- The Washington Times
Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The House Oversight and Reform Committee has invited several former employees of the Washington Football Team to speak at a roundtable event next week on Capitol Hill — the latest development in a months-long inquiry into the NFL’s handling of its investigation of the Burgundy and Gold’s workplace misconduct.

The event — not to be confused with a public hearing, as no one will be sworn in — is scheduled to feature at least five former employees who say they’ve experienced or witnessed sexual harassment and other misconduct while working for the team.

The roundtable is set to take place at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Rayburn House Office Building — a day after Washington unveils its new name and logo to complete the team’s rebranding process.

The live-streamed event will help  “inform potential legislative solutions to better protect all workers from harassment and discrimination,” according to the committee.

Last October, two Democrats on the House committee — Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney of New York and Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois — asked the NFL to turn over all documents related to the league’s investigation into Washington’s workplace after former coach Jon Gruden’s leaked emails were uncovered in the matter.

The NFL said it would comply with the request, but the league and the committee have since gone back-and-forth over the materials.

The NFL has complied in part, turning over some documents but leaving out others while citing privilege and confidentiality agreements. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the league has not produced any key documents related to the findings from lead investigator Beth Wilkinson.

“We launched this investigation because the NFL has not been transparent about the workplace misconduct issues it uncovered within the WFT,” Krishnamoorthi said Thursday in a statement.  “These victims are bravely coming forward with their stories, sharing details of despicable abuse in their workplace. The WFT and NFL had a responsibility to protect these employees, and they failed.  

“Our investigation will continue until the perpetrators of sexual harassment are held accountable.  No person deserves to be harassed or abused at work, and this Committee will do everything in its power to protect employees at the WFT and beyond.”

The league has resisted calls to publicly release more information from the investigation. Last July, the league produced a summary of the findings — fining the Washington Football Team $10 million for workplace behavior it deemed “toxic.”

But the league said Wilkinson did not compile a written report, and Wilkinson instead delivered a series of oral reports to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“We continue to cooperate with the committee,” a league spokesman said. “Out of respect for the ongoing process and the committee, we will decline further comment.”

In December, the House Democrats again called on the NFL to fully cooperate in wake of a report that indicated that Washington owner Dan Snyder sought to impede the NFL’s investigation into his team.

Snyder was accused of attempting to block a former employee from speaking with Wilkinson and taking other legal measures to interfere with the work. Snyder, through a lawyer, has denied the accusations.

On Thursday, Maloney accused the NFL of going to “great lengths” to cover up the full findings from the investigation, adding the league’s actions raise “serious questions” about its commitment to keeping employees safe.

“I commend these victims for their bravery in coming forward to share their stories,” Maloney said. “No organization is above the law, I am committed to getting to the bottom of these abuses and ensuring that every American — no matter where they work — is safe from workplace harassment and discrimination.”

Next week’s roundtable could be one of a series of steps from Congress to dive into the league’s investigation. Roundtables often are used to collect information by providing an opportunity for legislators to ask questions and are seen as a building block to further congressional inquiry.

House Republican James Comer of Kentucky criticized the effort — saying in a statement that the roundtable was a misuse of the committee’s resources.

“This is just another example of Democrats failing to conduct meaningful oversight over the Biden Administration and the ongoing crises fueled by President Biden’s policies,” said Comer, the ranking member of the committee.

Former team employees had said publicly that they’d be willing to help with Congress’ investigation into the league. Attorney Lisa Banks, who represents 40 employees who participated in the NFL’s inquiry of Washington, told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” in November that her clients are prepared to testify if called upon.

The five employees who have been invited to speak are former marketing coordinator Emily Applegate, former marketing director Melanie Coburn, former client services director Rachel Engelson,  former business development and client services coordinator Ana Nunez and former video production manager Brad Baker.

“We look forward to the Committee’s examination of why the NFL choose to bury the findings of a 10-month long independent investigation, which fully examined the sexually hostile work environment created by Dan Snyder and his top executives,” Banks and attorney Debra Katz said in a statement. “Our clients look forward to sharing their experiences directly with the committee and continuing to fight for transparency and accountability.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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