Posts Tagged ‘Settlement’

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson reached settlements with 20 of the 24 women who sued him and accused him of sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massage sessions, the attorney representing the women announced Tuesday.

“Today I announce that all cases against Deshaun Watson, with the exception of four, have settled,” attorney Tony Buzbee said in a statement, according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter. “We are working through the paperwork related to those settlements. Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed. The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential. We won’t comment further on the settlements or those cases.”

One of the cases still outstanding is the lawsuit of Ashley Solis, the first plaintiff to sue Watson.

“Ashley Solis is one of the heroes of this story,” Buzbee stated. “Her case has not settled and thus her story and that of the other three brave women will continue. I look forward to trying these cases in due course, consistent with other docket obligations and the court’s schedule.”

Watson remains subject to an NFL investigation into his conduct. The first lawsuit against the quarterback was filed March 16, 2021, and the incidents cited in the lawsuits took place between March 2020 and March 2021.

“Today’s development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process,” NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement Tuesday, according to Trotter.

Watson didn’t play last year after requesting a trade from the Houston Texans. The Browns acquired him from the Texans on March 18 and signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230-million contract.

The 26-year-old was traded days after a grand jury in Texas declined to indict him on criminal charges. A second grand jury did the same.

Cross one legal headache from Vince McMahon’s list of things to worry about.

Settlement talks had broken down between McMahon and Oliver Luck, who had been commissioner of the rebooted XFL football league. Vince claimed the executive had been fired for cause; Luck believed it was a cost-cutting move ahead of shuttering the whole operation at the start of the pandemic.

Luck was suing for the roughly $24 million in compensation he said he was due. McMahon’s counter-claim focused on Luck’s signing of wide receiver Antonio Callaway, whose 2018 legal issues violated the league’s mandate to not sign players with any off-the-field issues. In depositions, Luck’s lawyers brought up McMahon’s own felony charge from his 1994 federal steroid trial, seemingly to demonstrate the mandate was hypocritical.

Last Wednesday (June 15), as we learned the Luck suit was headed to trial in July, the Wall Street Journal’s report on the WWE Board’s investigation into alleged misconduct by McMahon hit. Vince has since stepped down from his roles as CEO & Chairman, with his daughter Stephanie assuming those responsibilities on an interim basis.

Sports Business Journal now says a recent court filing shows that Luck & McMahon have agreed to settle. In a June 17 brief to the court requesting the remaining records in the case be sealed, Luck’s lawyer Paul Dobrowski wrote: ”The parties reached an agreement to resolve this case on June 16, 2022.” McMahon’s lawyer, Jerry McDevitt, does not oppose the motion.

Terms of the settlement are unknown. But with this off their plate, McMahon & McDevitt can focus on defending Vince during the board’s investigation into alleged hush money payments to former WWE employees.

As noted, Vince McMahon is reportedly being investigated by the WWE board of directors over cash settlements made to former employees over alleged misconduct. WWE Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis is also named in one of the settlements.

The investigation began in April after the WWE board was made aware of a $3 million settlement between McMahon and a former paralegal for the company with whom McMahon allegedly had an affair.

The settlement was from January of 2022, and a statement from the WWE board claims that the relationship was consensual. Upon further investigation, there were numerous settlements with former female employees to silence allegations of misconduct, which is when John Laurinaitis’ name was mentioned.

Fightful Select has backstage news about the ongoing allegations against both McMahon and Laurinaitis.

According to the report, sources that Fightful spoke to have indicated that the relationship between McMahon and the paralegal was suspected by many in the company and it was hinted that she was given a substantial promotion around the time of the April 2021 WWE cuts. She was promoted from John Laurinaitis assistant to a “director” role that spring.

Stephanie McMahon is on the company board and would have been aware of the investigation as would Nick Khan and Triple H.

Fightful also asked about Nia Jax’s tweet from April 30, “It’s a shame, some people deserve to get the opportunity to shine like the star they really are, but unfortunately certain higher-ups can never see past their own perverted ways. Too bad, there aren’t the lucky ones who can use blackmail to keep their jobs.”

There was no mention of it from any higher-ups and the tweet was just dismissed as “bitter.” The tweet would have been after the investigation was underway too.

