NFL commissioner Roger Goodell insists the league has priority in any investigation into its teams despite Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder's decision to hire an independent investigative team to examine the latest allegation of sexual assault against Snyder.
"I do not see any way that a team can do its own investigation of itself," Goodell said during a news conference in Los Angeles, site of this year's Super Bowl. "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."
Goodell's comments came after the league announced its own plans to handle the investigation into ex-Washington employee Tiffani Johnston's claims that Snyder once put his hand on her leg in an unwanted advance and then later tried to guide her into his limousine during an unspecified night of Johnston's time with the organization.
"I think we treat that very seriously and we need to look into that," Goodell said about Johnston's claims, which came during a congressional roundtable discussion on Feb. 3 before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. "We need to understand what really, truly happened in those circumstances and treat that in the best and most serious way we can to make sure we preserve the type of culture we want in the NFL."
Goodell was later asked whether the findings of this particular probe would be released once it was finished, unlike the Wilkinson Report, which investigated Washington's toxic workplace environment for more than a year but was only presented to Goodell verbally and not released in written form.
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The commissioner didn't provide a direct answer to that question, choosing instead to reiterate his reason for not sharing the Wilkinson Report.
"It's important to note that when the investigation originally happened, we wanted to make sure that any employee or anybody that had anything to offer about what was happening in the Washington Football Club could come forward and do so on a confidential basis if that's how they preferred," Goodell said. "We made that pledge to those employees that if you wanted to come forward and keep your identities confidential, we would do that. That was the core reason why the report was given to us orally."
Goodell was also pushed on the "Common Interest Agreement" that the NFL and Snyder signed in September 2020, soon after the league took over Wilkinson's investigation from the team. Documents obtained last week by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform uncovered that agreement, which indicated that Snyder could have had a say on whether details and documents from the Wilkinson Report were released.
"We did not make a deal with Dan Snyder for his approval to release any information," Goodell said when asked about that agreement. "It did not interfere with anything that we did with respect to the Washington investigation and the outcome of the Washington investigation."
Goodell praised the changes Snyder and the Commanders have made since their workplace environment was first scrutinized beginning with multiple Washington Post stories written in the summer of 2020. He even noted that the NFL recently received an update on the franchise's progress.
"We just got an audit back last week, by chance, that demonstrates that, actually, they are working," Goodell said of Washington's revamped front office and the cultural changes it has pursued.