When allegations of workplace misconduct first emerged last month regarding the Washington Football Team, the league office deferred to the investigation that Washington had launched of its own business practices. This time around, the league must get directly involved.
“These matters as reported are serious, disturbing and contrary to the NFL’s values,” the NFL said in a statement issued after the first Washington Post report regarding double-digit allegations of sexual harassment against the team. “Everyone in the NFL has the right to work in an environment free from any and all forms of harassment. Washington has engaged outside counsel to conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations. The club has pledged that it will give its full cooperation to the investigator and we expect the club and all employees to do so. We will meet with the attorneys upon the conclusion of their investigation and take any action based on their findings.”
The first time, no allegations were made directly against owner Daniel Snyder. This time, Snyder is in the crosshairs. This time, the league must launch its own investigation.
The existing investigation, initiated and financed by the team, repeatedly has been called “independent.” It most definitely is not. And with the person signing attorney Beth Wilkinson’s checks now directly part of the alleged problems within the franchise, it’s even less appropriate for the franchise to handle the situation on its own.
When allegations of misconduct surfaced against former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, the NFL hired a lawyer to investigate. When other teams have been accused of different kinds of rules violations, from #Deflategate to the Dolphins’ bullying scandal to the Saints’ bounty scandal, the NFL hired a lawyer to investigate. It would represent a stark departure from precedent to let Snyder be ultimately responsible for an investigation that now encompasses Snyder’s own behavior.
Earlier in the day, PFT sent an email to the NFL seeking comment on the matter. The league has not yet responded. Given that the league issued a statement after last month’s report from the Washington Post, it’s impossible for the league to say nothing in response to this one.