NFL says Commanders blocking release of documents to Congress

NFL says Commanders blocking release of documents to Congress

The NFL wrote in a letter to the House Oversight and Reform Committee that the Washington Commanders franchise, not the league, is blocking the release to the panel of more than 100,000 documents requested as part of a congressional investigation into the NFL’s and the team’s handling of workplace misconduct and sexual harassment allegations.

The letter, sent Wednesday, says that the Commanders continue to prevent the release of 109,000 team-related documents that are in the hands of a third-party vendor. The vendor, the league writes, has refused to turn them over to the league or even lead investigator Beth Wilkinson’s law firm without permission from the team. 

“That vendor refused to provide the NFL or even Wilkinson Stekloff with access to the documents unless the team consented because of its concern that it could be sued by the team or its owner,” the league said. 

“The NFL promptly directed the team to provide its consent to the vendor, but the team repeatedly has refused to do so.”

In the letter, the NFL said that Washington has “insisted” it will only grant access to the documents if the team can review the documents for privilege first to decide which of them they can turn over. The league adds that it views this as an “unacceptable approach.” 

The six-page letter, obtained by The Washington Times, also addresses the committee’s criticism related to topics such as the NFL entering into a “common interest agreement” with the team and the league’s decision to not release a written report related to Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell denied the common interest agreement — a legal document which House Democrats say may have given owner Dan Snyder permission to prevent the full findings of the league’s probe from being released — had any impact on the final outcome of the investigation. 

The NFL fined the franchise $10 million last July for workplace misconduct. Snyder was not suspended, though the league said he was voluntarily giving up day-to-day operations of the club for several months.

“We did not make a deal with Dan Snyder to have his approval before we release any information, no,” Mr. Goodell said. 

The NFL’s letter to the committee, though, was the latest instance of the league undercutting the Commanders. On Wednesday, the NFL issued a sharp rebuke saying that it — not the Commanders — would investigate the new accusations from a former employee who accused Snyder of sexual misconduct. Hours earlier, the team said it had appointed a law firm to conduct a “thorough and independent” investigation” into the allegation.

“The Commanders have never prevented the NFL from obtaining any non-privileged documents and will not do so in the future,” Snyder’s attorneys said in a statement.

Congress has given the NFL until Monday to turn over all the requested documents. A spokesperson for the committee did not respond to a request for comment about the NFL’s letter. 

The league said in its letter that the team and the league were trying to work toward a solution regarding the materials that have yet to be turned over.

“On Monday, the team approached the NFL about a proposed alternative resolution involving assurances to them that their release of the documents would not result in any waiver of privilege by them,” the league said. “While it is not clear what form that assurance would take, we will contact the team to clarify their proposal and will keep the Committee informed, as we have been doing.

“If the Committee believes that either of the team’s proposals is acceptable, the NFL will accede to the team’s terms. “