When John Laurinaitis was given back the spot as Head of Talent Relations in 2021, female talent were frustrated with the move. One source revealed today, according to the report, that she would rather get all her stuff sent to her in a trash bag when she gets fired than to have to deal with Laurinaitis.

One former office employee also said that they believe this will be a “domino effect” and Vince McMahon will fight hard to stay, but doesn’t see a situation in which Laurinaitis doesn’t resign.

There are also assumptions that these allegations are the biggest threat to McMahon’s power in WWE since the steroid trial nearly three decades ago.

It was also noted in the report that some sources that Fightful spoke with expected John Laurinaitis to be replaced before all is said and done, and one speculated that he’s being set up as the “latest fall guy for Vince, his turn in line was coming.”

One male wrestler who was active from the 2000s and 2010s told Fightful that there long had been rumors of John Laurinatis’ misconduct, while a former writer said it was an open suspicion in the mid-2000s.

THE DALLAS COWBOYS paid a confidential settlement of $2.4 million after four members of their iconic cheerleading squad accused a senior team executive of voyeurism in their locker room as they undressed during a 2015 event at AT&T Stadium, according to documents obtained by ESPN and people with knowledge of the situation.

Each of the women received $399,523.27 after the incident. One of the cheerleaders alleged that she clearly saw Richard Dalrymple, the Cowboys’ longtime senior vice president for public relations and communications, standing behind a partial wall in their locker room with his iPhone extended toward them while they were changing their clothes, according to several people with knowledge of the events and letters later sent by attorneys for the cheerleaders to the team. Dalrymple gained entry to the back door of the cheerleaders’ locked dressing room by using a security key card.

Dalrymple also was accused by a lifelong Cowboys fan of taking “upskirt” photos of Charlotte Jones Anderson, a team senior vice president and the daughter of team owner Jerry Jones, in the Cowboys’ war room during the 2015 NFL draft, according to documents obtained by ESPN and interviews. The fan signed an affidavit that he was watching a livestream of the war room on the team’s website when he said he saw the alleged incident.

Dalrymple, who did not respond to interview requests by ESPN, told team officials he entered the cheerleaders’ locker room not knowing the women were there and left right away, a team source said. His account was contradicted by the way multiple sources described the alleged incident to ESPN. On Monday night, Dalrymple issued a statement calling both allegations false.

“People who know me, co-workers, the media and colleagues, know who I am and what I’m about,” Dalrymple said in his statement. “I understand the very serious nature of these claims and do not take them lightly. The accusations are, however, false. One was accidental and the other simply did not happen. Everything that was alleged was thoroughly investigated years ago, and I cooperated fully.”

A Cowboys representative said the team thoroughly investigated both alleged incidents and found no wrongdoing by Dalrymple and no evidence that he took photos or video of the women. The team does not dispute that Dalrymple used his security key card access to enter the cheerleaders’ locker room while the women were changing clothes.

“The organization took these allegations extremely seriously and moved immediately to thoroughly investigate this matter,” said Jim Wilkinson, a communications consultant for the team. “The investigation was handled consistent with best legal and HR practices and the investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing.”

Even so, the team issued Dalrymple a formal written warning in October 2015, a person familiar with the matter told ESPN. A team source declined to provide a copy of the warning or describe what it contained, citing privacy concerns. The team also declined to detail information, including time-stamped data from surveillance cameras and security key cards, that would show precisely when Dalrymple entered and left the dressing room.

“If any wrongdoing had been found, Rich would have been terminated immediately,” Wilkinson said. “Everyone involved felt just terrible about this unfortunate incident.”

Dalrymple continued working for the Cowboys, in his same role, for nearly six years after the settlement. On Feb. 2, he told The Dallas Morning News of his immediate retirement after 32 years as Jerry Jones’ chief spokesman and confidant. While Dalrymple thanked the team and the Jones family, no one on behalf of the team acknowledged his years of service, and his retirement was not mentioned on the team’s website. His retirement came several weeks after ESPN began interviewing people about the alleged incidents and just days after ESPN contacted attorneys involved in the settlement. In his statement, Dalrymple said the allegations “had nothing to do with my retirement from a long and fulfilling career, and I was only contacted about this story after I had retired.”

