Report: Dan Snyder allowed toxic CEO culture, NFL helped cover up

Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder “allowed and participated” in the team’s long-standing toxic work culture and thwarted a 14-month congressional investigation by dodging a subpoena, working to dissuade and intimidate witnesses from cooperating and claiming more than 100 times in testimony that he could not remembering answers to basic questions, according to the final report of the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The committee’s 79-page report, released Thursday, also comes down hard on the NFL, concluding that the league was complicit in Snyder’s efforts by not cooperating with the congressional investigation and by burying a 2020-21 investigation into the Commanders’ workplace led by attorney Beth Wilkinson, whose results have never been released in full.

“We saw stakes that we’ve never seen before, at least I haven’t,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, who chaired the committee. “The NFL knew about it and they took no responsibility.”

NFL officials “acted like they did something,” Maloney told ESPN. “Then they turn around and fix it so she can’t talk. Her report is never made public, yet she had to be hired to address it. The hypocrisy. The coordinated effort to hide what they acknowledged.”

The congressional report, which cites allegations of harassment and abuse against several other teams, says the NFL has put the interests of league owners ahead of NFL employees by failing to protect them or ensure victims can speak without fear of retaliation.

“The NFL chose to bury Ms. Wilkinson’s findings and whitewash the misconduct it exposed,” the committee’s report said. “Instead of seeking real accountability, the NFL aligned its legal interests with Mr. Snyder’s, failed to curb his abusive tactics, and buried the investigation’s findings.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy released a statement Thursday saying the league “is committed to ensuring that all employees of the NFL and the 32 clubs work in a professional and supportive environment that is free from discrimination, harassment or other forms of for illegal or unprofessional conduct.”

The commanders have attacked committee efforts as driven by partisan politics and have said Snyder and the team cooperated fully with investigators. Spokeswoman Jean Medina released a statement attributed to the team’s attorneys John Brownlee and Stuart Nash, saying the report “in no way advances public knowledge of the Washington Commander’s workplace.”

“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,” the statement said. “Today’s report is the predictable culmination of the one-sided approach. There are no new revelations here.”

Republicans on the committee issued a memo in response to the report, saying, “Democrats’ bogus investigation of Washington Commanders has been an egregious waste of taxpayer-funded resources” and that Democrats have abused a committee that should be focused on government. .

“No basis exists for congressional oversight of the team,” the memo says. “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.”

The GOP memo also joins Snyder’s chorus that former team president and general manager Bruce Allen is to blame for the team’s toxic culture; Allen says he did not work for the team for many of the years in question. Republicans released 57 emails and documents, including dozens of photos of nude and near-nude women, which they say came from Allen’s work account.

“These emails show that under Allen’s leadership there was a toxic workplace — one that has since been reformed based on independent third-party reviews of the team’s culture,” the memo said. “Committee Democrats have not identified or presented any similar emails or documents that identify any racist, misogynistic or homophobic behavior by Dan Snyder.”

In addition to its report, the House committee released excerpts of testimony Snyder gave remotely from his yacht in July, and from September testimony by Allen.

Among the most important revelations in the committee’s report and transcripts:

During his deposition, Snyder told investigators, “I have said numerous times, and continue to say, that we apologize for the team’s misconduct in the workplace.” But investigators note that Snyder “continued to blame others around him and minimized the experiences of more than 100 current and former employees.”

Under oath, Snyder “admitted to using private investigators,” the report says, but Snyder claimed to be “unaware” of who his investigators approached and “did not recall” having conversations with his counsel about the individuals targeted. “Mr. Snyder could recall very little when asked about allegations of wrongdoing against him, including specific allegations raised in recent press stories,” the investigators note.

In his testimony, Allen recounted his meeting with a private investigator Snyder hired to follow him, and he also swore that Snyder once talked to him about hiring a private eye to follow NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Although the NFL appeared on the surface to have cooperated with committee requests for documents, much of what the league provided were “news articles, press clippings and public records.” Investigators said the league “refused to turn over” at least 40,000 documents collected by Wilkinson during the league’s internal investigation, including Wilkinson’s written findings presented to the NFL during her investigation.

