NFL and Washington Commanders misled public about misconduct probe, House panel says

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Washington owner Daniel Snyder on the sidelines before a game against the Chicago Bears at FedEx Field in 2019.
Jonathan Newton | The Washington Post | Getty Images

The NFL and the Washington Commanders misled the public about an investigation into decades-long misconduct in the team’s workplace, according to a report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee released Thursday after a yearlong probe.

The panel also said the NFL and Commanders owner Daniel Snyder impeded its investigation into the matter. The lawmakers accused Snyder of giving “misleading testimony,” as well.

Snyder, who is among those accused of sexual misconduct, has been pursuing the possible sale of the team since last month. Snyder has pushed back on allegations against him and the team.

In a statement, attorneys for the Commanders said that Snyder sat for 11 hours of questioning as part of the investigation, and that the committee was “only interested in chasing headlines by pursuing one side of the story.” It said the report was a “predictable culmination of that one-sided approach.”

A representative for the NFL said the league is reviewing the report, along with a House Minority staff report that was released earlier.

The Commanders had hired lawyer Beth Wilkinson to investigate claims of sexual harassment within the team’s organization that were published by The Washington Post in 2020. The NFL told her to “complete a written report of its findings” surrounding the Commanders’ workplace culture.

But then the league refused to release the written report, instead presenting their findings orally in order to “better preserve” witness anonymity and confidentiality.

The panel invited Snyder to testify at a public hearing, but he refused to do so. Instead, he sat for a private deposition, according to the committee.

“Over the course of the deposition, he claimed more than 100 times that he could not recall the answers to the Committee’s questions, including basic inquiries about his role as Team owner and multiple allegations of misconduct,” the report says. “Mr. Snyder also gave misleading testimony about his efforts to interfere with the Wilkinson Investigation.”

The panel found that the NFL’s reasoning to protect confidentiality was misleading to the public since the league had previously cooperated in providing written reports for similarly sensitive investigations. In 2014, the NFL released a 144-page written report related to an investigation into the Miami Dolphins’ alleged culture of harassment and bullying. In that case, it protected anonymity by redacting witness names and omitting certain details.

In a statement, attorneys representing more than 40 former employees of the Commanders said Congress was compelled to take action because “neither the team nor the NFL was willing to reveal the extent of what occurred or hold accountable those responsible, and instead tried to obstruct any efforts to do so.”

The Commanders also face a lawsuit from D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine over an alleged secret deal with the NFL deal to deceive its fans.

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