A signed copy of the May 2016 settlement agreement obtained by ESPN includes a nondisclosure agreement in which the four women, three of their spouses and Cowboys officials agreed to never speak publicly about their allegations.

ESPN knows the identity of the four cheerleaders but does not typically reveal the names of people who have reported allegations of sexual misconduct. The women either declined to comment for this story or did not respond to inquiries.

A former cheerleader familiar with the dressing-room incident said it became known among a few fellow cheerleaders.

“It hurt my heart because I know how much it affected the people who were involved,” the former cheerleader said. “It was a very … shut the book, don’t talk about it, this person is going to stay in his position … They just made it go away.”

DALRYMPLE HAD A long personal history with the Cowboys and Jerry Jones and was seen by the owner as a member of the extended Jones family. In Dallas, he was the media gatekeeper and the team’s high-profile fixer, often responsible for clarifying the owners’ public statements. He was once ordered by receiver Dez Bryant in a crowded locker room to “fix this s—, Rich!” after Bryant got angry with a reporter. In 2015 and 2016, a team source said, Dalrymple lobbied football writers to elect Jerry Jones to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, the Cowboys held their annual Kickoff Luncheon at AT&T Stadium, the official start of the regular season that helps raise money for charity. Circular banquet tables crowded the field nearly from end zone to end zone. Almost 2,000 people attended, including the Jones family, Cowboys luminaries including Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, and, as usual for special events, four Cowboys cheerleaders, clad in their unmistakable blue and white uniforms.

After waving their pompoms beside a lectern where several people delivered speeches, the cheerleaders returned to their locker room shortly after noon to quickly change their clothes before attending the luncheon.

At least two security guards usually stand outside the cheerleaders’ dressing room when they are inside, sources told ESPN. But on this day, only one security guard was present. Inside the back door that was left unguarded was a small nook separated from the dressing room by a partial wall. The sources said the only way to unlock the door is with a security key card that Dalrymple, among other employees, possessed.

The women heard the door leading to the nook area open, sources said. “We’re in here!” the women shouted. They assumed it was a security guard who immediately left, according to an account from multiple sources and relayed in a letter from the cheerleaders’ attorneys to the team.

Several minutes later, one of the cheerleaders noticed a man’s hand and a black cellphone pointed in their direction, according to several sources. At the time, the women were going “from fully clothed to completely unclothed,” a cheerleader later told a Cowboys HR official and the team’s general counsel, Jason Cohen. The cheerleader who saw the cellphone was certain the man was lurking and taking photos or video of them, according to multiple sources.

That woman ran toward him, shouting, “Hey, what are you doing?” The cheerleader, a veteran of several years on the team, immediately recognized Dalrymple, who she said dashed away, according to the letter. The other women did not see the man, according to the letter.

The cheerleaders immediately reported what had happened to a security guard. Three people said the security guard wanted to report the incident to the Arlington police department. If the cheerleaders’ allegations were substantiated, under Texas law it could be a misdemeanor to secretly observe someone without their consent and a felony to take a photo or video of “an intimate area of another person” without their consent.

The sources said the cheerleaders wanted to have it “properly investigated,” but the police were not called. The chaos delayed the four cheerleaders’ arrival to the luncheon by nearly 30 minutes. When they arrived, Kelli Finglass, the cheerleaders’ director, was sitting at a round table with other people, including several team sponsors, unaware of what had just transpired. “What took so long?” she asked the women, the former cheerleader said. The cheerleaders couldn’t answer the question truthfully in that setting and instead simply said they had been delayed, sources said.

After the luncheon, the cheerleaders huddled with Finglass, who suggested that the women should report the incident to the Cowboys’ HR department, a source said. The source added that all four cheerleaders wanted Dalrymple punished.

Wilkinson said the Cowboys’ investigation started later that day. Here’s how he laid it out: Human resources officials took statements by phone from the cheerleaders, the security guard and two other employees who might have been witnesses. Cohen, the general counsel, confiscated Dalrymple’s work-issued iPhone and obtained passwords for his phone and iCloud account. Cohen also conducted the first of multiple interviews with Dalrymple, who acknowledged using his security key card to enter what he thought was an empty locker room. He also denied using his phone to collect images of the women, Wilkinson said. During the security guard’s interview, he did not tell team officials that he had wanted to call police. The security guard did not respond to multiple interview requests from ESPN. In the days that followed, Cohen sent Dalrymple a letter ordering him to preserve any evidence related to the allegation, Wilkinson said.

