- The Washington Times
Thursday, March 31, 2022

The House Oversight and Reform Committee that has been investigating sexual harassment charges leveled against the Washington Commanders is now also looking into allegations of financial improprieties, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. 

It has been more than a month since the NFL turned over additional documents as part of the congressional probe facing the league and the Commanders. The committee, led by House Democrats, gave the parties until Feb. 14 to fully comply with its request after the NFL had previously sent 80,000 documents related to its investigation into Washington’s workplace misconduct. 

A committee spokesperson did not confirm or deny its members were looking into the matter.

“The Committee continues to investigate the hostile workplace and culture of impunity at the Washington Commanders as well as the National Football League’s inadequate response and lack of transparency,” the spokesperson said. “The Committee will follow the facts wherever they may lead.”

The news comes shortly after the NFL concluded its annual league meetings this week in Florida, where Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters that Washington owner Dan Snyder was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the team and that the owner would not be involved “for the foreseeable future.”

But a highly-placed source responding to the commissioner’s remarks told The Washington Times that Snyder has resumed control and has no restrictions and what he can and can’t do in overseeing the team — though the owner’s wife, Tanya Snyder, represented the Commanders at meetings in Florida.

Front Office Sports reported Thursday that the House committee is exploring whether the Commanders employed deceptive accounting practices by using “two books” that painted different pictures of the team’s finances. The committee, the website added, also received allegations of pay disparity for male and female employees. 

“The team is not aware of any investigation by the House Oversight Committee regarding financial matters, despite vague and unsubstantiated claims today by anonymous sources,” a Washington Commanders spokesperson said.  “The team categorically denies any suggestion of financial impropriety of any kind at any time. We adhere to strict internal processes that are consistent with industry and accounting standards, are audited annually by a globally respected independent auditing firm, and are also subject to regular audits by the NFL

“We continue to cooperate fully with the Committee’s work.”

The expansion of the committee’s scope drew pushback from the Republican side of the committee Friday, with a spokesperson questioning the reliability of the information. 

“The leak of one-sided, unconfirmed, unsupported allegations from a disgruntled ex-employee with an ax to grind is just further proof the Democrats’ investigation is a waste of Congress’ time,” GOP Oversight spokesperson Austin Hacker said. “Nothing the Committee has heard from any credible witness points to any financial improprieties; in fact, the only credible witness in a position to know the facts the Democrats have heard from has denied any such improprieties. 

“The Democrats’ investigation is nothing more than an attempt to draw attention away from their party’s abysmal performance, both in the White House and Congress. The American people deserve better oversight from Congress.”

Snyder and a group of partners purchased the Burgundy and Gold for $800 million in 1999 and the franchise is now valued at $4.2 billion, according to Forbes. In April 2021, Snyder bought out his minority partners’ 40% stake for $875 million — giving him and his family 100% control of the team. To do so, Snyder took on a loan from the league worth $450 million. The sale concluded after a contentious legal battle between Snyder and the partners.

Members of Congress began the inquiry in the fall amid a renewed push for the NFL to release a written report of its probe of the Commanders after emails unearthed in the investigation led to Jon Gruden’s resignation as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. 

In February, the committee held a congressional roundtable that featured former Washington employees discussing their experiences working for the team. During the session, former marketing manager and cheerleader Tiffani Johnston accused Snyder of touching her thigh inappropriately underneath a dinner table and later trying to coax her into his limo during a work event. Snyder called the accusations “outright lies,” but the claims prompted the NFL to open a new investigation into the matter.

The league has hired former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White to oversee the new probe and said all findings would be released publicly in a written report. The investigation was opened in part because Johnston did not participate in the first investigation conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson. 

The ongoing congressional inquiry has already fueled tension between the Commanders and the NFL. After Johnston spoke with the committee, Snyder said he was launching his own investigation into her allegations — prompting the NFL to intervene just hours later. Goodell told reporters then that there was no way a team could investigate itself. 

The league, in a letter to Congress, also blamed the Commanders for blocking access to more than 100,000 documents that the committee had requested, an allegation that Snyder’s lawyer pushed back on. 

Goodell was also asked this week about the Commanders’ standing in the NFL. The Burgundy and Gold ranked second-to-last in attendance in 2021 and Anheuser-Busch recently cut ties with the team by opting not to renew its sponsorship contract. NBC Sports Washington reported the brewing company was the team’s fourth-largest sponsorship, good for at least $4 million per season. 

“We focus on that with every team,” Goodell said. “My understanding is early returns, ticket sales are doing very well in Washington. They’re making a lot of progress. We’re very optimistic going into the season. That’s the early reports I’ve had. So I think it’s — ultimately, it will come down to the work that they need to do to connect with the fans and engage the fans and make sure that the franchise continues to be successful.”

This article has been updated.

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

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