Goodell tells lawmakers Commanders had ‘unacceptable’ workplace culture
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a congressional hearing that the Washington Commanders had an “unacceptable” workplace culture.
“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, who has held the league’s commissioner position since 2007, said in his opening statement at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday. “Moreover, for a prolonged period of time the Commanders had a woefully deficient HR function, particularly with respect to reporting practices and recordkeeping.”
Goodell also said that the league did punish Commanders owner Dan Snyder and his team over the league’s findings, noting that the NFL fined Snyder $10 million for the violations and required the team to “implement a series of recommendations and allow an outside firm to conduct regular reviews of their workplace.”
Goodell added that Snyder was barred from controlling day-to-day operations of his team and that the franchise implemented new workplaces changes over the years, including replacing an all-female cheerleading squad with a co-ed squad.
“And the most recent independent workplace report, which we have shared with the committee, confirms that an entirely new, highly skilled, and diverse management team is in place and that there has been a “substantial transformation of [the team’s] culture, leadership, and Human Resources practices,” Goodell said in his testimony. “To be clear — the workplace at the Commanders today bears no resemblance to the workplace that has been described to this committee.”
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) announced at the hearing that her intent was to issue a subpoena for Snyder to testify next week over the allegations of workplace misconduct and sexual harassment.
“Mr. Snyder’s refusal to testify sends a clear signal that he is more concerned about protecting himself than coming clean to the American public. If the NFL is unwilling to hold Mr. Snyder accountable, then I am prepared to do so,” Maloney said at the congressional hearing on Wednesday. “The committee will not be deterred in its investigation to uncover the truth of workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders.”
Maloney also sent out a 29-page memo to her committee members detailing how Snyder and his legal team attempted to discredit accusers and victims by conducting a “shadow investigation” that created a 100-slide dossier with emails, text messages, telephone records and social media posts from those who have publicly accused the NFL franchise of harassment.
The House committee launched its investigation into the team in October amid the resignation of former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, whose email chain with then-Commanders President Bruce Allen, which contained racist, homophobic and misogynistic language and was a part of the league’s initial probe of the team, was leaked to the public.
Snyder, who declined his invitation to the congressional hearing, said in a statement through his spokesperson that he hopes the committee will focus on more pressing issues in the U.S. instead of his team, calling the hearing a “politically charged show trial.”
In a statement to The Hill, Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, attorneys representing over 40 former Commander employees, said it was “stunning” and “disheartening” to hear Goodell say Snyder was held accountable by the league.
“In his inexplicable and apparently unending desire to protect Dan Snyder, Goodell continues his refusal to release the findings by Beth Wilkinson citing reasons that do not withstand even minimal scrutiny,” the attorneys said in a statement, referring to the lawyer who led the NFL’s investigation into the team’s workplace culture. “Confidentiality can be protected in a written report by redacting the names of witnesses, which is common practice, including by the NFL.”
“To be clear, our clients want and deserve a full accounting of Beth Wilkinson’s findings,” the attorneys concluded. “Until he agrees to release such findings, Mr. Goodell’s purported concern for the employees who suffered through 20 years of harassment and abuse is a sham.”
— Updated at 4:42 p.m.
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