It took eight days after the incident for team officials to meet with the women in person. The cheerleaders met individually with the chief of HR and Cohen in a conference room at Valley Ranch, then the team’s headquarters, a source said. The source insisted that those meetings were the first time team officials interviewed the women and that any discussions on Sept. 2 were “perfunctory.” At those Valley Ranch meetings, team officials told each of the women that they had interviewed Dalrymple, who insisted that he had entered their locked dressing room only to use the bathroom and did not expect to find them there.

A source said the women were incredulous for two reasons: One cheerleader said she clearly saw Dalrymple with the cellphone sticking out from beyond a wall pointed at them. And the cheerleaders noted that there was a bathroom across the hall from their dressing room. In notes from one of the HR meetings obtained by ESPN, Cohen told a cheerleader that the team had searched Dalrymple’s iPhone and hired a forensics firm to ensure no images had been deleted. A cheerleader asked Cohen whether the team looked into any personal phones Dalrymple might have had. Cohen responded that Dalrymple insisted he had only the phone he turned over to the team; a team source said Dalrymple told the team he did not own a personal phone.

“This to me is a grievous offense,” the woman said, according to the notes.

Cohen told the cheerleader that “[Dalrymple] understands he was this close to being fired and still will be fired if anything even remotely like this comes to light,” according to the notes, and that Dalrymple did not deny being in the locker room. “At no point did he deny anything up until the video part,” Cohen said, according to the notes.

“Could he have lied to me? Of course,” Cohen told the cheerleader, according to the notes. “But I said to him point blank, ‘Is this the phone you had yesterday and he said ‘yes.'”

The HR chief, the notes said, told the woman the team “examined the phone thoroughly. … There was no evidence of any videos, there was no evidence of anything that was sent out, no evidence of photographs.”

Team officials repeatedly assured that they were taking the allegation seriously, according to the notes. “This is a huge deal,” the HR chief said, and later, “We care about you guys. We don’t want you feeling awkward at work.”

HR also offered the woman resources, including “professional resources,” according to the notes. And Cohen offered to connect the cheerleader with a friend who is an attorney, the notes said.

Two sources said the cheerleaders and their lawyers were not told whether images from security cameras, deployed all over AT&T Stadium, had been consulted or might have recorded any of the incident. One said the women were angry because they felt that team officials seemed to have concluded Dalrymple had done nothing wrong before the cheerleaders were formally interviewed eight days after the incident. “It was a ‘he said, she said’ — and the team chose to believe Dalrymple’s side of things,” a source with knowledge of the allegations said about how the cheerleaders’ felt. “But four women swore this happened.”

The cheerleaders were instructed by their bosses not to go public and not to tell their teammates what had happened, multiple sources said.

Frustrated and angry, the women hired W. Kelly Puls, a Fort Worth attorney, later that month to represent them in a possible lawsuit against the Cowboys, according to sources. The cheerleaders “were upset and felt certain the team wasn’t going to do anything about it,” a source added. “They were told to just keep cheering — and saw Dalrymple often at games and events.”

Puls sent certified letters to top Cowboys executives, including Jerry Jones, demanding that “all evidence be preserved,” including all data on Dalrymple’s cellphones, images from security cameras and records from Dalrymple’s security key card that would show all the times he had gained access to the cheerleaders’ locked dressing room, a source said.

At the same time, the cheerleaders and their attorneys also began searching for other evidence of any alleged misconduct by Dalrymple. One of them discovered a curious post on a Facebook page by a Shreveport, Louisiana, schoolteacher and lifelong Cowboys fan named Randy Horton. He posted on a TV station’s page that he’d seen something strange while watching a live video feed from the Cowboys’ draft “war room” on April 30, 2015, as team officials celebrated their first-round selection of Byron Jones, the University of Connecticut cornerback.

