The U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee released a 79-page report on Thursday, alleging the NFL and the Washington Commanders covered up decades of sexual misconduct.
The Congressional lawmakers’ report came amid accusations against Commanders team owner Dan Snyder of fostering a toxic workplace environment and brush of sexual assault allegations while the NFL failed to enforce proper standards in the matter. Lawmakers said in a news release the league knew what was going on within the Commanders’ organization and “aligned its legal interests” with them.
The committee said the investigation found that “sexual harassment, bullying and other toxic conduct pervaded” the Commanders’ organization, “perpetuated by a culture of fear instilled” by Snyder.
“Today’s report reflects the damning findings of the Committee’s yearlong investigation and shows how one of the most powerful organizations in America, the NFL, mishandled pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct at the Washington Commanders,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
“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. To my congressional colleagues, I hope this report is a call to action to protect workers across the country from harassment and intimidation, including by passing the legislation I introduced in June, the Accountability for Workplace Misconduct Act and Professional Images Protection Act.”
John Brownlee and Stuart Nash, the legal counsel for the Commanders, pushed back on the release of the report in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“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,” the statement read.
“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.
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“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.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy released a statement to Fox News Digital later Thursday.
“The NFL is committed to ensuring that all employees of the NFL and the 32 clubs work in a professional and supportive environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, or other forms of illegal or unprofessional conduct. The NFL and the 32 clubs have implemented substantial and effective programs to advance this commitment at all of our facilities,” the statement read.
“The investigation into the Commanders’ workplace that was conducted by Beth Wilkinson’s firm was independent and thorough. No individual who wished to speak to the Wilkinson firm was prevented from doing so by non-disclosure agreements. And many of the more than 150 witnesses who participated in the Wilkinson investigation did so on the condition that their identities would be kept confidential. Far from impeding the investigation, the common interest agreement enabled the NFL efficiently to assume oversight of the matter and avoided the potential for substantial delay and inconvenience to witnesses.
“Following the completion of Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation, the NFL issued a public release and imposed a record-setting fine on the club and its ownership. The club also implemented a series of recommendations by the Wilkinson firm and an independent firm has monitored the implementation of those recommendations through regular reviews of the Commanders’ workplace. All of these reviews, which were shared with the Committee, have concluded that the Commanders have made significant improvements in workplace culture and policies.
Over the past 13 months, the NFL has cooperated extensively with the Committee’s investigation, producing nearly a half million pages of documents, responding to dozens of written inquiries, and voluntarily participating in a two-and-a-half hour public hearing during which Commissioner Goodell answered 128 questions.”
Lawmakers laid out the key findings in their investigation and claimed that the negative workplace culture in the organization essentially began when Snyder bought the team in 1999.
Dave Pauken, the Commanders’ former chief operating officer, testified that year after year he was “pushed” by Snyder to allow former president of business operations Dennis Greene and other guests to attend a cheerleader calendar shoot. He also mentioned an incident when a cheerleader was groped.
“There was a [female] member of the public relations staff that was groped by a member of the coaching staff at an event,” Pauken told lawmakers, adding that he “talked to Dan about it, and I knew what we were going to do and — which was nothing. And we told the person to just stay away from the coach, we would do our best to keep the coach away from you, but stay away from the coach.”
Brian Lafemina, another former president of business operations and chief operating officer, told the lawmakers an employee told him about an uncomfortable interaction with senior executive Larry Michael and brought it to Snyder. He claimed Snyder responded, “Larry was a sweetheart and that Larry wouldn’t hurt anybody.”
The NFL launched an investigation into the Commanders and the claims of a toxic workplace culture. Beth Wilkinson was hired to conduct an investigation in July 2020. In July 2021, the NFL levied a $10 million fine on the Commanders but only an oral report was given. The results of the investigation were never publicly released.
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Lawmakers said Snyder “interfered with” the Wilkinson probe and launched a “shadow” investigation into the sources of the Washington Post exposé in an attempt to block out Wilkinson’s access to information that may have implicated him in misconduct.
“The Committee found that Mr. Snyder abused the subpoena power of federal courts on at least ten separate occasions by filing a defamation lawsuit against an obscure media company in India in order to obtain private emails and communications from his perceived detractors in the United States, including former employees who spoke out about sexual misconduct at the Commanders,” officials said.
