The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

When all is said and done in Snyder probe, more will be said than done

A name card for Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder sits at a table where the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing about the team's workplace. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
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We will have to wait another week, at least. One more piled atop what has become an endless loop of wasted time and a delayed reckoning that seems unlikely to ever arrive.

On Wednesday, chairwoman Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the House Committee on Oversight and Reform intended to issue a subpoena for Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder to testify next week. That is, of course, only if a long-standing work trip to Cannes or the Maldives or the surface of the moon must prevent him from appearing in person or even remotely. Everyone knows there’s no WiFi in France.

But unless Snyder chooses to resist the subpoena — a scenario that seems possible, if not likely — the committee will be able to question the person most responsible for the team’s misogynistic work culture. Maloney and her fellow Democrats have painted Snyder as the face of workplace misconduct inside the Commanders, the NFL and the country. His salt-and-pepper bearded mug is the one women and workers everywhere must be protected from — and using the committee’s investigation into the NFL’s handling of the Commanders as her platform, Maloney introduced two bills that will target sexual harassment on the job.

The legislation very well may protect employees in the future, but when it comes to Snyder, nothing of significance will happen, regardless of whether he testifies next week. Or the week after that. Or anytime soon.

Daniel Snyder conducted ‘shadow investigation’ of accusers, panel finds

Neither Congress nor the commissioner of the NFL can issue the kind of discipline that needs to happen here. Snyder should no longer be an NFL owner.

He lost that privilege when he created a level of toxicity that Roger Goodell testified Wednesday he had never seen inside an NFL franchise. When he paid hush money in 2009 to a woman who accused him of sexually assault in the back of a private plane. Or — if you couldn’t care less about the abuse of women — when he treated a once-proud franchise like a toy he found in a dollar-store bargain bin and replaced its luster with a loser’s rep.

Snyder must go. But instead his punishment has been reduced to penance. The NFL issued a $10 million fine — so, shucks, poor Dan will have to put his next super yacht on layaway — and shifted day-to-day control of the team to his wife, Tanya.

Snyder continues to weather the body blows doled out by all the investigations and the damning reports (the ones that have been released). He does so while hiding behind his wife, Commanders President Jason Wright and conveniently timed memos to staffers. And he gets to do so because he’s still the impenetrable, indestructible owner of the Commanders.

Kicking the can down the halls of Congress — toward more subpoenas and more depositions — will never change that.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform planned to subpoena Washington Commanders' owner Daniel Snyder on June 22 citing the team's "toxic" environment. (Video: Jackson Barton/The Washington Post, Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

For almost two years now, we have been tossed in this spin cycle. The investigation into Washington’s football franchise started in July 2020. And then came the NFL’s investigation, which took control over Washington’s own investigation. Then Congress’s investigation into the investigation conducted by the NFL.

Snyder didn’t show up Wednesday to answer questions about the investigation’s investigation, but his absence couldn’t stop this icky theater from taking center stage. The show must go on. And in this particular case — in which no heroes emerge, though the most grandstanding of the elected officials, loyal only to their party’s talking points, enjoy their 15 minutes of camera time — goes on and on . . . and on . . . and . . . on.

Democrats grilled Goodell with questions he thought he had covered in his opening statement. They demanded yes-or-no answers, and Goodell, providing testimony via Zoom while framed by two fake plants, stammered through soliloquies before being cut off. By her third interruption, Maloney provided the day’s scripted “gotcha!” moment by revealing her intent to subpoena Snyder. After so many disruptions, Goodell seemed almost relieved to get into nerd talk about PSIs when Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Tex.) brought up Deflategate.

Fallon was being glib, naturally, and called the hearing a “clown show.” Unfortunately for the country, the clowns of the hour sat in a mostly empty room on Capitol Hill, behind their nameplates of distinction. And the one stationed behind the “Mr. Jordan” decoration thought this to be the appropriate stage to question Goodell about the NFL allegedly banning Dave Portnoy from games and the First Amendment rights of Jack Del Rio.

It was the same lethargic and predictable volley between Democrats, who continued to call for the release of attorney Beth Wilkinson’s findings from her investigation into the Commanders, and Republicans, who kept repeating to their echo chamber how the world is ending under the Biden administration. However, Goodell and several Republican members of the committee did find agreement on one point: that Snyder has been made an example of and the culture has been polished up.

“The problems have been fixed,” Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) said during his closing statement.

Yet how could that be when the problem child remains in charge?

This was the same big, fat nothingburger served up from February, when several women and one man bravely showed their faces while levying allegations of sexual harassment and assault directly against Snyder and the dogs he placed in power. They asked Congress to compel the NFL to release the Wilkinson report, in apparent hope that public scrutiny would convince 24 of the league’s 31 other owners to force Snyder to sell.

Without those billionaires willing to step up and remove Snyder from their posh club, more political theater can follow. A subpoena for Snyder. Another letter from his lawyer regretfully informing the committee about his very important work trip that he just can’t miss. Another hearing at which Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) can carry water for Portnoy and Jan. 6 apologists.

The well-meaning legislation can pass to protect women and all workers, but it will mean little for the franchise at the heart of this spectacle. The face of workplace misconduct, of power run amok, of the Washington Commanders still remains as the owner. And no deposition next week or the week after that will solve that problem.

Next week we might get more theater. But we definitely won’t get resolution.

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