Horton also wrote to Charlotte Jones directly on Facebook: “In case you haven’t been made aware already, that guy Rich Dalrymple, who was sitting in the back corner of the war room last night, on several occasions reached over and took upskirt pictures with his phone during the LIVE STREAM!! My wife and I watched in amazement. It happened when you guys stood up celebrating when you learned that you would be able to pick the Jones kid. I believe Carolina was on the clock at the time. Go check it out!”

A team source said Charlotte Jones did not see Horton’s post. “Charlotte is obviously not sitting around reading Facebook,” the source said.

Horton told ESPN that he saw Dalrymple hold his phone under Charlotte Jones’ skirt and several times appear to snap photos.

“I’ll never forget what I saw,” Horton said. “The first time he reached out from a sitting position behind her, and she is standing with her back to him, and did it once … He looked at the screen, touched the screen and then did it again. The second time, he’s sitting in a chair at the corner of the table on the left and he held his phone beneath the corner of the table with the camera side facing up where she was standing. And did it again.

“I have no doubt in my mind of what it was he was doing. It was obvious.”

Horton said he tried and failed to capture the images on his laptop. He then posted a message about what he’d seen to the Facebook page for local TV station KSLA as “something one of your reporters might want to look into.”

One person replied to the Facebook post to the TV station, saying he’d also seen what Horton saw.

The cheerleaders’ legal team found Horton’s post and obtained a digital copy of the livestream. ESPN was not able to obtain a recording of the war room video. A team source declined to say whether they have it.

The Cowboys had been alerted to the “upskirt” allegation in May 2015 — a few weeks after it happened and four months before the cheerleaders’ locker room allegation. A team source said a tipster told HR officials of the “upskirt allegation.” The source said HR watched the video and found no wrongdoing by Dalrymple.

“The most basic common sense tells you that if Jerry Jones believed in any way that someone had even remotely done something like that to any member of his family, that person would have been fired immediately,” Wilkinson said.

Although the Cowboys had closed the books on the war room allegation, the cheerleaders’ lawyers raised it in a Sept. 30, 2015, letter to Cowboys lawyers that was obtained by ESPN. The letter said attorneys planned to present evidence that the alleged war room incident showed Dalrymple’s “vulgar propensities” that should have resulted in him losing access to the dressing room. In their letter, the attorneys questioned why Dalrymple used the cheerleaders’ bathroom when “a men’s restroom was 20 feet away.”

While the cheerleaders’ lawyers were pursuing their investigation, Dalrymple hired a Dallas attorney, George Parker.

“I strongly advised him at the time that if he were fired for this incident, given the lack of evidence and no specific finding of wrongdoing, he would have grounds for a wrongful termination claim,” Parker told ESPN via a statement issued by Wilkinson. Parker did not respond to ESPN’s request for an interview.

The Cowboys issued the disciplinary letter to Dalrymple on Oct. 19, 2015, not long after he hired Parker. And the team revoked Dalrymple’s access to the cheerleaders’ locker room, sources said.

The Cowboys also made sweeping security changes around the cheerleaders’ locker room, Wilkinson said. They reconfigured security key card access to locker rooms for all staff and added cameras, new signs and new communications to alert security staff when locker rooms were in use. The source said they also ensured that cheerleaders were aware of HR and legal resources, employee assistance programs and an anonymous NFL hotline.

In the weeks after the incident, the four cheerleaders were presented with a difficult choice by their lawyers: Go public with what had happened at a news conference or settle quietly with the team and never speak about the incident. “Wasn’t much of a choice,” the former cheerleader said. “Neither option was good.”

FOR MONTHS, THERE was an impasse between the two legal teams while the four women continued cheering at games and other events.

In the spring, Horton was surprised to be contacted by an attorney for the cheerleaders who met with him in a Shreveport casino. On April 18, 2016, Horton swore to a three-page affidavit about the “upskirt” video. The cheerleaders’ lawyer returned to Dallas with the affidavit, which he described to the Cowboys’ legal team, sources said.

Within weeks, a settlement/nondisclosure agreement was drawn up that bound the women and the team executives to secrecy. On May 16, 2016, the agreement was signed by the four cheerleaders and their spouses and lawyers. The Jones family — Jerry Jones, sons Stephen and Jerry Jr. and Charlotte Jones Anderson — and Dalrymple signed soon after, denying any wrongdoing and that the alleged voyeurism even took place.

