In a letter sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, lawyers representing more than a dozen former employees of the Washington Football Team requested an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment during their time with the organization and that owner Daniel Snyder be suspended pending the outcome.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported additional allegations of sexual harassment within the organization and that a former team executive instructed employees to create a behind-the-scenes video for Snyder featuring clips of partially nude team cheerleaders pulled from a 2008 swimsuit calendar shoot.
In a statement Wednesday, Goodell condemned the behavior and cited an independent investigation. Based on Goodell's input, Snyder picked attorney Beth Wilkinson to head it.
The attorneys who sent the letter to Goodell, Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, also said Snyder should be removed as owner if the investigation backs up the claims of former employees.
The Post said that 25 former employees came forward for its latest report, joining 15 others who were part of a story in the newspaper last month that detailed other allegations against former Washington executives.
"This statement and the action that you are touting simply monitoring the progress of the team's investigation is too little and too late," the three-page letter read. "It does not reflect the seriousness of the allegations, which we now know include the production of a highly sexualized and exploitative video that could lead to civil or criminal liability for those responsible.
"Daniel Snyder has been permitted to lead an organization that has been permeated with misogyny, sexual harassment and routine abuse of female employees with impunity."
Snyder vehemently denied the charges in the Post story, saying in a statement Wednesday night that the report was a "hit job" while noting the behavior described "has no place in our franchise, or in our society." He said he was unaware of the allegations and took responsibility for the culture in the building.
During a video call with reporters Thursday, Washington first-year coach Ron Rivera said the organization "takes these allegations seriously."
"We'll wait until we get results of the investigation and if any more action needs to be taken, we'll take it," Rivera said. "A lot of things happened before I got here and a lot has happened since I got here. I like to deal with those things that have happened by going forward. I get it, I understand it, but we have to create some change, and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to change some things. We're changing the way we do things. We're changing the culture. A lot of it is the people brought into the organization."
Washington recently hired Julie Donaldson as senior vice president of media and communications, and she'll also be the first woman to be part of an NFL team's radio broadcast. The team hired Jason Wright last week, making him the first Black president in the NFL.
Rivera said all he can control is what happens moving forward.
"These are things that happened a long time ago that hopefully we learned from," Rivera said. "We're trying to correct and we're trying to create a culture that's a winning, sustainable one, that is the right one that people want to be part of. We'll continue to work on that."
Banks and Katz wrote that the NFL should suspend Snyder based on the NFL's code of conduct, saying his and the organization's actions were "conduct detrimental to the welfare of the League or professional football." They said their clients "live in fear of further retaliation" by Snyder, who they say has weaponized the legal system to punish accusers.
Snyder, in a request for discovery filing, accused former employee Mary Ellen Blair of spreading rumors and false stories.
"The time is long overdue for the NFL to police this type of behavior and to act decisively to penalize those in its ranks," the letter read, "like Daniel Snyder, who allow women to be repeatedly exploited and mistreated as a prerogative of being a rich and powerful NFL team owner."
Banks and Katz also urged Goodell to require Washington to release the former employees from nondisclosure agreements and to ensure Snyder takes no punitive action against those who participate in the investigation.