The Washington Commanders organization and NFL covered up decades of sexual misconduct and the team’s owner Dan Snyder tried to interfere with investigations into allegations of a toxic workplace, according to a scathing congressional report released Thursday.
The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a 79-page report detailing findings from a year-long investigation following accusations of pervasive sexual harassment by team executives of women employees.
The committee said it uncovered new evidence of rampant misconduct and a toxic workplace culture that began as early as 2001 and continued for roughly two decades. Dozens of employees were harmed by the toxic culture, the report said.
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Snyder "permitted and participated in this troubling conduct," said the report. It said he inappropriately touched a former employee at a dinner, had staffers produce a video “of sexually suggestive footage of cheerleaders,” and ordered that women who were auditioning to be cheerleaders walk on the field “while he and his friends gawked from his suite through binoculars.”
Leadership ignored or downplayed sexual misconduct by senior employees, the report said.
It also detailed how Snyder allegedly tried to interfere with the congressional investigation and derail an independent investigation into the team’s culture.
The report criticized the NFL, saying the league was aware of Snyder’s “serious interference” but “failed to take action to stop it” plus misled the public about its handling of the independent investigation.
John Brownlee and Stuart Nash, counsel for the Washington Commanders, said the report is one-sided and doesn't reveal any new bombshells.
"Today's report does not advance public knowledge of the Washington Commanders workplace in any way," their statement read. "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."
Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney said the findings are “damning.”
“The Committee’s investigation shows that sexual harassment, bullying, and other toxic conduct pervaded the Commanders workplace, perpetuated by a culture of fear instilled by the Team’s owner,” a release from the committee said.
The committee also says the NFL aligned its interests with Snyder as he “permitted and participated in the workplace misconduct, and engaged in tactics used to intimidate, surveil, and pay off victims.” Earlier this month, D.C.'s Attorney General made similar claims that Snyder and the NFL colluded to lie about misconduct.
The report also says the NFL minimizes workplace misconduct not just within the Commanders organization, but across the league.
Former Employees Testify About 'Daily' Sexual Harassment
At least five female former employees of the Commanders described persistent sexual harassment while working with the team in a February 2022 roundtable.
The women said harassment “happened every single day that you were on-site” and “was a very constant thing” — and that attempts to report misconduct to leaders were ignored, the report said.
Snyder Accused of Obstructing Congressional Investigation
Congressional investigators claim that Snyder interfered with the probe by intimidating witnesses and taking steps to ensure documents wouldn't be released.
Snyder tried to avoid a subpoena from the congressional committee while on his yacht. When he did sit for a private deposition, he didn’t provide full and complete testimony, saying he couldn't recall answers to 100 questions, the report says.
Snyder and the NFL allegedly did not fully comply with the committee’s requests for documents and information, including 40,000 responsive files and the findings of an independent investigation into workplace culture conducted by Beth Wilkinson, the report says.
The Commanders' counsel says the report criticized Snyder for handing over evidence.
“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,” the statement said.
'Trying to Silence His Employees'
The team retained D.C. lawyer Beth Wilkinson's firm to launch an independent investigation into the allegations of misconduct, which the league then took oversight of. Wilkinson's website says she has been the lead counsel on more than 50 jury trials, and lead the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers, according to her website.
The league fined Washington $10 million following its review of workplace misconduct but did not release a written report of attorney Beth Wilkinson's findings, the Associated Press reported.
The House Oversight Committee described different ways Snyder purportedly tried to interfere with that investigation by silencing employees, including by offering hush money to former employees, sending private investigators to their homes and abusing subpoena powers to get information on “his perceived detractors."
Snyder's lawyers say the report doesn't list any witnesses who didn't come forward or did suffer negative consequences from speaking out.
The committee in June released documents accusing Snyder of conducting a "shadow investigation" that sought to discredit former employees making accusations, NBC Washington reported.
The NFL was notified of Snyder's alleged use of private investigators and at least one senior official "admitted" that Snyder's shadow investigation and "abuse of federal courts" violated NFL policy.
Republicans have said they would immediately drop the case once they take control of the House in early 2023. Kentucky Republican Rep. James Comer, a ranking member of the House oversight committee, reiterated that desire in a statement Thursday, saying the investigation was meant to “gain cheap headlines and ignore any information that did not align with (Democrats') predetermined narrative."
“As I’ve said from the start, the Oversight Committee is not the appropriate venue for this review and this effort is a misuse of resources,” Comer said.
Snyder and wife Tanya recently hired Bank of America Securities to explore selling part or all of the team he has owned since 1999. The Commanders are worth an estimated $5.6 billion, according to Forbes — a sevenfold increase over the then-record $800 million Snyder paid for the team in 1999.
Just last month, the team settled with the state of Maryland, agreeing to return security deposits to former season ticket holders and pay a $250,000 penalty. A few days earlier, the District of Columbia sued the Commanders in civil court over what it called a scheme to cheat season-ticket holders out of money.