Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder both “permitted and participated” in the team’s toxic workplace culture while the NFL helped to cover it up, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform said on Thursday.
After a year-long investigation into the Commanders, the committee’s final report said sexual harassment, bullying, and other toxic conduct pervaded the team’s workplace, perpetuated by a culture of fear instilled by Snyder.
The report also stated that despite the NFL’s knowledge — through its internal investigation — that Snyder engaged in tactics used to intimidate victims, the league aligned its legal interests with the Commanders and buried its findings.
“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,” said Carolyn Maloney, who chaired the committee.
“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.”
One portion of the report that NFL fans will find interesting, is that it appears that the Commanders’ organization was, in fact, behind the leaked emails that led to John Gruden’s resignation as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, despite repeated denials.
Congress issued a 79-page report into Dan Snyder and the Commanders.
If you’re looking for the bombshell it’s on Page 42. The report states that the Washington Commanders leaked the Jon Gruden emails that resulted in his resignation. “It came out of their side.” pic.twitter.com/TYLoASmhYP
— Dan Lust, Esq. 🎙 (@SportsLawLust) December 8, 2022
Commanders attorneys John Brownlee and Stuart Nash said in a statement that the final report is the culmination of what they called a “one-sided approach” by Congressional investigators only interested in “chasing headlines”.
“Today’s report does not advance public knowledge of the Washington Commanders’ workplace in any way,” Brownlee and Nash said.
“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.”
The NFL fined the Commanders $10 million last year after an independent investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson found numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment, but the full report was never released.
The committee’s report on Thursday also said the NFL misled the public about its handling of the Wilkinson investigation and that Snyder used a secret common interest agreement with the league to prevent it from turning over documents from the Wilkinson investigative file to the committee.
In a statement, the NFL said it was committed to ensuring employees at all of its 32 clubs work in an environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, or other forms of illegal or unprofessional conduct.
The NFL also said 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,” the NFL said.
“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.”
Snyder bought the Washington franchise in 1999 for $800 million and his ownership of the club has come under pressure amid investigations by the NFL and Congress into the team’s workplace culture and potential financial improprieties.
The Commanders said last month that Snyder would explore a potential sale of the team, one of the NFL’s marquee sides, which was ranked by Forbes this year as the league’s sixth-most valuable franchise at $5.6 billion.
Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters. Additions for FISM News by Michael Cardinal