By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire
(NNPA) – A toxic work culture harmed dozens of Washington Commanders football team employees for over two decades.
And team owner, Daniel Snyder, permitted and participated in the troubling conduct, a U.S. House Oversight Committee said in a scathing report released on Thursday.
The Committee’s report, titled “Conduct Detrimental: How the NFL and the Washington Commanders Covered Up Decades of Sexual Misconduct,” determined that Snyder and the National Football League worked to suppress evidence in the investigation into the team.
Further, both Snyder and the NFL tried to cover up sexual harassment claims made against the owner and the team.
They said Snyder, 58, went to extraordinary lengths to stall investigations into him and his team.
“Over 12 months, the Committee conducted interviews and depositions, held a roundtable with former employees who experienced sexual harassment and assault while working for the Commanders, and convened a hearing at which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified,” investigators wrote in the report.
The Committee also released interim findings and referred information about potential financial improprieties to federal and state law enforcement agencies, which reportedly led to additional investigations by the NFL, state attorneys general, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The Committee’s investigation also informed legislation introduced by Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and supported by the NFL Commissioner to prevent future workplace misconduct across the country.
“Despite making public pledges to cooperate with the Committee’s investigation, the NFL and the Commanders did not fully comply with the Committee’s requests for documents and information,” investigators declared.
“The League, working closely with the Commanders through a previously undisclosed common interest agreement, refused to produce more than 40,000 responsive documents, including the findings of the Wilkinson investigation and materials from Ms. Wilkinson’s files.”
Wilkinson is attorney Beth Wilkinson, who Snyder first hired to investigate the team’s workplace environment. The NFL later took over the investigation.
House committee investigators said Snyder owned the team during the two decades when workplace misconduct “was rampant in the organization.”
Snyder “obstructed the Committee’s inquiry,” investigators concluded.
They said Snyder refused to appear and testify at a public hearing and then sought to avoid service of a subpoena while abroad on a yacht.
Ultimately, investigators said he sat for a private deposition but failed to provide complete testimony.
“Throughout the deposition, he claimed more than 100 times that he could not recall the answers to the Committee’s questions, including basic inquiries about his role as a team owner and multiple allegations of misconduct,” they wrote. “Snyder also gave misleading testimony about his efforts to interfere with the Wilkinson Investigation.”
Neither Snyder nor the NFL offered comment.
The team currently is up for sale with Jay-Z, Byron Allen, and former star Robert Griffin III, reportedly interested in purchasing the Commanders.
“Today’s report reflects the damning findings of the Committee’s year-long investigation and shows how one of the most powerful organizations in America, the NFL, mishandled pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct at the Washington Commanders,” Mahoney said.
“Our report tells the story of a team rife with sexual harassment and misconduct, a billionaire owner intent on deflecting blame, and an influential organization that chose to cover this up rather than seek accountability and stand up for employees.
“To powerful industries across the country, this report should serve as a wake-up call that the time of covering up misconduct to protect powerful executives is over.”
Update: After publication if this story, the Commanders reached out to NNPA Newswire with the following statement:
Statement from John Brownlee and Stuart Nash, Counsel for the Washington Commanders:
“These Congressional investigators demonstrated, almost immediately, that they were not interested in the truth, and were only interested in chasing headlines by pursuing one side of the story. Today’s report is the predictable culmination of that one-sided approach.
“There are no new revelations here. The Committee persists in criticizing Mr. Snyder for declining to voluntarily appear at the Committee’s hearing last spring, notwithstanding Mr. Snyder’s agreement to sit, at a date chosen by the Committee, for an unprecedented 11-hours of questioning under oath. The only two members of Congress who witnessed any part of that deposition, one Democrat and one Republican, both made public statements in the wake of the deposition characterizing Mr. Snyder’s answers as truthful, cooperative, and candid. As is typical of the Committee, they have refused, despite our repeated requests to release the full transcript of Mr. Snyder’s deposition.
“The Committee suggests that Mr. Snyder prevented witnesses from coming forward yet does not identify a single witness who did not come forward or who suffered a single adverse consequence for having done so.
“And, ironically for an “investigative” body, supposedly engaged in an “investigation,” the investigators actually criticize the team and Mr. Snyder for providing evidence to the Committee — such as e-mails former team employees sent from their workplace accounts — that reveal the actual causes of the formerly dysfunctional workplace environment at the team.
“Today’s report does not advance public knowledge of the Washington Commanders workplace in any way. The team is proud of the progress it has made in recent years in establishing a welcoming and inclusive workplace, and it looks forward to future success, both on and off the field.