Oversight Committee Releases Final Report On Washington Commanders Probe
By Jason Hall
December 8, 2022
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform released its final report on its investigation into the National Football League's handling of accusations against the Washington Commanders in a news release on behalf of Committee chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, and Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy chairman, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, shared on Thursday (December 8).
The Committee said its investigation confirmed that incidents of "sexual harassment, bullying and other toxic conduct pervaded the Commanders workplace, perpetuated by a culture of fear instilled by" team owner Dan Snyder, who "permitted and participated in the workplace misconduct" which included engaging "in tactics used to intimidate, surveil, and pay off victims."
Additionally, the Committee accused the NFL of aligning "its legal interests with the Commanders" and failing "to curtail these abusive tactics" and burying "the investigation's findings," according to the news release.
“Today’s report reflects the damning findings of the Committee’s year-long investigation and shows how one of the most powerful organizations in America, the NFL, mishandled pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct at the Washington Commanders,” said Chairwoman Maloney. “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 counsel for the Washington Commanders, issued the following statement in relation to the Oversight Committee's final report:
"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.
"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.
"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."
Last month, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia launched a criminal investigation stemming from allegations that the team "engaged in financial improprieties," ESPN reported at the time, citing two sources familiar with the situation.
ESPN reports that the investigation was launched in relation to "a letter the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent to the Federal Trade Commission and several attorneys general in April that alleged deceptive business practices."
Attorneys general in Virginia and Washington, D.C. were reported to be looking into allegations of financial impropriety, according to the sources familiar with the situation.
A Commanders spokesperson provided a statement from attorney John Brownlee of Holland & Knight, who represents the NFL franchise, in response to ESPN's request for comment.
"It is not surprising that ESPN is publishing more falsehoods based solely on anonymous sources -- given today's announcement," the statement said via ESPN. "...We are confident that, after these agencies have had a chance to review the documents and complete their work, they will come to the same conclusion as the team's internal review -- that these allegations are simply untrue."
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the league "will decline comment" when asked if the NFL was aware of the federal criminal investigation.
"The NFL in April engaged former SEC chair Mary Jo White to look into this matter," McCarthy said. "The review is ongoing."
White was also leading the league's previous investigation into the Commanders regarding allegations of sexual misconduct under Snyder, who is also accused of an alleged sexual assault of a woman on his plane in April 2009.
ESPN's report came hours after Snyder and his wife, Tanya, announced they've hired Bank of America Securities to consider "potential transactions" in relation to the Washington Commanders NFL franchise.
"Dan and Tanya Snyder and the Washington Commanders announced today that they have hired BoA Securities to consider potential transactions," the Commanders said in a statement re-shared by CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones on November 2. "The Snyders remain committed to the team, all of its employees and its countless fans to putting the best product on the field and continuing the work to set the gold standard for workplaces in the NFL.
Statement from the Commanders says they're considering "potential transactions" pic.twitter.com/2kzruHjw3I— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) November 2, 2022
The statement came weeks after Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said "there's merit to remove" Snyder as owner of the Commanders during the 2022 Fall NFL Meeting on October 18, making him the first NFL team owner to publicly call for Snyder's removal, Front Office Sports' A.J. Perez reported at the time.
"I'm very concerned that he needs to be removed," Irsay said via NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
"Some of the things I’ve heard doesn’t represent us at all," Irsay said via ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "I want the American public to know what we’re about as owners…I believe it’s in the best interest of the National Football League that we look at this squarely in the eyes and deal with it.”
In June, the Washington Post reported on a 29-page memo released by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform regarding Snyder, which stemmed from an investigation into the franchise's alleged toxic workplace culture and revealed that the owner launched a "shadow investigation" into his accusers, which included a "100-slide dossier with emails, text messages, telephone records, and social media posts from journalists, victims, and witnesses who had made credible public accusations of harassment against the Commanders."
BREAKING: Colts owner Jim Irsay is the first owner to publicly back removal of Dan Snyder as owner of the Commanders.— A.J. Perez (@byajperez) October 18, 2022
“I believe there’s merit to remove him as owner.”
#Colts owner Jim Irsay still speaking on #Commanders owner Dan Snyder. Says he wants to see the final report, but: “I’m very concerned that he needs to be removed.” pic.twitter.com/QqmzSFNNmf— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 18, 2022
#Colts' Irsay on Snyder: “Some of the things I’ve heard doesn’t represent us at all. I want the American public to know what we’re about as owners…I believe it’s in the best interest of the National Football League that we look at this squarely in the eyes and deal with it.”— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 18, 2022
The Commanders were fined $10 million as a result of the NFL's investigation into the franchise's workplace culture in July.
NFL.com confirmed the fine "will be used to support organizations committed to character education, anti-bullying, healthy relationships and related topics."
Additionally, Tanya Snyder was promoted to co-CEO earlier this year and has overseen the franchise's day-to-day duties, as well as represented the franchise at league functions, amid her husband turning his focus "on a new stadium plan and other matters," NFL.com reported at the time.
Snyder wasn't seen publicly around the team for months prior to resurfacing during Washington's matchup against the Cowboys in Arlington on October 2.
Attorney Beth Wilkinson began an independent investigation into the then-Washington Football Team in July 2020 amid numerous accusations of sexual harassment by former employees during a 15-year span detailed in a column by the Washington Post.
In April 2021, Front Office Sports reported that the investigation examined former team employees and email accounts, which revealed "a toxic work environment and contain troubling exchanges, including nude photos and other inappropriate correspondence," a source with knowledge of the probe confirmed.
A specific exchange included Donald Wells, the franchise's first openly gay employee who previously directed the WFT's cheerleading squad for 12 years, who has publicly lobbied for Dan Snyder to be held accountable for years of workplace harassment that existed within the organization.
“They took advantage of (the cheerleaders) and did things to other people in the office, including me,” Wells told Front Office Sports. “What went on there was way worse than that (email). My gosh.”
However, the email exchange showed that Wells was implicit of that behavior.
“She is a fat cross eyed, crazy chick,” Wells wrote from his WFT email account in September of 2007 after a member of the cheerleading team put in her notice via FOS. “… I am sure she will enjoy taking trashy pictures while she eats her big macs :).”
Wells said he didn't recall sending the email mentioned in FOS' report.
In March 2021, the NFL approved Snyder's application to buy out the franchise's minority owners.
Snyder's $450 million debt waiver was approved by the league's finance committee, an NFL spokesperson confirmed to ESPN on March 24, 2021, which was initially reported by Tyler Dunne of GoLongTD.com. The rest of the league's majority owners will vote during the NFL's annual meeting next week on whether to approve the deal, with Snyder needing approval from 24 of the 32 owners for the transaction to pass.