WASHINGTON — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is testifying before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday as part of an investigation into the alleged toxic workplace environment within the Washington Commanders organization.
At the center of the investigation is team owner Dan Snyder, who has been accused of several different instances of inappropriate workplace conduct.
On Tuesday, details involving a 2009 sexual assault allegation against Snyder emerged in which a female employee accused Snyder of asking her for sex, groping her and attempting to remove her clothes on a private area of one of the team’s planes while returning from a work trip to Las Vegas.
This will be at least the sixth time Goodell appears before a Congressional hearing, and his first since 2009. Snyder, through his attorney, declined to testify, indicating that he was out of the country because of a “longstanding Commanders-related business conflict.”
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Follow along for the latest updates from Wednesday’s hearing.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., announced during an exchange with Roger Goodell that she intends to issue a subpoena to obtain testimony from Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, who declined to appear at Wednesday’s hearing.
The announcement came after Rep. Maloney asked Goodell if he planned to discipline Snyder for failing to appear before Congress. Goodell said it is not his responsibility to compel Snyder to testify. Maloney then said she intended to issue a Committee deposition for Snyder.
“If the NFL is unwilling to hold Mr. Snyder accountable, then I am prepared to do so,” Maloney said. “The Committee will not be deterred in its investigation to uncover the truth of workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders.”
— Tom Schad
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in his opening statement at a Congressional hearing Wednesday that he acknowledged the workplace in Washington was “unprofessional and unacceptable in numerous aspects” but did not indicate that the league would make public the comprehensive details of the league’s report into the organization.
Goodell said that the league “did not receive a written report” from the investigation led by attorney Beth Wilkinson, citing a promise of confidentiality to those who were asked to come forward.
“Oral reports are often used by the NFL and other organizations in conducting internal investigations and for other issues,” Goodell said. “If appropriate, we will make public a summary of the key findings, as we did here.”
Goodell also said he believed that the Commanders organization has improved its workplace environment.
“To be clear,” Goodell said, “the workplace at the Commanders today bears no resemblance to the workplace that has been described to this committee.”
In a prepared opening statement, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) ripped Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder for declining to appear at Wednesday’s hearing.
“Rather than show up and take responsibility for his actions, he chose to skip town,” said Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight Committee. “Apparently, Mr. Snyder is in France, where he has docked his luxury yacht near a resort town. That should tell you just how much respect he has for women in the workplace.”
Snyder said through an attorney that he was unable to appear due to a “longstanding Commanders-related business conflict.” His attorneys also requested information about the scope and nature of the questions he would face.
Maloney also used her opening statement to criticize the NFL and the Commanders for declining to turn over “more than 40,000 documents” that attorney Beth Wilkinson obtained as part of an investigation into a toxic culture within the team.
“This lack of transparency suggests that rather than protecting women, the NFL is hoping to sweep this controversy under the rug — just as powerful men like Dan Snyder have done for decades,” Maloney said.
— Tom Schad
The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday released a 29-page memo detailing some of the preliminary findings of its months-long investigation into the Washington Commanders, including evidence that owner Daniel Snyder conducted a “shadow investigation” in an apparent attempt to influence an NFL probe.
In the memo, Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) writes that lawyers for Snyder compiled a “dossier” containing telephone records and social media posts by former employees who had publicly accused the Commanders of fostering a toxic workplace culture – as well as some of the journalists who amplified those claims.
The memo also outlines what it says were attempts by Snyder to influence the NFL’s investigation into the matter, which was led by attorney Beth Wilkinson.
Snyder’s team obtained inappropriate emails sent by former team president Bruce Allen and passed them along to the league to “offer up an alternative target for the investigation,” according to the memo.
“Mr. Snyder went to considerable lengths as part of his shadow investigation to undermine the Wilkinson Investigation, including by attempting to discredit accusers, intimidate witnesses, and shift blame to others,” Maloney wrote in the memo.
“Unfortunately, because the NFL declined to release detailed findings from the internal investigation, the full extent of misconduct at the team is not publicly known.”
The memo was released hours before the Oversight Committee’s scheduled hearing on the matter, where NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was slated to testify remotely. Snyder was also invited to testify but declined.
The hearing comes almost a year after the NFL released a summary of the key findings in the Wilkinson investigation and levied a $10 million fine against the Commanders. It did not release a written report on the findings, however, nor suspend or punish Snyder.
Goodell has said the league decided not to release a detailed written report on the findings of Wilkinson’s investigation to protect the privacy of former team employees. Several of the employees who participated in the investigation have since lobbied the NFL to release a written report and claimed the league is trying to cover for Snyder.
Wednesday’s memo states that the NFL was briefed on the Commanders investigation 16 times by Wilkinson’s team, and that Snyder also received “periodic updates” during the course of the probe. It also details a common interest agreement between the team and the league that it says created “a back-channel to block the release of information and make confidential presentations designed to steer the course of the investigation.”
The memo, sent by Maloney to other members of the House Oversight Committee, also includes new allegations of the toxic workplace culture within the team, which it portrays as being facilitated by Snyder.
According to the memo, the team’s former chief operating officer David Pauken testified that when Snyder was told that a female public relations staffer had been groped by a coach, Snyder simply directed the public relations staffer to “stay away” from the coach.
“It is clear the outcome of the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the Washington Commanders was predetermined from the beginning,” a spokesperson for Snyder said in a statement. “The committee’s decision to release a ‘report’ and introduce legislation prior to the hearing is proof-positive this was always going to be little more than a politically-charged show trial, not about uncovering the truth. Hopefully, the committee will utilize its resources going forward for more pressing national matters, instead of an issue a football team addressed years ago.”
— Tom Schad
Snyder, the controversial Washington Commanders owner – under investigation from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Virginia attorney general after allegations of financial improprieties were revealed in a Congressional committee probe — is very much on the minds of some fellow NFL owners who would go as far as trying to force Snyder from their ranks.
“There’s growing frustration about the Washington situation and not over one issue, but over how much smoke there is,” an NFL team owner told USA TODAY Sports under the condition of anonymity in May. The owner did not want to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the matter.
“I think everybody’s getting tired of it.”
It’s unclear exactly how many team owners would push for action against Snyder. A third team owner responded to an interview request by indicating that he would wait until the pending investigations were resolved. Several other owners declined or didn’t respond to interview requests.
A fourth team owner, speaking under the condition of anonymity, told USA TODAY Sports that the brewing anti-Snyder movement is significant – and was before the latest allegations surfaced. The owner, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter, described a session during the last league meeting in late March in Palm Beach, Florida, that included commissioner Roger Goodell and owners, when several owners openly expressed their angst.
— Jarrett Bell