NFL’s Commanders owner blasts House Oversight Committe for investigation into team
The attorneys for the NFL’s Washington Commanders wrote a letter to House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) Wednesday, blasting the committee for its workplace misconduct investigation into the team and its owner, Dan Snyder.
In the letter, the team’s legal counsel, Holland & Knight, wrote that the panel’s investigation into the team has not been fair or bipartisan, adding that the panel’s focus is to destroy Snyder’s reputation.
The committee’s investigation into the Washington, D.C.-based NFL franchise began last October based on allegations of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct within the Commander’s organization and following the resignation of former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, whose email chain with then-Commanders team president Bruce Allen was leaked to the public.
“The investigation of the Washington Commanders has not been fair, thorough, or bipartisan, and it certainly hasn’t sought the truth. From the beginning, the Committee set out with a singular purpose—to destroy Dan Snyder and his family and attempt, with deception, innuendo, and half-truths, to drive him from the National Football League,” former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), a partner at Holland & Knight, wrote in the letter.
Davis also oversaw the Oversight Committee’s investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball in 2005.
“This investigation reeks of the lowest form of politics and its only purpose is personal destruction. Rather than seeking the truth, the Committee has ignored exculpatory evidence and buried favorable witnesses,” Davis continued.
Davis also mentioned in his letter that the panel used testimonies from former Commanders employees who Snyder said were responsible for the toxic workplace culture the team had. The former employees mentioned in the letter included team cheerleader and employee Melanie Coburn, former team vice president of sales and customer service Jason Friedman, and Allen, who recently testified before the House panel in a deposition last month.
Davis also reminded the Committee that Snyder denied the allegations made by former team cheerleader and marketing manager Tiffani Johnston, who accused the owner of sexually harassing her during a work-related dinner in 2004.
”For reasons the Committee has refused to share publicly, Ms. Johnston was not required to take an oath prior to presenting her story. By contrast, Mr. Snyder was required to provide sworn testimony, and sternly admonished by Committee counsel of the criminal consequences of providing false testimony,” Davis wrote in his letter. “Mr. Snyder testified that he did not recall ever meeting Ms. Johnston and certainly did not recall ever dining with her. Mr. Snyder, and numerous other current and former employees of the Commanders organization are prepared to testify that they do not recall Mr. Snyder ever dining with any cheerleader in a setting such as that portrayed by Ms. Johnston.”
In a statement to The Hill, a spokesperson for the Oversight committee said that its investigation “will not be deterred” by the latest tactics by Snyder and his legal consuel.
“Since launching this investigation one year ago, the Committee’s focus has been to uncover the truth about the decades-long hostile workplace culture at the Commanders and find legislative solutions to ensure that all employees are protected from abuse and harassment in their place of work,” a committee spokesperson said in a statement. “Although the Commanders’ owner has recently claimed to have turned over a new leaf, this latest effort to attack and intimidate former employees who have come forward casts doubt on this assertion—as does the team’s continued efforts to block the production of documents to the Committee. The Committee’s investigation will not be deterred by such tactics.”
This comes as some NFL owners have expressed serious consideration about attempting to oust Snyder, who has owned the Commanders since 1999, by forcing him to sell or voting him out, according to The Washington Post.
The NFL launched its second investigation into the team earlier this year, when Johnston made those allegations against Snyder while speaking at a House Oversight and Reform Committee roundtable discussion.
The Oversight Committee also tipped the Federal Trade Commission off earlier in April to evidence of financial improprieties against Snyder and his organization, leading Virginia and D.C.’s attorney generals to launch their own investigation into the team.
Snyder and his team have denied all allegations of financial improprieties and workplace misconduct against them.
In a statement on Friday, Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, the attorneys representing the former Commanders’ employees involved in the investigation, said that the “Washington Commanders and Dan Snyder have stonewalled the Committee from the beginning of its investigation,” demanding that Davis “immediately retract the false and defamatory statements” he made about Coburn, Johnston and Friedman.
—Updated Friday at 3:25 p.m.