“Instead, this Agreement is to be construed solely as a reflection of the Parties’ desire to facilitate a resolution of a bona fide disputed claim and all other potential claims between the Parties through the date this Agreement is executed,” the settlement states.

The agreement specifically bars the cheerleaders from disclosing any “aspect of the incident regarding Charlotte Jones Anderson,” referring to the war room incident recounted by Horton.

A team source denied that Horton’s affidavit spurred the $2.4 million settlement.

ESPN confirmed that the team initially paid the cheerleaders, spouses and their lawyers a total of $1.8 million in June 2016. Each of the cheerleaders was paid $249,523.37, with three law firms getting the rest — a total of $801,906 in fees and expenses. Another $600,000 was paid by the Cowboys over the course of the next year, with three cheerleaders getting $12,500 a month for a year and the fourth being paid $150,000 after her final season.

One of the only exceptions for the cheerleaders to remain silent is if they were forced “to respond to subpoena by federal, state or local regulatory authorities or governmental agencies.” The agreement also gives strict instructions on how the cheerleaders and their spouses should respond if asked about their voyeurism allegations: They “may only respond with ‘No Comment.'”

ESPN attempted to contact more than 100 former cheerleaders and other former team employees and most who did respond to inquiries declined to comment. Dozens did not respond to phone, email and text messages.

There was a provision in the settlement agreement for one of the cheerleaders to cheer that fall, and for another to work elsewhere in the organization, according to the agreement. Two of the cheerleaders were eligible to stay on the team for the 2016-17 season but chose not to.

Director of cheerleaders Kelli Finglass did not answer questions from ESPN. In a statement released by Wilkinson, Finglass said, “This 2015 incident was taken seriously and immediately reported to HR and legal, who launched a full and immediate investigation. The organization further strengthened the security protocols for the DCC.”

Wilkinson said, “The cheerleaders are a vital part of the Dallas Cowboys family, and in terms of the settlement, the organization wanted to go above and beyond to ensure the cheerleaders knew that their allegations had been taken extremely seriously, and immediately and thoroughly investigated.”

Like other professional sports teams and American corporations, the Cowboys have a culture of often asking employees to sign nondisclosure agreements when striking settlements with former employees — and even current ones — who allege workplace misconduct or wrongdoing. And as a matter of routine when leaving the team, many former Cowboys employees have signed NDAs, including the hundreds of women who have worked for them as cheerleaders. Asked whether the Cowboys would release the four cheerleaders and their spouses from the NDA they signed, a team source declined to comment. In addition, a team source declined to say whether Dalrymple asked the team’s permission to break his NDA connected to the settlement agreement.

Six years later, the memory of the incident has not been forgotten by the women impacted by what they say was a violation of their privacy by an influential team executive, a source said: “They are still extremely upset. They saw it as a violation of their privacy that went unpunished.”

The settlement remained confidential until five months ago, when ESPN received a tip from a former Cowboys executive about the allegations involving Dalrymple. Wilkinson called a reporter in November, offering to answer questions after ESPN began calling dozens of people around the team.

ESPN sought interviews with Jerry Jones, along with Stephen, Jerry Jr. and Charlotte, as well as Cohen. Through Wilkinson, they declined to comment. Two attorneys for the cheerleaders who were listed on settlement documents, Carlos R. Cortez of Dallas and W. Kelly Puls also declined comment for this story.

THE COWBOYS’ ICONIC team of 36 cheerleaders are as much a symbol of America’s Team as its starred helmets. More than 850 cheerleaders have worn the uniform. They’ve appeared in a pair of made-for-TV movies and a documentary, and they’re always on the sidelines at Cowboys games and during team events at AT&T Stadium and in the community. They have their own popular reality TV show, “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team,” now in its 16th season on CMT.

Revelations about the Cowboys come at a perilous time for the National Football League, on the heels of questions about workplace sexual harassment that emerged during the league’s inquiry of the Washington Commanders.

In October, the leak of a handful of misogynistic, racist and anti-gay emails sent by former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden to former Commanders president Bruce Allen got the attention of several members of Congress, who have demanded the NFL release all 650,000 emails gathered during the NFL inquiry into alleged wrongdoing by team leaders. More recently, The Washington Post reported that longtime team owner Dan Snyder had tried to thwart the investigation. Questions about the transparency of the inquiry into the Commanders — and the NFL’s responses to Congress — have bedeviled commissioner Roger Goodell and other league and team executives all season.

