WASHINGTON - The Washington Commanders announced Wednesday morning that the team had hired an outside investigator to look into sexual harassment claims against owner Dan Synder. Hours later, an NFL spokesman said the team would not be the ones controlling the probe.
The NFL moved quickly to take over the investigation into alleged sexual harassment by Snyder, saying the league, not the team, will hire an investigator to lead the probe.
The allegation was made last week by Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team. During a congressional roundtable, Johnston accused Snyder of harassing her at a team dinner, putting his hand on her thigh and later trying to force her into his limo.
"Last week, the league stated that we will review and consider Ms. Johnston’s allegations as we would any others regarding workplace conduct at the Washington Commanders. The league, not the team, will conduct an independent investigation and will be retaining an investigator to determine the facts shortly," NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said.
When former employees of Washington’s NFL team first complained in 2020 about rampant sexual harassment by team executives, the team hired attorney Beth Wilkinson’s firm to investigate. The league took over that probe and Wilkinson reported her findings to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The NFL fined Snyder $10 million and he temporarily ceded day-to-day operations of the franchise to his wife, Tanya. Wilkinson’s report has not been released publicly.
Although many former team employees accused Snyder of presiding over a culture that was toxic to women, he had not been personally accused of sexual harassment until last week, when Johnston detailed her allegations against him to Congress.
Snyder has denied the allegations, calling them "outright lies."
The team said it had hired consulting firm Pallas Global Group LLC to oversee the probe, and that the company had retained Debra Wong Yang, a former U.S. attorney and California state judge, to lead it. It was unclear whether the league would hire the same investigators.
FOX 5 spoke with one of the five women who shared testimony at the Capitol before Congress who said the team hiring their own investigators was an intimidation tactic.
"I thought it was ridiculous," former employee Rachel Engleson said. "Dan Snyder is using his team as a shield to basically say I’m investigating myself for these allegations and I just have to wonder if he’s taking the allegations and what happened in Congress last week at the roundtable last week so seriously why he wouldn’t comply with releasing the original investigation by Beth Wilkinson."
Lawyers Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former Washington Commanders employees, said it was utterly absurd that Synder would hire a team to investigate his own actions.
"This is a desperate public relations stunt, clearly designed to absolve him of wrongdoing," Banks and Katz said in a statement.
The team said the findings of its investigation would be released to the public.
"The team is committed to a thorough and independent investigation of Ms. Johnston’s allegations, and pledges full cooperation with the investigation," the Commanders said when they announced the probe.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.