U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform released a 79-page report detailing the conclusions of their investigation into the toxic workplace culture with the Washington Commanders and owner Dan Snyder’s role in the workplace atmosphere.
The conclusions, if true, are damning. There are multiple allegations put forth by the oversight committee, and they interact in different ways with the NFL’s attempts to downplay the issues in Washington.
What are the major takeaways from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s investigation into harassment stemming from the Washington Commanders and Dan Snyder?
Dan Snyder was Named an Active Participant in Washington’s Toxic Workplace Culture
Snyder has defended himself by saying that the extent of the responsibility he bears is by being too “hands-off” as an owner and someone unaware of the harassment culture that developed in Washington. The conclusion of the report argues that Snyder “permitted and participated” in the toxic environment that developed in Washington.
Not only does this mean that he knew about the poisonous atmosphere surrounding the team, it means he himself harassed team employees.
With sections titled “Witnesses Stated that Mr. Snyder Personally Engaged in Sexual Misconduct Towards Commanders Employees and Contributed to a Toxic Culture” and “Witnesses Stated that Mr. Snyder Was a “Hands-on” Owner Who Endorsed the Toxic Culture at the Commanders Organization” with testimony from numerous named and unnamed witnesses, the report did not hold back.
Dan Snyder Obstructed the Investigation into Washington’s Workplace Harassment
Not only did Snyder participate in the problematic workplace environment, he actively obstructed the investigation into the team, according to the report. They allege that he intimidated or otherwise dissuaded witnesses from aiding the investigation.
They also claim that Snyder refused to answer basic questions, essentially saying he could not recall the answers to questions he should be able to answer.
The report details Snyder’s litigious attitude, not just going into his defamation lawsuits against newspapers – including those as far away as India – but apparent unsubstantiated statements from his legal team about what witnesses were offered in order to implicate Snyder.
They also detail the use of private investigators sent to the home of potential witnesses in order to intimidate them. On top of that, the report cites the previous reporting that witnesses were offered substantial sums of money to stay silent and not cooperate with the investigation.
The NFL Aided Dan Snyder in Evading Accountability
Representative Carol Maloney from New York told ESPN that the NFL was only investigating to keep up appearances. The report states that the NFL “whitewashed” the results of the investigation from attorney Beth Wilkinson and “buried” the findings.
The committee alleges that the NFL put the interests of the owners ahead of the interests of the public at large or NFL employees. This has been a long-running problem with the NFL and an issue baked into the cake.
The NFL apparently took into account statements from Snyder’s legal team that did not have evidentiary backing in order to come to their conclusion, according to the report.
The committee also takes the NFL to task for implementing harmful worker protection policies. An internal NFL document states that teams are not required to report “workplace complaints of sexual harassment,” which includes “non-physical sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation.” The reasoning is that this does not qualify as “conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL, NFL clubs or NFL personnel.”
This implicates the NFL as much as it does Snyder.
Dan Snyder Leaked the Jon Gruden Emails That Resulted in Gruden’s Resignation
Page 42 of the document reveals that Snyder leaked the emails that implicated former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. The goal, according to Snyder, was not to make Gruden look any worse but to pin the blame for toxic workplace culture on former general manager Bruce Allen.
The emails contained language from Gruden and Allen that demeaned women, black people, and the LGTBQ+ community. This attempt to isolate the problem in Washington and distract the public from the results of the investigation failed, and Congress initiated its own investigation into Washington’s workplace culture.
Dan Snyder Will Attempt to Turn This into a Partisan Issue
In a letter to Congress, Snyder’s legal team stated that “The investigation of the Washington Commanders has not been fair, thorough, or bipartisan, and it certainly hasn’t sought the truth. From the beginning, the Committee set out with a singular purpose — to destroy Dan Snyder and his family and attempt, with deception, innuendo, and half-truths, to drive him from the National Football League. This investigation reeks of the lowest form of politics and its only purpose is personal destruction.”
The Republican version of the Oversight Committee’s Report seems to substantiate this, accusing Democrats of attempting to remove Snyder in favor of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
The Republican memo states, “Simply put, Congress cannot provide any additional relief or remedies to any of the aggrieved parties. Why, then, has the Committee investigated a professional football team and targeted an individual team owner? Committee Democrats have chosen to weaponize the power of Congress against a single private workplace.”
Given the NFL’s general desire to avoid partisan party politics, at least outright, this could be another method by which Snyder attempts to force the NFL to leave the team alone.
The NFL’s Response to the Investigation Is Incomplete
The NFL has responded to the House investigation’s report with a statement of their own. In the statement, they claim that no witnesses were prevented from speaking with Wilkinson because of a non-disclosure agreement. None of that deals with the allegations that witnesses may have been deterred from testifying with intimidation or induced into noncompliance with bribes.
The NFL did not respond to the larger accusation from the committee that they helped cover up the problems in Washington by burying the report and refusing to release their internal report. They instead pointed to the record-setting fine they imposed and the hiring of an independent firm to oversee the implementation of new workplace policies.
The fact that the NFL cooperated with Congress during this investigation does not absolve the NFL from what it has been accused of, including downplaying the seriousness of the allegations, hiding evidence from the public or crafting a Personal Conduct Policy that explicitly carves out workplace harassment.