Notably, critics have questioned why the league did not release a report by the outside lawyer hired to investigate the Commanders. Documents released this month by the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the Commanders and the NFL’s handling of the inquiry, showed that the league may not be able to publicly release the findings of its investigation without Snyder’s explicit permission. A second document showed the Commanders requested a “written investigation” from the law firm the team hired to conduct the probe. Goodell had previously said the league couldn’t release the internal investigation because the law firm presented its findings orally.

Jerry Jones, the league’s most influential owner, was asked in November by HBO’s Bob Costas whether Snyder had become “a liability” for the NFL, and he responded simply, “No.” He insisted that he welcomes efforts by the committee, which has started to gather information by requesting documents and interviewing former Commanders employees about their allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. “Certainly in every way does the NFL want to cooperate with anything Congress asks of it there,” Jones said in the interview.

While saying he was satisfied with the NFL’s inquiry, Jones also said he would welcome similar scrutiny of the Cowboys’ front office and its practices. “As a matter of fact, on a personal basis, the more transparent, the more you’re behind the scenes, the more you’re involved, to me, the more you enjoy the game,” Jones said. “I think when we ask the country to be as interested in pro football as you are, then you should expect those kinds of questions. And certainly, social issues are a huge part of our lives today.”

The NFL and Rams owner Stan Kroenke has agreed to pay $790m to settle a 2017 lawsuit over the team’s relocation from St Louis to Los Angeles.

“This historic agreement closes a long chapter for our region, securing hundreds of millions of dollars for our communities while avoiding the uncertainty of the trial and appellate process,” read a joint statement from St Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St Louis County Executive Sam Page.

According to multiple reports, the agreement does not include a promise from the NFL for a future expansion team in St Louis.

It is not clear how much of the settlement will be paid by Kroenke, who relocated the team in 2016, and how much by the league’s 31 other teams. Kroenke also owns Premier League club Arsenal.

St Louis officials said they have not yet determined how the settlement funds will be used.

Attorneys for Kroenke and the NFL were in St Louis for a mediation session on Tuesday with lawyers representing St Louis, St Louis County and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority.

The lawsuit was seeking more than $1 billion and argued that the NFL broke its own relocation guidelines and that the Rams misled the public on their plans to leave the city, costing St Louis millions in revenue.

A trial date had been set for 10 January.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have settled a federal lawsuit filed by a former minor league assistant and his wife, who accused the team of negligently retaining a coach who sexually assaulted and harassed her and then retaliating against him for reporting the incident.

Lawyers for Jarrod and Erin Skalde announced the settlement in a news release Tuesday. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

“We are pleased that the Penguins organization worked with us to resolve this dispute so that Jarrod and his family can move on with their lives,” said attorney David Fish, who represents Jarrod Skalde.

Erin Skalde said in a statement: “The events of the last three years have been deeply challenging, and my hope is to now move forward as an advocate for others.” She added that she hopes to be an instrument of change.

The Penguins said in a statement that team officials took prompt action when informed of the allegations in 2019.

“The Penguins and Skaldes have agreed to resolve all claims,” the team said in a statement. “Through this resolution, the Penguins hope to bring closure to the Skaldes, provide some measure of peace and continue to encourage and promote a culture of openness, accountability and respect at all levels of professional sports.”

Jarrod and Erin Skalde sued the Penguins nearly a year ago in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, alleging former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach Clark Donatelli molested Erin Skalde during an outing on a road trip in 2018. The team is the American Hockey League affiliate of the Penguins and is run by the NHL club.

They also alleged current Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin, who was GM for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and assistant GM for the Penguins at the time, asked Jarrod Skalde to keep the reason for Donatelli’s termination quiet and that the team punished Skalde for reporting the assault and later terminated his position under the guise of pandemic-related staff cuts.

Guerin said last year: “When I learned of these allegations, I promptly brought them to Pittsburgh Penguins senior management. The allegations were quickly investigated. I emphatically deny anything to the contrary.” The Wild released a statement last year saying the team spoke with Guerin and supported him.