Despite claims by Snyder’s lawyers that the team freed former employees from restrictions imposed on them by confidentiality agreements, “a significant number of potential witnesses” were unable to share their experiences with investigators, either for fear of retaliation or because Snyder and the commanders would not. release them from their “obligations of confidentiality”.

Allen testified that an NFL executive indicated to him that the Commanders were behind the leak of racist and misogynistic emails linked to former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden.

As the committee wraps up its work, the NFL continues its second investigation into Snyder, this time led by former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White. And the attorney general in Washington, D.C., has sued the team, the NFL and Goodell on allegations of financial improprieties related to season ticket deposits.

ESPN reported last month that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia has also opened a criminal investigation into the financial allegations. That same day, Dan and Tanya Snyder announced they had hired Bank of America to explore potential transactions, and a spokesman said they were exploring all options.

Snyder testified he ‘can’t recall’

The report says Snyder claimed more than 100 times under oath that he could not remember or was unaware of “fundamental information about his role as the owner of the Commanders.” Questions Snyder claimed not to recall included hirings and firings, his knowledge of alleged sexual harassment by high-ranking team officials and at least seven presentations by his attorneys to the NFL during attorney Wilkinson’s investigation. On the same subject : A real touchdown, on and off the pitch. He also said he did not recall his lawyers offering money to former employees in exchange for signing confidentiality agreements during this investigation.

As for team managers directing employees to make unauthorized videos of nude cheerleaders, Snyder pleaded “I don’t remember” seven times in an excerpt of testimony. He swore he had never seen what he called “the alleged videos” and had no recollection of what he or the team did with them, the transcript says.

The committee’s report also details the genesis of a $10 million fine the NFL said it imposed on the Commanders on July 1, 2021, following the Wilkinson report. According to the report, Snyder’s legal team negotiated the terms of the fine, which allowed Snyder to pay $5 million to the NFL, with the other $5 million going to approximately 22 charities in the Washington region, a deal that “may have allowed the team to take tax deductions for its charitable contributions and contributions to the union, thereby giving the commanders an advantage.”

Committee staff recommended that Congress “should consider prohibiting professional sports team owners from taking a tax deduction for fines or penalties paid in connection with workplace misconduct investigations.”

Under NFL rules, Goodell did not have the authority to collect the fine unless he received approval from two-thirds of the team owners at a special league meeting, according to investigators. Snyder’s lawyers told the committee that “after some discussion” between the NFL and Snyder’s lawyers, the two sides agreed on the $10 million figure. They also revealed to investigators that Snyder’s representatives “were actively involved” in the league’s release of the fine and Wilkinson’s findings.

As part of the committee’s investigation, Goodell testified before the full committee in June that Snyder “has been held accountable” after facing “unprecedented discipline” that included “being removed and removed from the team.”

Since October, there have been mixed signals about whether Snyder has resumed day-to-day operations of the team. ESPN has reported, and Goodell confirmed at a news conference in October, that he was operating under the assumption that Snyder is still under active investigation and that the limits placed on him were continuing.

But in his deposition in July, according to the report, Snyder testified that “he had resumed involvement, including providing ‘advice and assistance’ when ‘necessary’; being ‘updated and kept informed’ by team president Jason Wright; and hold meetings with head coach Ron Rivera about the football season and the ‘future’ of the franchise.”

“These various allegations cast serious doubt on the NFL commissioner’s assertion that Mr. Snyder had been ‘held accountable’ by being removed from team operations,” the committee’s report said.

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Allen testifies about private investigators

Allen also testified that Snyder has tried to persuade other owners to remove Goodell and that he told Allen during the height of the NFL’s national anthem controversy that he wanted to use private investigators to follow Goodell. Read also : VHS student Sha’Kyria Allen was selected as a finalist for the Heisman high school scholarship..

“He said at that point, ‘I want to follow, I want him followed, follow the commissioner,’ you know, I’m going to find out about him,” Allen testified.

