The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Dan Snyder seems to think he won’t be held accountable. Congress should prove him wrong.

An empty seat for Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, who declined to appear, is seen as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testifies in D.C. on June 22. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)
Comment

Commanders owner Daniel Snyder declined two invitations to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is investigating the team’s toxic workplace culture. And, according to a spokesperson for the committee, he has so far refused to accept service of a subpoena to be deposed. That Mr. Snyder apparently thinks he doesn’t have to answer for his actions shouldn’t come as a big surprise since the National Football League has pretty much given him carte blanche. But Mr. Snyder might finally have met his match with a congressional committee that — in contrast to the NFL — actually seems to take seriously allegations of sexual harassment.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), last week released a 29-page memorandum detailing what it has learned since its launch last fall of a probe into the allegations of an abusive work environment at the Washington football team and how the NFL handled the allegations. The picture that is painted is not pretty. Even though the Commanders and the NFL had professed a commitment to an independent and rigorous look at allegations of sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation, evidence showed Mr. Snyder had launched a shadow investigation in an apparent bid to discredit his accusers.

Among those targeted by lawyers for Mr. Snyder who compiled a 100-slide dossier, according to the committee, were journalists — including Post reporters who first disclosed allegations from women who said they were victimized by the team’s executives — attorneys and employees. The committee outlined how Mr. Snyder’s representatives sent private investigators to accusers’ homes to intimidate them or offer them hush money. Complicit in the team’s attempted coverup was the NFL, which had promised to get to the bottom of things but entered into a common-interest agreement with the team that obstructed the investigation.

That the attorney who conducted the investigation was instructed not to produce a written report was the final straw, making it easy for the NFL to let Mr. Snyder off with a fine. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, unlike Mr. Snyder, agreed to testify before the committee but ended up deflecting — rather than answering — the questions. Mr. Goodell acknowledged, for example, that Mr. Snyder apparently did not inform the league in 2009 of an allegation of sexual harassment and assault made against the owner but didn’t address whether this was a violation of the league’s code of conduct. (Most seem to think it was.) His argument that a written report would violate the privacy of accusers overlooked the fact that many of them have openly called for a public report and that those who wish to remain anonymous could do so with simple redactions.

The committee said it will not be deterred in getting Mr. Snyder to sit for questioning. No doubt he is thinking that if he delays and drags out the process, Republicans who have been openly scornful of the investigation will take control of the House, and that will be end of the probe. We hope that the committee moves quickly and that a separate investigation by the NFL into new allegations directly involving Mr. Snyder is concluded — and that this time, there will be a public report of its findings.

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