“I am glad that this has been resolved and my hope is I can move forward with my professional coaching career and personal life,” Jarrod Skalde said in a statement Tuesday.

The Associated Press does not typically identify those who say they were sexually assaulted, but Fish said recently the family was fine with it because the matter had already been made public.

Three new lawsuits were filed against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on Sunday night, reports ESPN’s Sarah Barshop.

The lawsuits accuse Watson of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct. One of them claims Watson is erasing Instagram messages and contacting those “who formally provided him massages, in an attempt to settle” the cases against him.

There are now 19 lawsuits filed against Watson.

His attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement that Watson hasn’t deleted any messages during the past two weeks.

“Like a lot of people, Deshaun regularly deletes past Instagram messages. That said, he has not deleted any messages since March 15, the day before the first lawsuit was filed,” Hardin said Monday. “We categorically deny that he has reached out directly to his accusers in an attempt to settle these cases.”

Also on Monday, a Houston massage therapist shared with Sports Illustrated’s Jenny Vrentas details of a 2019 interaction with Watson. The woman, who hasn’t filed a lawsuit against Watson, said he exposed himself to her and suggested that she touch his penis.

Hardin said last week that his firm has “strong evidence” that one of the lawsuits against Watson is false and “calls into question the legitimacy of the other cases as well.”

Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon settled a sexual harassment lawsuit that a former employee of his sports marketing company brought forth.

The lawsuit was filed in December 2017. Wendy Haskell accused Moon of grabbing her crotch and pulling off her bathing suit after slipping a drug into her drink during a trip to Mexico. She also alleged that Moon forced her to wear a thong and sleep in his bed on business trips.

Moon denied the allegations through his attorney in 2017.

“Both sides realized the appropriate thing to do was to settle with my client,” Haskell’s attorney, Diana L. Fitzgerald, told Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post. “We’re very pleased with the settlement and believe justice is served.”

“I consider it a win for my client and all women who have to endure any form of harassment in the workplace,” Fitzgerald added. “I’m proud of my client’s unwavering courage and clarity throughout this case.”

A cheerleader who claimed Moon offered to pay her for sex while he was a Minnesota Vikings quarterback also sued him in May 1995. That case was settled out of court.

Moon co-founded Sports 1 Marketing in 2010. He was working as a radio analyst for the Seattle Seahawks and granted a leave of absence when the lawsuit was filed.

The 62-year-old was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and also enshrined into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He was selected to nine Pro Bowls over a 17-year NFL career, the majority of which he spent with the Houston Oilers. A six-year stint in the CFL, which included five Grey Cup championships, preceded his time in the NFL.

Drew Brees won $6 million Friday in his civil lawsuit against a California jeweler who misled the New Orleans Saints quarterback on the value of diamonds, according to the San Diego Tribune’s Jeff McDonald.

The 40-year-old and his wife, Brittany, who both testified during the two-week trial,purchased $15 million worth of diamond jewelry from Vihad Moradi of CJ Charles Jewelers last year. However, the couple later learned from another jeweler that the diamonds were worth only $9 million.

“It was our position that Mr. Moradi breached his fiduciary duty, and that’s essentially what the jury said,” Brees’ attorney, Andrew Kim, said. “They saw Mr. Moradi for exactly what he is: a grifter and a confidence man.”

The jeweler denied the allegations in court. A statement from Moradi’s attorney said he did not deceive the couple and believed Brees was purchasing the diamonds as a gift to his wife, rather than an investment.

Brees was not in court when the verdict was presented.

The Los Angeles Rams have agreed to pay $7.2 million in fees to the attorneys of former personal seat license (PSL) holders in St. Louis over the team’s move to California in 2016, reports Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic.

The Rams settled a class-action lawsuit against them in January, agreeing to pay up to $24 million – a third of the cost of the seat licenses – to the fans behind the legal action, according to David Hunn of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The attorneys’ fees, among other costs, were to be paid by the Rams separately from the $24-million settlement.

PSL holders are expected to begin receiving payouts in December and have until late August to file for a refund, Hunn adds. Those license holders will receive a refund of 30 percent of their original purchase price. That amount accounts for the nine years remaining on the 30-year license when the Rams left for L.A.