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Attorneys for Ex-Washington Football Team Employees: Goodell 'Misrepresented the Wishes of Our Clients'

Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, the attorneys representing 40 former Washington Football Team employees who participated in the investigation, rejected NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's position on releasing the WFT probe findings, saying he "misrepresented the wishes of our clients." 

"You have chosen to hide behind the "incredibly brave" women and men who came forward to try to justify your decision to protect the WFT and Dan Snyder from whatever is contained in those findings," the attorneys penned in a letter to Goodell. "You have misrepresented the wishes of our clients, and likely those of the other women and men who came forward, to justify your decision to bury what we know would be a damning report, having sat through dozens of interviews. 

"Our clients came forward with details of harassment and abuse they suffered with the reasonable expectation that they and the public would be provided with the findings of the 10-month-long investigation."

During a Tuesday press conference, Goodell said the findings have not been and will not be released because the league promised anonymity to individuals who helped with the investigation.

"We're very conscious of making sure we're protecting those who came forward," Goodell said. "They were incredibly brave, incredibly open, and we respect the pain that they probably went through all over again to come forward. That was a very high priority."

However, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported Tuesday that two accusers were at the venue earlier in the day requesting full transparency, and a former team employee, Rachel Engleson, tweeted that Goodell's comments were "false."

"This is false @nflcommish," the tweet read. "We were told our identities would be kept confidential in a written report. Meaning, if I spoke about something that happened to me, there would be no way Dan or others could trace the info back to me. Not that there would be no written report. C'mon."

Banks also took to Twitter on Tuesday evening, saying, "Goodell's statement is false" in one tweet and "My clients did not ask the NFL for “protection” when they participated in the investigation. They asked for transparency and accountability—and received neither" in another. 

When addressing Goodell's note that it would be "difficult" to produce a report because of the confidentiality, Katz and Banks referenced the 168-page report by New York Attorney General, which detailed sexual harassment allegations against former Governor Andrew Cuomo. Within the report, names were redacted, omitted and anonymized when necessary. 

"Our clients do not wish any further 'protection' from you by withholding this report," Katz and Banks continued. "Instead, they urge you to receive a written report of the findings of the investigation from Beth Wilkinson, take whatever steps necessary to ensure the confidentiality for those who desire it, and make that report public forthwith." 

There has been a major push for transparency from the NFL following the leaked emails that contained anti-LGBTQ, racist and misogynistic language. Earlier Wednesday, Raiders owner Mark Davis told reporters that he believes the NFL should release a written report on the WFT investigation. 

And last week, two House Democrats penned a letter to Goodell, pushing the commissioner to give Congress the findings concerning the probe and how the league handled the matter, per the Washington Post.

In the five-page letter, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) asked for him to produce “all documents and communications obtained in connection with the investigation into the WFT, its management, its owners, and any other matter relating to or resulting from the WFT investigation” by Nov. 4.

Snyder, co-owner of the WFT, hired Wilkinson to investigate the franchise's workplace culture following the Post releasing a report that included 15 former female employees of the team describing their experiences with sexual harassment and verbal abuse within the organization. Additionally, WFT cheerleaders alleged they were secretly videotaped while getting undressed, and later reached a settlement with the team.

The NFL then took over with Wilkinson reporting to Jeff Pash, the longtime general counsel of the NFL and advisor to Goodell who also is under scrutiny following the 650,000 emails the league investigated that resulted in ex-Raiders coach Jon Gruden's resignation. The New York Times uncovered misogynistic, racist and anti-LGBTQ emails sent by Gruden from 2010 to '18, which were also collected and reviewed by the NFL while it investigated the WFT. Gruden reportedly sent the emails to then-team president Bruce Allen, who also reportedly had a close relationship with Pash.

WFT received a $10 million fine when the investigation concluded but Snyder was not personally punished as a result, although his wife did become co-CEO. Goodell said on Tuesday he felt Snyder was held accountable considering the “unprecedented fine” and that he “hasn’t been involved with the football team for four months."

The findings were not made public, and Wilkinson reportedly did not submit a written report but verbally shared her findings. 

"While many who came forward feared retaliation by Dan Snyder, and therefore requested their names be kept confidential, they never envisioned that all their efforts and the efforts of Beth Wilkinson and her team would result in no written report of findings, and no real accountability for Dan Snyder or the WFT," the attorneys wrote, per ESPN. "Had they known this, they would not have participated."

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