ESPN published a very long, detailed report on Dan Snyder, and his efforts to keep his ownership stake in the Washington Commanders on Thursday morning, the day the team played their first primetime game with their newest name. There was a treasure trove of new information, and more details on things that had already been reported. One of those has cause lawyers for 40+ former employees of the Washington franchise to sue the NFL.
Snyder used the Wilkinson investigation as “a tip sheet” for his law firms, according to multiple legal and team sources. “The list of people who opposed him became his enemies list,” a former Washington executive says.
Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham were two of the reporters for Thursday’s article, and they’re back today with another exclusive. It was previously reported that Dan Snyder had hired private investigators to interfere in the investigation and to “interview” some of his accusers. This happened after they had spoken to Beth Wilkinson’s team after being promised that their identities wouldn’t be revealed to Dan Snyder or the team.
Snyder dismissed the report as “a hit job.” The team hired Beth Wilkinson, a veteran Washington, D.C., lawyer, to investigate the claims in July 2020. But Snyder was “actively interfering” with the Wilkinson inquiry by using private investigators to “harass and intimidate witnesses,” congressional investigators found. Goodell and the league took over the investigation in August 2020.
EXCLUSIVE, latest from @SethWickersham and me:— Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) October 18, 2022
Lawyer worried Snyder got client names via NFL. Lisa Banks wants to meet with Goodell, threatens to sue the league. https://t.co/cLvuZirB0D
Roger Goodell and Dan Snyder reportedly struck a common interest agreement on 9/8/20 which gave Snyder access to the investigation, and the ability to decide what gets released to the public. The Beth Wilkinson report was given as an oral presentation to Goodell, and was never released to the public.
Lisa Banks, one of the attorneys representing 40+ former Washington employees, sent a letter to Goodell that raised concerns about the report. She also threatened a lawsuit if the accusations made in the ESPN article are true, and the NFL did provide the names of the accusers to the accused.
“If true, this was in clear violation of a very specific promise the NFL made to our clients, through Ms. Wilkinson and her team, that witness names would be kept confidential and not shared with Mr. Snyder or the Washington Commanders,”
“If true, the ‘tip sheet’ allegation is not only morally reprehensible,” Banks wrote, “but it also provides the basis for us to take legal action against the NFL, which we will do given the serious harm caused to our clients by their reliance on the NFL’s promises.”
The common interest agreement was reported during the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the team, and has been something that Goodell and Snyder can’t get away from. The NFL is currently doing a second investigation after new allegations against Snyder came up during the Oversight Committee’s investigation. This has also led to investigations in D.C. and Virginia that are still ongoing. NFL owners are meeting in New York today, and while Snyder isn’t on the official agenda, the problems he brings the league are expected to be discussed during the privileged part of the meeting that only the owners participate in.
Prior to an NFL owners meeting at a Manhattan hotel, a senior team executive told ESPN the “common interest agreement” has always troubled senior executives and some owners because it helped Snyder and the NFL jointly monitor and control the Wilkinson investigation.
“Everyone knows the common interest agreement is the main exposure for the league,” said the team executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s the main weak point for the league.”
Dan Snyder’s lawyers issued a statement after Thursday’s ESPN article was released denying everything in it, and one of his lawyers, John Brownlee, has been making the rounds on local radio to defend his client. A Commanders spokesperson also issued a complete denial for the accusations made by Lisa Banks in ESPN’s latest article on Snyder.
Comment from an NFL spokesperson regarding Lisa Banks’ letter: pic.twitter.com/RceqKYTcOf— Matthew Paras (@Matthew_Paras) October 18, 2022
The NFL also responded:
Meanwhile, an NFL spokesperson responded to the new letter from attorney's representing former Washington employees about whether Dan Snyder used the Wilkinson report to create a "tip sheet." https://t.co/ZsHDXiTRxi pic.twitter.com/TXWYznULyQ— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) October 18, 2022