Snyder denied his own investigation was meant to throw off the Wilkinson probe. Lawmakers said otherwise.
“The Committee uncovered evidence that Mr. Snyder and his lawyers made at least seven presentations to the NFL and Ms. Wilkinson aimed at convincing the League that Mr. Snyder was the victim of a smear campaign related to misconduct allegations and that others were to blame for his Team’s toxic workplace,” lawmakers said. “Mr. Snyder and his attorneys made only a single presentation to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who had been hired by the NFL to review claims made by Mr. Snyder against his former minority owners.”
Snyder said a 100-page dossier created by his legal team was only related to the defamation lawsuit in India, but the lawmakers said lawyers shared the dossier with Wilkinson’s firm and “and that the dossier itself is closely related to the facts underlying” her overall investigation.
Bruce Allen, the former team president, testified that Snyder had private investigators sent to his home and that Snyder had used private investigators to follow others, including Goodell. The claim was denied by Snyder’s legal team in October, calling it “categorically false.”
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Furthermore, the committee claimed Snyder intimidated witnesses and blocked production of documents from being disclosed, though Snyder’s legal team sent a batch of emails to lawmakers on the event of Allen’s deposition, including ones that were leaked to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal that eventually led to the firing of coach Jon Gruden by the Las Vegas Raiders.
Lawmakers claimed Snyder used a “secret common interest agreement” with the NFL to prevent league officials from turning over more than 40,000 documents from the Wilkinson investigation to lawmakers, including “the Wilkinson Investigation findings, several PowerPoint presentations that Mr. Snyder made to the NFL and Ms. Wilkinson during the Wilkinson Investigation, a 2018 human resources audit report showing deficiencies in the Commanders’ human resources department, a 2009 confidential settlement that resolved sexual assault allegations against Mr. Snyder, and 2008 and 2010 videos of outtakes from cheerleader photoshoots.”
The lawmakers added that the NFL was aware of Snyder’s alleged interference with the Wilkinson probe, and the league was aware Snyder continued to use private investigators despite being told to stop. Lawmakers said the league “misled the public” over its handling of the Wilkinson investigation.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., who is set to take over as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee since the Republicans took back the House in the midterm elections, said in October he wanted the Government Accountability Office to refocus its work on government oversight. Comer told The Washington Post in November the investigation was essentially over.
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A 210-page memorandum to Republican Oversight Committee Members from Republican Oversight Committee Staff laid out Democrats’ alleged misuse of oversight in the Commanders’ probe. Republicans say the Democrats spent all their time looking into the Commanders while important everyday issues for the average American go unnoticed — including the crisis at the southern border and the alleged lack of transparency when it came to the trillions spent on COVID relief, infrastructure and so-called “inflation reduction.”
“Committee Democrats’ investigation has had one goal since its inception: force Team owner Dan Snyder to give up the Team. In the last month, as news organizations reported that the Snyder family was working with a financial institution to consider possible financial transactions related to the Team, including its possible sale, a long-running theory about what could have prompted Committee Democrats’ investigation was given more credence,” the memorandum says. “Within hours of the news breaking of a possible future sale, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was reported to be interested in purchasing the team; Bezos has long been rumored to be interested in purchasing the team. Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post, whose negative coverage of Dan Snyder has been a key driver of Committee Democrats’ investigation. Given the targeted, predetermined nature of Committee Democrats’ investigation of the Team and its owner, it appears that the entire effort may have had as its goal the removal of an unfavored owner and the installation of the owner of a left-leaning newspaper sympathetic to the Democratic party.”
As the spotlight turned hotter on Snyder, he announced ahead of the team’s Week 9 matchup that he hired Bank of America “to consider potential transactions” for the organization.
FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer said the deal would be to sell the entire stake, not just a percentage.
“It’s to sell the entire team,” Glazer said. “What I’m being told is, the asking price is gonna go for about $7 billion. The other interesting part is the timeline. This is not going to be a long, drawn-out process. I’m told the hope is to have this done within the next six months and actually have it finalized by the NFL owners meeting next March.”
According to Forbes, the Commanders are valued at $5.6 billion.
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