WASHINGTON — Rumors were swirling all week about Washington's NFL team after the decision to retire the name used since 1933, followed by social media hints from reporters that a "bombshell" story was coming discussing the team's culture.
The Washington Post published an article Thursday night with allegations from 15 former female employees detailing instances of sexual harassment and verbal abuse spanning 2006 to 2019.
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Before the story's publication, powerhouse D.C. lawyer Beth Wilkinson confirmed that she had been retained by the Washington football team to look into allegations of workplace misconduct within the Burgundy and Gold organization.
Wilkinson has prosecuted terrorists and represented federal judges. Now she's investigating what CBS Sports reporter Jason La Canfora called "the warped and toxic culture of the Washington football team."
"We can confirm that our firm was retained by the team to do an independent review of the team's culture, policies and allegations of workplace misconduct," Wilkinson said of her hiring.
Wilkinson, a law school graduate of the University of Virginia, has spent over 30 years as a top litigator, most prominently known for being the lead prosecutor on the Oklahoma City Bombing case, U.S. v. McVeigh & Nichols. She's also served as the lead trial counsel for the NFL in an antitrust lawsuit.
Sports marketing expert Kristi Dosh said it would have been a mistake for the NFL team to announce the name change to try and distract from any impending scandal, although there's no evidence at this point that that is what happened.
"I think my instinct would have been to do it the other way," Dosh said. "You let the really bad news break first. Then you distract with something good."
In the last few days, the team has fired two people in the pro scouting department -- Alex Santos and Richard Mann II -- and longtime play-by-play announcer Larry Michael suddenly retired. All three men had allegations made against them in the Post story.
The team has struggled with controversy for years. A New York Times story in 2018 detailed a topless cheerleader photoshoot in Costa Rica and an uneasy night out with men who were sponsors and luxury suite holders. The team denied that any part of the trip was mandatory, and other cheerleaders said everything that happened on the trip was voluntary.
RELATED: Report: Redskins' Cheerleaders tell New York Times about an inappropriate trip to Costa Rica
Donna Rice Hughes has spent years trying to make the world safer for women and girls with her group, Enough is Enough.
"I was very upset to hear that these cheerleaders who were giving their time and hard work were carted off to Costa Rica and then were expected to be escorts," she said.
The team did not make any public comments Thursday, but ESPN reporter Adam Schefter said team officials are highly upset and frustrated about "speculation now running amok."
The Post's story included this statement from the team:
“The Washington Redskins football team takes issues of employee conduct seriously … While we do not speak to specific employee situations publicly, when new allegations of conduct are brought forward that are contrary to these policies, we address them promptly."