston a liar," Krishnamoorthi said. "And so for him to then hire an investigator to look at those claims begs the question of whether the investigation will really be impartial or unbiased. Or will it be prejudiced in favor of Dan Snyder's side of the story, because after all, these investigators and these people are being paid by Dan Snyder."

Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent Johnston and more than 40 other former Commanders employees, released a statement echoing Krishnamoorthi's concerns — saying Johnston "will not participate in this sham of an investigation" and that Snyder's move is a "desperate public relations stunt."

"[Johnston's] powerful testimony was corroborated by an eyewitness who submitted a statement to Congress," The fact is that Mr. Snyder has gone to great lengths to conceal the truth and his retention of this team is just his latest effort to paint a false picture of his behavior," Banks and Katz said.

The team has a history of former employees sharing their accounts publicly regarding workplace culture and alleged sexual harassment.

In July 2020, The Washington Post published the first of two exposes with 15 women alleging sexual harassment while working for the team. The first story described women being subjected to inappropriate comments when it came to their bodies and clothing, unwanted advances in addition to improper touching by senior executives.

The second report focused on an internally produced video that pieced together outtakes from a cheerleader photo shoot.

According to the Post, the team had only one full-time human resources staffer prior to 2019 — noting there was no process for reporting harassment in the workplace.

Later in 2020, the Post reported that in 2009, the Washington Football Team (its former team name) had settled a sexual harassment claim filed by a former employee against Snyder for $1.6 million. According to the newspaper, Snyder admitted no wrongdoing.

A view of a Washington Commanders logo during the announcement of the Washington Football Team's name change at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., on Feb. 2.
Rob Carr / Getty Images
/
Getty Images
A view of a Washington Commanders logo during the announcement of the Washington Football Team's name change at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., on Feb. 2.

The team launched an investigation after the Post's reporting, resulting in the NFL fining the Football Team $10 million. The League released a brief summary of its findings, citing bullying, intimidation and a general lack of respect in a "highly unprofessional" workplace.

Goodell told reporters on Wednesday that the league had no deal with Snyder in which it would need his permission to release the findings of its investigation.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.