ESPN first reported in October that Snyder had bragged to employees that he had gathered “dirt” on team owners and Goodell to fend off any attempt to force him to sell the Commanders.

Allen, who testified that Snyder made the comments in his office, said he “didn’t think he was serious because it’s just, it’s a crazy thought that I want to burn the building next door.”

However, Allen began to reconsider when he discovered that other former employees had encountered private investigators hired by Snyder’s lawyers. “Now, after I read about everybody being followed around the country, I don’t know if it was true or not,” Allen testified. “And then, of course, when it occurred to me, it was like, ‘Wow.'”

Allen said he first discovered private investigators trailing his movements while he was moving into a new home in Arizona in March 2021. He testified that the home was on a narrow street with little traffic and that his wife had noticed a unknown car with the engine running parked outside their home.

“I had made some coffee,” Allen testified. “And I got out. And the gentleman got out of the car and he said, ‘Hello, Mr. Allen.’ I said, “Well, that’s interesting. You need a cup of coffee? Are you here to serve me with a subpoena or something?”

“He said, ‘No, we’re just here to follow you’ and something like ‘document your actions’.”

Allen said the investigator identified himself as a former FBI agent and offered a business card, also pointing to a co-worker in another car down the street who was waiting in case Allen drove out of the neighborhood another way. Allen said he asked who sent the investigators.

“He said the Washington Football Team like they weren’t the bosses yet,” Allen said.

Allen said the man followed him to the rental house he was moving from to get some more boxes and that another investigator was waiting there.

“I thought it was abhorrent,” Allen testified. “And it’s worse for others. I don’t know if they followed my wife… But when I read some of these other testimonies, I felt for people who have been through similar situations.”

He said the surveillance included the use of drones “outside the back of our house,” adding that an investigator confronted a construction worker at the home and said, “Tell us about Bruce Allen.”

The committee also released a video of a private investigator caught on a home surveillance system in April 2021 trying to gather information about former cheerleader Abigail Dymond Welch, one of the women investigators believe was caught in videos that were made based on the results of swimsuit calendar recordings.

Maloney characterized Snyder’s alleged use of private investigators as “extreme behavior” that she had never encountered in three decades on Capitol Hill. “He intimidated the workforce and the managers. Anyone who spoke out, he had private investigators go to their homes and track them down. Go to a cheerleader’s home with their kids and try to offer hush money and try to intimidate them into not talking more.”

The committee had previously revealed, in a 29-page memorandum released in June, that the law firm Reed Smith sought to “harass and intimidate” and “ensure the silence” of former employees and potential witnesses during the Wilkinson investigation.

Reed Smith partner Jordan Siev told ESPN in October that they were “not aware of any efforts to investigate or compile information” about NFL owners, executives or Goodell. Siev did not respond to questions about whether Reed Smith commissioned investigations into former Commander’s employees.

In the newly released transcript, committee investigators question Snyder specifically about the firm, asking, “Did Reed Smith send private investigators to Bruce Allen’s home?”

Snyder replied, “I’m not sure. I don’t know.”

In his testimony, Snyder told committee staff that the private investigators were hired to gather information for a defamation case in India and that they were not part of any effort to intimidate or retaliate against the employees who came forward.

ESPN’s October report cited multiple legal and team sources as saying that Snyder used the Wilkinson investigation as a “tip sheet” for his law firms to form an “enemies list.” The committee’s report says ESPN’s reporting was “consistent with evidence uncovered by the committee.”

Snyder has denied launching what the committee has called a “shadow investigation.” He testified that a 100-page dossier containing information on his former employees, including cheerleaders and Allen, had “nothing to do” with the Wilkinson investigation, although his legal team presented the contents of the dossier to the NFL and Wilkinson.

The committee report spends several pages detailing a timeline that cracks Snyder’s defense of the case. “Mr. Snyder suggested that the private investigators hired by his attorneys may have ‘made a mistake and gone somewhere wrong,'” the report said. “But he insisted they were ‘only using investigators regarding the Indian trials’.”

