By Alex Rogers and Jacob Lev, CNN
House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney charged at a hearing Wednesday that Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder “himself fostered” the football team’s “toxic workplace” and then “conducted a shadowy investigation to target his accusers, blame others and influence the NFL’s own internal review.”
Maloney said Snyder “fired women but not men who had relationships with other employees, while defending male executives accused of sexual harassment,” according to testimony from former top-team executives during the panel’s eight-month investigation of commander culture and the NFL’s response.
The New York Democrat said Snyder sent private investigators to the homes of former cheerleaders, “offered money to buy their silence,” created a “dossier” of communications from journalists, attorneys and former employees who accused the team of harassment and tried to to blame former team president Bruce Allen for the team’s problems.
“The NFL was aware of his actions, but was unable to stop him,” Maloney said.
Snyder refused to testify at the hearing, but Maloney announced that he intended to issue a subpoena to compel his testimony next week. A spokesman for Snyder said the hearing was “little more than a politically charged show trial, not about uncovering the truth.”
“It is clear that the outcome of the House Oversight Committee investigation of Washington commanders was predetermined from the start,” Snyder’s spokesman said.
Last year, after an internal investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson, the National Football League fined the team $10 million, and Snyder gave control of the franchise’s day-to-day operations to his wife, Tanya. But the NFL refused to make his findings public, prompting the House Oversight Committee’s review in October.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified before the panel Wednesday, saying the commanders’ culture was “not just unprofessional, but toxic for far too long.”
“It is clear to me that the workplace in Washington was unprofessional and unacceptable in several respects: bullying, pervasive disrespect for colleagues, use of demeaning language, public shaming and harassment,” Goodell said. “Furthermore, for an extended period, commanders had a woefully poor human resources function, particularly with respect to reporting and record-keeping practices.”
But Goodell maintained that the Commanders’ workplace has improved and that Snyder “faced unprecedented discipline,” including being fined. He said Snyder hasn’t attended league or committee meetings in the past year, noting that commanders established “an entirely new, highly skilled and diverse management team” and “revamped” its cheerleading and leadership program with a mixed dance team. . In 2020, the Commanders hired Ron Rivera as head football coach and Jason Wright as team president.
Goodell also said the team had not received a written report from Wilkinson to preserve the confidentiality of those who had been involved in the internal investigation, but might release a “summary of key findings” in the future “if appropriate.” Illinois Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi suggested the NFL could release a detailed report with names redacted if necessary.
Republicans said Wednesday that the House Oversight Committee should have spent its time on larger national issues, such as rising consumer prices, baby formula shortages, record numbers of illegal border crossings, fentanyl overdoses or the declining stock market, and focus on investigating the federal government rather than the private sector. Maloney said the committee had the authority to investigate “anything and everything,” prompting at least one Republican member to say he would remember next year, when the GOP is favored to win back the House.
“This committee is failing the American people,” said Kentucky Rep. Jim Comer, the panel’s top Republican.
Maloney disagreed, noting that attorneys general in six states had told the NFL in April of their “serious concerns” about allegations of workplace harassment of women and minorities and that the NFL had launched a new investigation based on the job. of the committee.
The NFL has hired former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White to investigate an allegation of sexual harassment against Snyder by former employee Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team. Johnston told the congressional committee that Commander’s owner had put his hand on her leg under the table at a business dinner and tried to persuade her to get into her limousine. Snyder has denied Johnston’s allegations.
“Some have argued that protecting women is not worth this committee’s time. I totally disagree,” Maloney said. “For more than two decades, Dan Snyder refused to protect the women who worked for him from the toxic culture he created. The NFL has also failed to protect these women. Now I think it’s up to Congress to protect them, and millions more like them.”
Maloney said he had introduced two bills to “ensure that employers like Dan Snyder can’t abuse confidentiality agreements to silence employees, and can’t film their employees” and use the footage without their consent. Goodell said he supported the intent of the bills.
“In concept, we certainly support him and look forward to working with his staff,” Goodell said.
Snyder had been invited to appear before the panel on Wednesday, but was out of the country, according to Maloney.
“We also invited Daniel Snyder to testify today. But instead of coming forward and taking responsibility for his actions, he chose to leave town,” Maloney said. “Apparently, Mr. Snyder is in France, where he docked his luxury yacht near a resort town. That should indicate how much respect he has for women in the workplace.”
Snyder’s attorney, Karen Patton Seymour, said the Commanders owner is willing to cooperate, but the committee was “unwilling to consider rescheduling the hearing,” according to the four-page letter obtained by CNN.
“The Committee also stated that it is unwilling to consider rescheduling the hearing, despite the fact that Mr. Snyder has a longstanding business dispute related to Commanders and is out of the country on the first and only date that the Committee has proposed. for the audience,” the letter said. “Instead, the Committee insisted on a yes or no answer from Mr. Snyder as to whether he would appear at the hearing at the appointed time.”
Asked by Maloney what “specific steps” the NFL would take to hold Snyder accountable for failing to testify, Goodell said, “I have no responsibility as to whether he appears before Congress. That is not my choice. That is your choice.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong day for comments made by House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney. it was wednesday
The CNN Wire
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