House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney charged in a hearing on Wednesday that Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder “himself fostered” the football team’s “toxic workplace” and then “conducted a shadow investigation to target his accusers, pin the blame on others, and influence the NFL’s own internal review.”
Maloney said that Snyder “fired women but not men who engaged in relationships with other employees, while defending male executives accused of sexual harassment,” according to testimony from former top team executives during the panel’s eight-month probe of the Commanders’ culture and the NFL’s response.
The New York Democrat said Snyder sent private investigators to former cheerleaders’ homes, “offered hush money to buy their silence,” created a “dossier” of communications from journalists, attorneys and former employees who accused the team of harassment, and tried to blame former team President Bruce Allen for the team’s troubles.
“The NFL was aware of his actions, but failed to stop him,” Maloney said.
Snyder declined to testify at the hearing, but Maloney announced she intended to issue a subpoena to compel his testimony next week. A Snyder spokesperson said the hearing was “little more than a politically charged show trial, not about uncovering the truth.”
“It is clear the outcome of the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the Washington Commanders was predetermined from the beginning,” said Snyder’s spokesperson.
Last year, after an internal investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson, the National Football League fined the team $10 million, and Snyder gave control over the franchise’s daily operations to his wife, Tanya. But the NFL declined to publicly release its findings, sparking the House Oversight Committee’s review in October.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified before the panel on Wednesday and said that the Commanders’ culture was “not only unprofessional, but toxic for far too long.”
“It is clear to me that the workplace in Washington was unprofessional and unacceptable in numerous respects: bullying, widespread disrespect toward colleagues, use of demeaning language, public embarrassment and harassment,” Goodell said. “Moreover, for a prolonged period of time, the Commanders had a woefully deficient HR function, particularly with respect to reporting practices and recordkeeping.”
But Goodell maintained that the Commanders’ workplace has changed for the better and that Snyder “faced unprecedented discipline,” including the fine. He said that Snyder has not attended league or committee meetings in the past year, and he noted the Commanders put in place “an entirely new, highly skilled and diverse management team” and “revamped” their cheerleading program and leadership with a coed dance team. In 2020, the Commanders hired Ron Rivera as their head football coach and Jason Wright to be their team president.
Goodell also said that the team had not received a written report from Wilkinson in order to preserve the confidentiality of those who had participated in the internal investigation but could release a “summary of the key findings” in the future “if appropriate.” Illinois Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi suggested that the NFL could release a detailed report with redacted names if necessary.
Republicans said Wednesday that the House Oversight Committee should’ve instead spent its time on more important national issues – like rising consumer prices, the baby formula shortage, record numbers of illegal border crossings, fentanyl overdoses or the tanking stock market – and focus on investigating the federal government rather than the private sector. Maloney said that the committee had the authority to investigate “anything and everything,” leading at least one Republican member to say that they’d remember that next year, when the GOP is favored to take back the House.
“This committee is failing the American people,” said Kentucky Rep. Jim Comer, the top Republican on the panel.
Maloney disagreed, noting that attorneys general in six states had told the NFL in April of their “grave concerns” about allegations of workplace harassment of women and minorities and that the NFL had started a new investigation based on the committee’s work.
The NFL hired former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Jo White to investigate an allegation of sexual harassment against Snyder by former employee Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team. Johnston told the congressional committee that the Commanders owner had put his hand on her leg under the table at a work dinner and tried to persuade her to get into his limousine. Snyder has denied Johnston’s allegations.
“Some have argued that protecting women isn’t worthy of this committee’s time. I strongly disagree,” Maloney said. “For more than two decades, Dan Snyder refused to protect the women who worked for him from the toxic culture he created. The NFL has also failed to protect these women. Now I believe it is up to Congress to protect them, and millions more like them.”
Maloney said she had introduced two bills to “ensure that employers like Dan Snyder cannot abuse non-disclosure agreements to silence employees – and cannot film their employees” and use the footage without their consent. Goodell said that he supported the intent of the bills.
“In concept, we certainly support it, and we’d be happy to work with your staff,” Goodell said.
Snyder had been invited to appear before the panel on Wednesday but was out of the country, according to Maloney.
“We also invited Daniel Snyder to testify today. But rather than show up and take responsibility for his actions, he chose to skip town,” said Maloney. “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 attorney Karen Patton Seymour said that the Commanders’ owner is willing to cooperate but the committee was not “willing to consider changing the date of the hearing,” according to the four-page letter obtained by CNN.
“The Committee also stated that it is not willing to consider changing the date of the hearing, despite the fact that Mr. Snyder has a longstanding Commanders-related business conflict and is out of the country on the first and only date the Committee has proposed for the hearing,” the letter said. “The Committee instead insisted on a yes-or-no response from Mr. Snyder as to whether he would appear for the hearing at the appointed time.”
Asked by Maloney what “specific steps” the NFL would take to hold Snyder accountable for not testifying, Goodell said, “I do not have any responsibility for whether he appears before Congress. That is not my choice. That is his choice.”
Correction: A previous version of this story gave the incorrect day for remarks made by House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney. It was Wednesday.