- The Washington Times
Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The House Oversight and Reform Committee called Wednesday for Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to testify at a hearing set for June 22.

Democrats leading the committee sent letters — not to be confused with a subpoena — to Snyder and Goodell to invite them to the hearing.  The invitation marks the latest escalation of the committee’s monthslong probe, which began last fall amid renewed scrutiny of the NFL’s investigation into Washington’s sexual misconduct scandal.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat and committee chair, said in a statement the panel has been “met with obstruction from the Commanders and the NFL at every turn,” accusing the parties of evading questions.

“We must have transparency and accountability, which is why we are calling on Mr. Goodell and Mr. Snyder to answer the questions they have dodged for the last seven months,” Maloney said. 

“The hearing will explore how Congress can act to prevent employers from silencing victims of workplace misconduct and ensure that what happened at the Commanders organization does not happen again.”

Neither Snyder nor Goodell has said if they plan on appearing at the scheduled hearing. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league would respond “directly in a timely manner.” The Commanders said they would do the same.

“The Commanders have assisted the NFL in cooperating with all prior requests from the House Oversight and Reform Committee,” the team said in a statement.

“The NFL has cooperated extensively throughout the Committee’s lengthy investigation of the Washington Commanders, including by producing more than 460,000 pages of documents and responding to numerous questions in writing and in conversations with the Committee’s staff,” McCarthy said.

In the letters to Snyder and Goodell, Maloney and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Illinois Democrat, write the hearing will “address the use of non-disclosure agreements to prevent the disclosure of unlawful employment practices, including sexual harassment.” The legislators informed the two that the hearing will take place at 10 a.m. June 22 and can be attended in person or over Zoom.

The letter requests Snyder and Goodell to confirm their participation in the hearing by Monday, June 6. Both will be asked to provide a five-minute opening statement and be prepared to answer questions from committee members.

The scheduled hearing is the committee’s second related to their probe of the Commanders and the NFL. In February, the panel hosted a congressional roundtable in which former Washington employee Tiffani Johnston accused Snyder of making an unwanted sexual advance. Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager, told members of Congress that Snyder inappropriately touched her thigh underneath a table at a work dinner event and later tried to coax her into his limo. Johnston said afterward the incident happened roughly 16 or 17 years ago.

Snyder has denied the claims, but the allegations caused the NFL to launch a second investigation into the owner and his team. The NFL hired former SEC chair Mary Jo White to lead the review, which the league said would become public. The league previously faced criticism for failing to issue a written report of the Commanders’ workplace scandal. Instead, the league fined the team $10 million and only listed a summary of findings last summer. As part of the probe, Snyder was not suspended but voluntarily agreed to give up day-to-day control of the franchise for “several months” to his wife, Tanya.

Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, attorneys representing Johnston, said in a statement they were pleased to see Congress call on Snyder and Goodell to testify.  The two also represent Jason Friedman, a former employee who told the committee in March that the Commanders committed financial improprieties like holding out at least  $5 million in refundable deposits from season ticket holders. He also accused the team of hiding ticket revenue that was supposed to be shared with the NFL.

Friedman’s allegations — which the team strongly denies — prompted the committee to inform the Federal Trade Commission of his testimony and urged them to start an investigation. The agency has not said if it is probing the team, but attorney generals from Virginia and the District said they would investigate them.

“We hope they will demonstrate the same courage as our clients and agree to testify,” Banks and Katz said. “Dan Snyder and Roger Goodell have a lot to answer for.”

The Oversight committee’s invite Wednesday drew a sharp response from Republicans on the panel, who again argued the “sham investigation” was a misuse of government resources.  

“There is nothing Congress can do to remedy any of the specific allegations made,” said Austin Hacker, a spokesman for the committee’s Republicans. “If Congress can’t provide a solution, why are Democrats wasting valuable resources and scheduling a hearing? This entire charade appears to be an attempt to gain cheap headlines, not solutions.”

If Snyder and Goodell decline the invitation, Krishnamoorthi told ESPN that the committee would explore issuing subpoenas. “All options are on the table,” he told the outlet. Krishnamoorthi faced criticism from government watchdogs last month after lobbyists tried to throw the congressman a fundraiser that was pitched as an opportunity to discuss how the investigation could oust Snyder.

Krishnamoorthi, who first agreed to the event without knowing the lobbyists mentioned the probe to donors, canceled the fundraiser when alerted of the overture as it would have been a violation of House rules.  

“For seven months, the Committee has been stonewalled by NDAs and other tools to evade accountability,”  Krishnamoorthi said in a statement Wednesday.  “Mr. Snyder and Mr. Goodell need to appear before the Committee to address these issues and answer our questions about the pervasive workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders, and how the NFL addressed these issues.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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