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Attempts to blame Allen for toxic culture

In his deposition, Allen testified that he informed Lisa Friel, the NFL’s senior vice president and special counsel for investigations, who helped oversee the Wilkinson investigation, about his experience with the private investigators in April 2021. On the same subject : Free agency ’22: The Pederson Effect.

He said Friel gave him the impression she was “not shocked” by his story and called Snyder’s actions “detrimental” to the league’s integrity.

“They knew,” Maloney said. “They knew that. They called it harmful behavior, which they then become complicit in by hiding the harmful behavior. So it could go on, literally could go on. And that, to me, was irresponsibly unimaginable.”

Friel also informed Allen of Snyder’s efforts to blame him for the team’s “decades-long toxic culture” and told him about the team’s presentations to the NFL about Allen’s role in the day-to-day running of the franchise, according to his testimony.

Friel also “indicated that the commanders were responsible for the leak” of racist and misogynistic emails linked to Gruden that appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal in October 2021, Allen testified. Congressional investigators had previously uncovered evidence that Snyder’s lawyers had provided those emails to the league in the summer of 2021 as part of Snyder’s effort to deflect blame from Allen.

Allen testified that when he learned of the leak to The Wall Street Journal, he called Friel, who told him, “We didn’t do it at the league office. It came out of their side.”

The report noted that the day before Allen was scheduled to be impeached, Snyder’s legal team sent unsolicited emails to the committee that “contained embarrassing language and inappropriate content” that were retrieved from Allen’s team account, including emails that were already been leaked to the media. The report noted that Snyder’s legal team had leaked other emails, documents and photographs in an effort to discredit several other congressional witnesses who made allegations against the team.

“The committee’s investigation found that the NFL was aware of Mr. Snyder’s surveillance, harassment and intimidation of his accusers throughout the Wilkinson investigation,” according to the committee’s report.

In his testimony, Allen told investigators that he interpreted the email “leak” as an attempt by Snyder “to send a message” to Allen that he should “be careful” and that Snyder “owns me with these emails , which affects my co-workers, the alumni, my family and friends.”

Ultimately, the report concludes, “Many of the emails leaked by Mr. Snyder were unrelated to the committee’s investigation or were presented in a misleading manner so as to suggest wrongdoing.”

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Committee says league efforts aided Snyder

The report says investigators were hampered by the league and that the team refused to release as many as 40,000 documents related to the Wilkinson investigation.

In February, the committee released the contents of a previously secret “mutual interest agreement” between the league and the team that it had reached. At least one source close to the investigation calls the deal “highly unusual” and not something that is done often in the league. As ESPN reported in February, the agreement essentially gave Snyder veto power over the release of any documents or information related to the Wilkinson investigation.

At the time, McCarthy told ESPN that “the league and not the team has and will determine what information it is able to produce.”

But the committee’s final report provides several examples of how Snyder and the team “exercised the NFL’s information release privilege” by preventing the release of not only Wilkinson’s findings but many other documents, including numerous PowerPoint presentations made by the team to the NFL and Wilkinson, videos featuring the results of the cheerleader calendar tapings and a 2018 human resources audit showing deficiencies in the team’s HR department.

The committee was also unable to reach a confidential settlement regarding Snyder’s alleged sexual assault of a woman on his flight in April 2009, which is now the subject of Mary Jo White’s investigation.

“The NFL became cooperative in hiding what happened by entering into a common interest legal agreement that really silenced all the work that was trying to solve it,” Maloney said.

The committee’s report details how Snyder’s lawyers tried to prevent Wilkinson from interviewing the former employee who accused Snyder. The report says Snyder and the team would not release the woman from the agreement she signed, preventing Wilkinson from interviewing her.

In his statement, McCarthy said the Wilkinson investigation “was independent and thorough” and that Goodell and the league cooperated fully.

“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 took part in the Wilkinson inquiry did so on the condition that their identities would be withheld confidential. Far from impeding the investigation, the mutual interest agreement allowed the NFL to effectively assume oversight of the case and avoided the potential for significant delay and inconvenience to witnesses.”

