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NFL taking over investigation into WFT's culture

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The NFL asserted authority over the Washington Football Team by taking over the investigation into allegations of pervasive sexual harassment and verbal abuse of female employees.

Washington hired respected attorney Beth Wilkinson to lead the investigation last month, but many questioned the validity of the inquiry if the results were handed over to team ownership. Last week the law firm of Katz, Marshall and Banks, which represents 15 former Football Team employees, wrote a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell requesting the league take over the investigation. 

Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder and wife Tanya apparently also requested the league assume oversight of the investigation, according to a statement from Snyder obtained by ESPN's Adam Schefter on Monday.

"In conversations with commissioner Goodell, Tanya and I suggested that the NFL assume full oversight of the investigation so that the results are thorough, complete and trusted by the fans, the players, our employees and the public," the statement read.

Beyond the NFL taking over the investigation, the league also secured a release from non-disclosure agreements for former Washington employees and current employees to cooperate with the investigation, which attorney Lisa Banks also asked Goodell to do. 

Although the NFL has taken over the investigation, Wilkinson will continue to lead the effort. She came recommended by the league office to the Washington Football Team. 

 

"We communicated our strong belief that without this type of transparency, there can be no real accountability, and moreover, that victims of this type of abuse should be able to tell their stories when and how they wish to do so, without threat of legal action," lawyers Lisa Banks and Debra Katz said in a statement. "We are pleased and encouraged that the league is taking this matter seriously and we expect that it will take appropriate action against Daniel Snyder and the Washington Football Team upon conclusion of the investigation.”

The attorneys' initial letter to Goodell requested Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder serve a suspension until the investigation is complete. That has not happened, and NFL Network reported that Goodell spoke with Snyder and the Washington owner was in support of the decision of the league to take over the investigation.

Washington originally hired Wilkinson to take a deep dive into the culture within the organization following an initial scathing Washington Post story in July that detailed alleged sexual harassment claims from 15 former team employees and two reporters who covered the team.

Last week, the Post released a follow-up story with additional allegations of sexual misconduct, including stories from former cheerleader Tiffany Bacon Scourby that involved team owner Snyder.

Following the release of the second story, the NFL released a statement saying that it would wait for the ongoing investigation to be concluded before it would take action and that the league would not intervene with its own investigation. 

Staff writer Ryan Homler contributed to this report.