As the N.F.L. was investigating his team for widespread workplace misconduct, the Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder directed a "shadow investigation" to interfere with and undermine its findings, a Congressional committee found.
At Snyder's behest, the committee said, his legal team used private investigators to harass and intimidate witnesses, and created a 100-page dossier targeting victims, witnesses and journalists who had shared "credible public accusations of harassment" against the team.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a 29-page memo on Wednesday that detailed the findings of its eight-month inquiry into how the Commanders and the N.F.L. handled claims of rampant sexual harassment of the team's female employees. The report was released ahead of Wednesday's hearing, where the league's commissioner, Roger Goodell, appeared remotely.
Snyder declined two requests to appear, citing a "longstanding business conflict." At Wednesday's hearing, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the committee, said she planned to subpoena Snyder to provide a deposition next week.
In the memo, Maloney wrote that the panel's inquiry uncovered evidence that Snyder sought to discredit those who had made claims against the team and to create "an exculpatory narrative" that Snyder was not to blame for the misconduct, which was alleged to have taken place from 2006 to 2019, almost the entire tenure of his ownership.
To that end, Snyder and his lawyers also gathered thousands of emails from Bruce Allen, who was a Commanders executive from 2009 to 2019, in an effort to blame Allen for the creation of a toxic work environment, and sought to influence the N.F.L. investigation through direct access to the league and Beth Wilkinson, the lawyer who led the league's report, per the memo.
A representative for Snyder said in a statement that the committee's investigation was "predetermined from the beginning" and asserted that the team addressed these workplace issues "years ago."
The N.F.L. was aware of Snyder's actions, the memo said, "but failed to take meaningful steps to prevent them." Wilkinson’s investigation led the league to impose a $10 million team fine on Snyder and had him step back from the club's day-to-day operations, but the N.F.L. did not ask Wilkinson to prepare a written report, a decision that has drawn scrutiny both from elected officials and former team employees who participated in the investigation.
Goodell told the committee in Wednesday's hearing that the league had "compelling reasons" to limit the Wilkinson report to an oral briefing, namely to preserve the confidentiality of its participants. "We have been open and direct about the fact that the workplace culture at the Commanders was not only unprofessional, but toxic for far too long," Goodell said in prepared testimony. He added that there had been "substantial transformation" of the team's office and that it "bears no resemblance to the workplace that has been described to this committee."
The N.F.L. started a second investigation into the Commanders earlier this year, in response to a new allegation of sexual harassment that directly implicated Snyder in a February congressional round table. Goodell has said that the findings of that investigation, led by the lawyer Mary Jo White, will be made public.
Understand the N.F.L.'s Recent Controversies
Washington Commanders investigations. As the N.F.L. was investigating his team for widespread sexual harassment , the Commanders owner Daniel Snyder directed a "shadow investigation" to interfere with and undermine its findings , a Congressional committee found. Meanwhile, the league started a second inquiry into the Commanders earlier this year, in response to a new allegation of sexual harassment that directly implicates Snyder.
Deshaun Watson's troubling behavior. After several women said the quarterback had harassed or assaulted them during massage appointments, two grand juries in Texas declined to criminally charge the football star , who later reached settlements in 20 of the 24 cases against him . But a Times investigation showed that Watson may have engaged in more questionable behavior than previously known.
Jon Gruden's lawsuit. In 2021, Gruden stepped down as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after The Times reported on emails in which he made homophobic, misogynistic and racist remarks . He later filed a lawsuit against the league, claiming that it had intentionally leaked the emails and sought to destroy his career. In May 2022, a judge denied the league's motions to dismiss the suit and to compel a closed-door arbitration.
Racial descrimination lawsuit. The former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores , who is Black and Hispanic, sued the N.F.L. and its 32 teams for racial descrimination in their hiring practices. Mr. Flores was later hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a defensive assistant coach. Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, two Black former coaches, have joined the ongoing lawsuit .
A demoralizing culture for women. After the 2014 Ray Rice scandal, the N.F.L. stepped up its efforts to hire and promote women. But more than 30 former staff members interviewed by The Times described a stifling corporate culture that has left many women feeling pushed aside . Six attorneys general warned the league that it could face an investigation if it does not address the problem.
The committee's memo also cited additional examples of Snyder's direct role in creating a workplace that Goodell acknowledged was marked by widespread disrespect and harassment. The team's former chief operating officer told the committee that Snyder "refused to take action" against a coach who allegedly groped a public relations employee and fired female workers who engaged in consensual relationships with male football operations employees, while the men kept their jobs.
In addition, The Washington Post reported that the Wilkinson investigation examined the 2009 confidential settlement of a claim that Snyder groped a female employee and asked her for sex.
Snyder, his wife, Tanya, and the team president, Jason Wright, sent a statement Wednesday to team employees objecting to the "harsh and negative manner" in which the team had been described and pointed to "meaningful" changes to remake the organization's culture.
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