The statement continued: “Following the conclusion of Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation, the NFL issued a public notice and imposed a record fine on the club and its ownership. The club also implemented a number of recommendations made by the Wilkinson firm and an independent firm. has overseen the implementation of these recommendations through regular reviews of the commanders’ workplace. All of these reviews, which were shared with the committee, have concluded that the commanders have made significant improvements in workplace culture and policies.”

The House report cites ESPN’s report in October that detailed how the woman’s lawyer had “blatantly rejected” an offer from Reed Smith lawyers for a “seven-figure” sum if she agreed “not to talk to anyone about her allegations against Snyder and her settlement with the team.” Snyder’s lawyers have refused to offer additional money to her accuser in exchange for her silence.

Lawyers for the NFL told the committee’s investigators that while the league was aware of a “dispute” the team had with an employee, the team did not disclose “the specific nature of that allegation” for more than 10 years, and only after The Washington Post began to describe sexual harassment issues within the franchise in 2020. But the report notes that the Wilkinson investigation found no violation of the league’s policies for failing to report a sexual assault allegation.

In its conclusion, the committee argues that the NFL is not interested in protecting its employees from workplace harassment, and highlights three other scandals in recent years: allegations of sexual and racial harassment by former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson; complaints that Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis ignored allegations of a hostile work environment; and revelations, first revealed in an ESPN report, that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones paid $2.4 million to settle allegations that longtime executive Richard Dalrymple secretly filmed Cowboys cheerleaders undressing and took “upskirt” photos of Charlotte Jones Anderson, Jones’ daughter. Dalrymple, who denied the allegations, retired after a 32-year career with the team days before the report.

The NFL “has failed to take important steps to protect employees or prevent workplace misconduct from occurring throughout the league,” the report said.

According to an internal document obtained by the committee, the NFL’s reporting requirements do not consider “workplace complaints of sexual harassment,” including “non-physical sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation” to be “conduct that undermines or impugns the integrity of the NFL, NFL clubs or NFL personnel” under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy.

Rather, the committee concluded, “The NFL’s ongoing failure to take workplace misconduct seriously is reinforced by its own policies designed to protect the interests of club owners.”

Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represented more than 40 former Commanders employees, said the report “definitely describes not only the extensive sexual harassment that took place, but also Dan Snyder’s involvement.”

“Because neither the team nor the NFL was willing to reveal the extent of what happened or hold those responsible accountable, and instead sought to obstruct any effort to do so, Congress was forced to act,” the lawyers said.

What’s next?

Committee staff recommended that Congress require the NFL and its clubs to “demonstrate compliance with state and federal employment laws as a condition of continuing to benefit from federal antitrust exemptions as well as tax exemptions used to finance the construction and renovation of sports stadiums.”

Several congressional measures have come out of the commandant’s investigation. Democratic Committeewoman Jackie Speier of California co-sponsored legislation in February titled the “No Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act,” which would eliminate tax breaks used by professional sports teams. Chairman Maloney introduced a bill requiring employers to provide prior notice and obtain consent to take and distribute professional photographs of employees, and to prohibit the use of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements to prevent or interfere with an employee’s ability to disclose harassment , discrimination or retaliation in the workplace.

The future of that legislation is uncertain. Speier is retiring and Maloney lost his primary race in August, and Democrats lost their majority in the House in November. Republican James Comer of Kentucky has already indicated that the GOP has no interest in pursuing the investigation further when he becomes the new chairman of the Oversight Committee in January.

“This has become a hugely important issue for America,” Maloney says. “The NFL is one of our most respected corporations. It employs a lot of people. A lot of people look up to them as role models, and they should set a standard to treat their women and men with respect.”

When Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder faced two N.F.L. investigations and a congressional inquiry into allegations of widespread sexual harassment by female employees, including by Snyder, his peers have kept quiet about his future in the league.

Who owns the Washington football team?


How did Daniel Snyder make his money?

Going into telemarketing turned out to be a great success. Revenue went from $2.7 million in 1991 to $9 million in 1993. Snyder took the company public in 1996 and soon after began acquiring other companies. In 1998, the company had annual revenues of nearly $1 billion, per The Washingtonian.

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