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House Issues Report on Commanders Misconduct

Sports

Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder. | Image by Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform concluded its investigation of the Washington Commanders franchise and its owner, Daniel Snyder, last Thursday.

The committee released a 79-page report which alleged that Snyder “permitted and participated” in a toxic work culture or “culture of fear” that permeated the organization, including bullying and sexual harassment.

He also allegedly obstructed a Congressional inquiry by avoiding a subpoena and intimidated witnesses against cooperating with the investigation.

The committee claimed Snyder failed to adequately answer basic questions about recent and widely covered events related to the investigation.

The 14-month investigation included roundtable discussions, interviews, depositions with former team employees, and a Congressional hearing with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

It unveiled that senior executives of the Commanders were allegedly aware of the behaviors of the people in the front office; moreover, the culture had been that way for more than 20 years.

Several employees mentioned the behavior of Snyder himself, describing, for example, the inappropriate touching of a team employee at a work dinner. He had also made employees obtain “sexually suggestive footage” of cheerleaders.

The report also claimed Snyder instructed executives to ignore complaints, tried to pass the blame off on former general manager Bruce Allen, and used a defamation suit against an Indian media company to gain access to private emails. These were allegedly used to create an “enemies list.”

In addition, according to the report, Snyder used various tactics to hide and delay an investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson. The committee found that the NFL allegedly helped Snyder cover up Wilkinson’s findings.

Furthermore, the NFL has failed to protect workers from abuse and sexual harassment, and it does not allow victims to speak openly without fear of penalties, nor does the organization hold itself truly accountable in cases of misconduct, the report alleged.

Committee chair and New York state representative Carolyn Maloney (D) told ESPN, “We saw efforts that we have never seen before, at least I haven’t. The NFL knew about it, and they took no responsibility.”

Wilkinson was initially hired for an internal investigation into the Commanders’ organization in 2020. However, the NFL quickly took control after The Washington Post published some articles about the alleged sexual misconduct in the team’s workplace.

After receiving Wilkinson’s initial report, the league and the team agreed not to disclose any of their communications during the investigation without the other’s consent.

Between November 2020 and February 2021, Snyder made seven presentations to Wilkinson and the league — and one to the D.C. attorney general — to illustrate that he had not been involved in the harassment. The league said it considered those part of its investigation, but Snyder claimed otherwise.

Snyder then used several methods to block the findings from going public, including a defamation lawsuit, private investigators, hush money, non-disclosure agreements, and a common interest agreement that blocked access to over 40,000 documents.

The committee’s report also alleges that several other NFL teams have histories of harassment and abuse in the workplace and that the NFL had been covering the incidents up to protect its image.

Specifically mentioned was the handling of the Miami Dolphin’s incident involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin in 2014, as well as instances involving the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, and Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders.

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