House report says Commanders owner obstructed inquiry into ‘toxic’ workplace
A new report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee accused Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder of obstructing its investigation into a “toxic” workplace that witnesses said the embattled owner “permitted and participated in.”
In a 79-page report released Thursday, the Democrats on the committee said the 58-year-old NFL owner gave “misleading” responses during his deposition and also evaded questions, saying “over 100 times” that he couldn’t recall basic information about his role as owner.
Snyder, who purchased the Washington, D.C.-based NFL franchise in 1999, testified before the House panel in a closed-door, virtual interview — after refusing to join a public hearing.
The committee also said Snyder intimidated witnesses involved in its probe, accusing the owner of sending private investigators to the residences of former employees in an effort to stop them from talking.
It added the NFL was aware of Snyder’s private investigation efforts even after they told him to stop and blamed the league for complicity in attempts to cover up misdeed within its D.C. franchise.
“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,” committee Democrats wrote.
“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.”
The report also noted that former Commanders President Bruce Allen told the panel in September that Snyder sent private investigators to his Arizona residence in March 2021; Allen said they told him they were “just here to follow you” and “document your actions.”
Allen, who was fired from his position with the team in December 2019, also said that Snyder had spoken about his plans to hire private investigators to follow other league officials, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Outgoing Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) issued a memo to her committee members in June that Snyder had attempted to discredit accusers and victims by conducting a “shadow investigation” during the league’s initial investigation into the team, which was conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson.
Wilkinson’s initial investigation into the team resulted in the league penalizing the Commanders in July 2021 for a record $10 million and adding new requirements for team executives to be trained in topics such as bullying and unconscious bias.
However, the findings of that investigation were never released by the league, and the committee said the NFL “mishandled pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct at the Washington Commanders.”
The House panel also accused Snyder of offering “hush money to silence several former employees during the Wilkinson Investigation.”
In a statement to The Hill, legal counsel for the Washington Commanders called the Oversight Democrats’ report “one-sided,” noting how the committee declined to release the full transcript of Snyder’s July deposition.
“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,” team attorneys John Brownlee and Stuart Nash said in a statement. “Today’s report is the predictable culmination of that one-sided approach.”
“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,” they added.
Snyder, along with his wife, team co-owner Tanya Snyder, announced last month that they have hired Bank of America to explore a potential sale of their NFL franchise.
Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, the attorneys representing the more than 40 former team employees involved in the multiple investigations, applauded the committee’s work in a statement to The Hill.
“Today, after a lengthy and wide-ranging investigation, the Committee on Oversight and Reform issued a comprehensive report that definitively details not only the extensive sexual harassment that occurred, but also owner Dan Snyder’s involvement in that sexual harassment and his efforts to obstruct the various investigations into that scandal,” they wrote.
“The report also reveals the NFL’s shameless efforts to cover up the wrongdoing and protect Mr. Snyder at all costs. In addition to creating a public record of what had been hidden for decades, the Committee’s work resulted in important legislation limiting the use of non-disclosure agreements, which will help prevent this type of widespread harassment from happening in other American workplaces.”
In a statement, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told The Hill that the league remains committed to ensuring that all 32 league franchises and their employees are “in a professional and supportive environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, or other forms of illegal or unprofessional conduct.”
At the end of the report, Maloney called for her colleagues to pass two bills that she introduced over the summer, stemming in part from the committee’s investigation into the team: the Accountability for Workplace Misconduct Act, which prohibits nondisclosure agreements that limit an employee’s ability to disclose workplace wrongdoing, and the Professional Images Protection Act, which requires employers to obtain consent before taking or disseminating professional images of employees.
Brad Baker, a former video production employee, told the committee that team executives “tasked us with producing a video for Snyder of sexually suggestive footage of cheerleaders, obviously unbeknownst to any of the women involved.”
The committee also accused Snyder of refusing to release some employees from nondisclosure agreements that would have allowed them to more freely participate in the probe.
Updated at 4:36 p.m.