NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called the Washington Commanders’ workplace misconduct “unprofessional and unacceptable,” but again defended the league’s decision not to issue a written report of its internal probe of the football team and owner Dan Snyder in his opening remarks Wednesday to members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Appearing remotely, Mr. Goodell maintained the league promised confidentiality to those who participated in the investigation conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson. At the end of her probe, the league only issued a summary of the findings as it levied a $10 million fine on the Washington franchise in July 2021.
Lawmakers have continued to press for the report, but Mr. Goodell indicated that the league has no plans to change that policy.
“I am aware that some victims, including those who appeared before this committee, each of whom was invited to participate in Beth Wilkinson’s investigation, have chosen to share their experiences publicly and I fully respect that choice,” Mr. Goodell said. “Many others made a different choice and it is my responsibility to honor the commitment to protect their confidentiality. I am confident that should there be another investigation at the NFL or our clubs where similar discretion is desired, future witnesses will feel comfortable sharing their experiences knowing that we do not go back on our word.”
He added, “When the committee has asked questions or requested documents which could violate witnesses’ privacy, we have asserted privilege. We will continue to do so to safeguard our commitment.”
Mr. Goodell‘s statement was similar to his response when asked about the decision by reporters. During his opening remarks, as he has with reporters, the league chief focused on the changes within Washington’s management structure — telling the committee that the Commanders’ workplace “today bears no resemblance to the workplace that has been described to this committee.”
Mr. Snyder took a combative tone in a statement released as the committee was meeting.
“It is clear the outcome of the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the Washington Commanders was predetermined from the beginning,” a spokesperson for Mr. Snyder said. “The committee’s decision to release a ‘report’ and introduce legislation prior to the hearing is proof-positive this was always going to be little more than a politically-charged show trial, not about uncovering the truth. Hopefully, the committee will utilize its resources going forward for more pressing national matters, instead of an issue a football team addressed years ago.”
In February, the league launched a second investigation into the team after a former employee accused Mr. Snyder of making an unwanted advance. The league, which hired former Securities and Exchange Commission head Mary Jo White to oversee the probe, has said that since the accusation was made public, this time they will release a written report.
“In addition, for the past year, Daniel Snyder has not attended league or committee meetings, and to the best of my knowledge, has not been involved in day-to-day operations at the Commanders,” Mr. Goodell said.
Despite Mr. Goodell‘s insistence that Mr. Snyder has reduced his role with the Commanders, a high-ranking source told The Washington Times in March that the owner remains involved in the day-to-day operations and has no restrictions in overseeing the team. Commanders coach Ron Rivera frequently alluded to talking with Mr. Snyder throughout the season, and a source said Mr. Snyder was “heavily involved” in the team’s decision to trade for quarterback Carson Wentz earlier this year.
Prior to Mr. Goodell‘s opening remarks, the committee released a 29-page memo that asserted that Mr. Snyder — who declined to attend the hearing — ran a “shadow investigation” during the league’s probe in an attempt to discredit accusers and shift the blame of the workplace culture to former team President Bruce Allen.
House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, the New York Democrat who wrote the memo, took aim at Mr. Snyder during her opening remarks.
“Mr. Snyder’s absence is all the more telling, given that the committee released new evidence today that Mr. Snyder himself fostered the Commanders’ toxic workplace,” said Ms. Maloney. “According to former top executives, he fired women — but not men — who engaged in relationships with other employees, while defending male executives accused of sexual harassment. And he kept employees from speaking out through a culture of fear.”
“As one long-time employee described Mr. Snyder’s tactics, ‘If you don’t obey, intimidate. If you still don’t obey, terminate.’ Finally, the employee added, ‘If that didn’t work, buy off.’”
Ms. Maloney introduced two bills last week that stemmed from the panel’s months-long investigation into the Commanders. The first bill aims to curb the use of non-disclosure agreements from employers for sexual harassment cases, while the second looks to limit the misuse of employee images.
• Matthew Paras can be reached at email@example.com.
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