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Thursday, December 8, 2022

OPINION:

The House Oversight and Reform Committee issued its long-awaited report Thursday about Skipper Dan the Sailing Man and the Washington Commanders.

They said Skipper Dan gave misleading and evasive answers and obstructed the committee’s investigation when he testified remotely in July under oath about allegations reported in The Washington Post and uncovered further during testimony by other witnesses — witnesses who, by the way, seem to have been more forthcoming in what the testimony they gave lawmakers.


How much more forthcoming? Well, as I wrote several weeks ago, the testimony of one of those witnesses, former team official Jason Friedman, that the organization improperly withheld refunds from customers, has resulted in four — count them — four different investigations by highly-ranked criminal justice officials.

Those probes are the ones by the attorneys general in the District, Maryland and Virginia, plus a criminal probe by the U.S. attorney of Eastern Virginia. Two of those prosecutors, Karl Racine in the District and Brian Frosh in Maryland, say the testimony is substantial enough to file civil charges against the Snyder organization.

No matter how politically motivated you may believe Racine’s pursuit is, the Maryland case resulted in a settlement and payment of a $250,000 fine by the team.

That came after the team’s lawyers pounded their chests earlier about going to court in the Racine probe.

A few weeks earlier, they were bouncing checks to 50-50 raffle winners.

What would be the political motivation of Virginia’s Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares, who is still conducting an investigation into Friedman allegations in a state with a Republican governor and whose legislators had been attempting an ill-fated stadium deal with the Commanders?

As I’ve written before, what is not misleading or evasive is that if Friedman’s testimony about withholding money from customers was credible enough to launch four different probes by top criminal justice officials, doesn’t it make his testimony about two sets of books to hide money from other owners more credible? As well as his written testimony of witnessing Skipper Dan trying to pull former team employee Tiffani Johnston, whose sexual harassment charges against the Commanders owner are being investigated by NFL hired gun and former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White into a limo against her will?

I bring all this up again because the committee’s 79-page report takes Skipper Dan to task for his testimony under oath, but evasive and misleading don’t add up to perjury. That apparently was a bridge too far for the committee. And, let’s face it, if you are the one under attack, evasive and misleading testimony is the way to go. More than 100 answers of he couldn’t recall to deposition questions? That’s pretty good evading and misleading.

The Republican minority on the committee? They chose misdirection. They chose to go after Bruce Allen, the former team president and general manager whose name hasn’t come up in the allegations of sexual misconduct by former team employees.

Skipper Dan’s lawyers issued a statement about the committee’s report claiming it was the “culmination of a one-sided approach.” But they didn’t need to. The Republicans did it for them.

They carried water for Skipper Dan’s lawyers, claiming Allen, now a bitter enemy of his one-time friend and former boss, was the one responsible for the toxic workplace, and released numerous Allen emails that included photos of naked women sent to his former colleague and then-Raiders coach Jon Gruden and others.

This is a curious position for the Republicans on the committee, since Bruce Allen’s brother, George Allen, is a former Republican governor and senator from Virginia and still very active in Republican politics.

How active? He recently campaigned for Miyares, who Allen has mentored in Republican politics for more than 20 years, in the attorney general campaign. Curious how that investigation plays out.

About those Allen emails — according to the report, Allen testified that the leaked Gruden emails, filled with sexist and homophobic comments that led to the firing of the Raiders coach and spurred a lawsuit by Gruden against the league, were leaked by the Commanders, something Skipper Dan and his first mate Tanya have denied.

More than a year ago, I showed you the path those leaked emails likely took.

The leaked emails first appeared in the Wall Street Journal, in an October 2021 story written by Andrew Beaton. He was the same reporter who in June 2021 wrote an embarrassing puff piece about Skipper Dan where the reporter suggested that the owner was “attempting to reform a culture,” as if Skipper Dan was some sort of innocent bystander while decades of dysfunction, destruction and deceit wrecked the Washington franchise.

He wrote: “Before all of that could change, Dan Snyder acknowledges that he had to change himself and become more deeply involved than in the past, when he was often distant from the management of his franchise.”

Seriously. That appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The month before that Skipper Dan story appeared, the team announced the hiring of Will Misselbrook as the organization’s first-ever chief creative and digital officer. According to the team’s website, Misselbrook “will oversee the organization’s storytelling and brand marketing strategies.” Before he came to Washington, Misselbrook was the “Global Head of Creative for custom content, creative marketing, and original programming across all platforms and consumer touchpoints for The Trust, Wall Street Journal, Barron’s Group, and Dow Jones Media Group.”

Too much dot connecting? Heck, the Republicans tried to claim the motivation for the committee’s investigation was to force Skipper Dan to sell the team to Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos. I think my dots are better connected.

There were more revelations about Skipper Dan using his army of private investigators to spy on his enemies and accusers, the league taking part in hiding the results of the sham investigation conducted by hired gun Beth Wilkinson, plus more. But no one is being led away in handcuffs tonight.

Still, while the committee’s investigation may be at an end, there are more shoes left to drop than a Florsheim store.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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