The House Committee on Oversight and Reform requested Wednesday that Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appear at a hearing scheduled for June 22 as part of the committee’s investigation of the team’s workplace.
The committee said it made its request in letters to Goodell and Snyder. The NFL said it would respond to the request but did not specify whether Goodell will appear at the hearing.
“We received the Committee’s invitation this morning and will respond directly in a timely manner,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy 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.”
Similarly, the team did not directly address whether Snyder will appear, saying in a statement issued later Wednesday: “The Commanders have assisted the NFL in cooperating with all prior requests from the House Oversight and Reform Committee. We look forward to responding directly to the Committee’s invitation in a timely manner."
The committee, at least for now, said it was merely requesting appearances by Goodell and Snyder rather than compelling their testimony through subpoenas.
“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 in her statement. “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.”
The committee has been investigating the team’s workplace culture and the NFL’s handling of allegations of pervasive sexual misconduct at the franchise. The committee’s probe also uncovered accusations of financial improprieties involving the team and Snyder.
“For seven months, the Committee has been stonewalled by NDAs and other tools to evade accountability,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), chairman of the subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, said in a statement. “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.”
A spokesman for Republicans on the committee referred to the “Democrats’ sham investigation” of the Commanders as “a misuse” of the committee’s oversight authority.
“From the beginning, Committee Democrats have used taxpayer-funded resources to push a one-sided investigation into a private company with no connection to the federal government,” Republican spokesman Austin Hacker said in a statement. “There is nothing Congress can do to remedy any of the specific allegations made. 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.”
The move to call a hearing was praised by the attorneys who represent more than 40 former team employees.
“We are pleased the House Oversight Committee has invited Dan Snyder and Roger Goodell to testify in front of the Committee,” attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz said in a statement. “We hope they will demonstrate the same courage as our clients and agree to testify. Dan Snyder and Roger Goodell have a lot to answer for.”
Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team, told committee members during a Feb. 3 congressional roundtable that Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, putting his hand on her thigh and pressing her toward his limo. She was among six former employees who appeared on Capitol Hill that day to speak about their experiences working for the team. Snyder called the accusations made directly against him “outright lies.”
The allegations of financial improprieties were detailed in a 20-page letter sent by Democratic leaders of the committee to the Federal Trade Commission in April. The committee’s letter detailed allegations made by Jason Friedman, a former vice president of sales and customer service who worked for the team for 24 years. According to the letter, Friedman accused the team of withholding as much as $5 million in refundable deposits from season ticket holders and also hiding money that was supposed to be shared among NFL owners.
The Commanders denied committing any financial improprieties. An attorney for the team wrote in a letter to the FTC that the allegations were “baseless” and asserted “no investigation is warranted.”
The FTC has not commented on the committee’s request for an investigation beyond acknowledging receipt of the committee’s letter. The offices of attorneys general Jason S. Miyares (R) of Virginia and Karl A. Racine (D) of D.C. have announced they are conducting their own investigations. Along with Maryland’s attorney general, Brian E. Frosh (D), they were copied on the committee’s letter to the FTC, as was Goodell.
The NFL is conducting its second investigation of the team. This review is being led by attorney Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and the former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The NFL has said it will make the findings of White’s investigation public.
“Obviously I think we’ve taken all of the allegations seriously,” Goodell said last week. “We’ll look at them, and we’ll see if there’s any fact basis to any of those. But we certainly will treat those all seriously, and we’ll deal with that once we know better.”
Several owners said last week that they would support a meaningful penalty for Snyder imposed by the league — perhaps a significant suspension — if the latest allegations are corroborated by White’s investigation. Multiple owners said they were not aware of any efforts within ownership ranks to canvass votes for a prospective effort to remove Snyder. Such a move would require 24 votes among the 32 NFL teams.
Following a previous investigation by Wilkinson of sexual harassment allegations within the organization, the NFL announced in July that the team had been fined $10 million and that Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, would assume responsibility for overseeing the franchise’s daily operations for an unspecified period.
Tanya Snyder has represented the team at league meetings since then. She did not attend last week’s meeting in Atlanta after she tested positive for the coronavirus, a person with knowledge of the situation said then.
Nicki Jhabvala contributed to this report.