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Lawyer for Daniel Snyder fires back at House oversight committee probe

Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder appears on the field before Sunday's game at Dallas. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
7 min

Attorneys for the Washington Commanders told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that its Democratic-led investigation of the team’s workplace and franchise owner Daniel Snyder has been “a politically inspired hatchet job” designed to remove Snyder from the NFL.

Those assertions were made in a nine-page letter sent Wednesday to Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the committee’s chairwoman, and signed by Tom Davis, a partner at Holland & Knight, a law firm that represents the team.

Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia who chaired the committee when it held hearings on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, wrote that the committee’s investigation “may be reaching its conclusion” and he wanted to raise several concerns.

“The investigation of the Washington Commanders has not been fair, thorough, or bipartisan, and it certainly hasn’t sought the truth,” Davis wrote. “From the beginning, the Committee set out with a singular purpose — to destroy Dan Snyder and his family and attempt, with deception, innuendo, and half-truths, to drive him from the National Football League. This investigation reeks of the lowest form of politics and its only purpose is personal destruction.”

A copy of Davis’s letter, which included multiple exhibits, was obtained by The Washington Post. The letter also mentioned two other attorneys for the Commanders, Stuart Nash and John Brownlee. The committee said in a statement by a spokesperson that it has sought an accurate account of the team’s workplace under Snyder’s ownership.

“Since launching this investigation one year ago, the Committee’s focus has been to uncover the truth about the decades-long hostile workplace culture at the Commanders and find legislative solutions to ensure that all employees are protected from abuse and harassment in their place of work,” the statement said. “Although the Commanders’ owner has recently claimed to have turned over a new leaf, this latest effort to attack and intimidate former employees who have come forward casts doubt on this assertion — as does the team’s continued efforts to block the production of documents to the Committee. The Committee’s investigation will not be deterred by such tactics.”

Davis’s letter comes amid a significant shift in sentiment toward Snyder among some NFL owners as they await the findings of a league-commissioned investigation being conducted by attorney Mary Jo White. Multiple owners said recently they believe that serious consideration may be given to attempting to oust Snyder from the league’s ownership ranks, either by convincing him to sell his franchise or by voting to remove him.

“He needs to sell,” one owner said recently.

In Wednesday’s letter, Davis wrote: “Although I believe the Committee will fail in its effort to push Mr. Snyder from the NFL — principally because Mr. Snyder is innocent of the allegations against him — I harbor no illusions that this Committee will change its present course or behavior. My only hope is that the American people — who are the ultimate judges — will see this investigation for what it is, a politically inspired hatchet job, and begin the process of removing the stain this investigation has placed on the Committee that I so respect and love.”

NFL owners’ attitudes harden toward Commanders’ Daniel Snyder

Davis wrote that the committee “has not requested a single document from the Commanders, other than some ad hoc requests during the deposition of Mr. Snyder” and has not requested to interview any current team employees.

However, a person familiar with the investigation said the Commanders are “blocking the release” of at least 40,000 documents from the investigative file of Beth Wilkinson, an attorney who conducted a previous investigation of the team’s workplace for the NFL. Snyder and the league also have refused to turn over Wilkinson’s findings to the committee based on the common interest agreement signed between the team and league during Wilkinson’s investigation, according to that person, who added that the team has not released former employees from nondisclosure agreements to provide additional evidence to the committee.

The committee “has shown little interest in the current state of the Team’s workplace,” Davis wrote. He said that the committee “has embraced and protected some of those most embittered by their enforced separation from the Team,” including former team president Bruce Allen and former vice president of sales and customer service Jason Friedman.

In April, the committee sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission detailing allegations made by Friedman of financial improprieties involving the team and Snyder. The team denied committing any such improprieties. In June, as the committee prepared to hold a Capitol Hill hearing on the team’s workplace, Maloney sent a memo to fellow committee members saying the panel’s investigation had uncovered evidence that Snyder and his attorneys conducted a “shadow investigation” in an attempt to discredit his accusers and shift blame.

That effort was aimed at portraying Allen as being primarily responsible for any workplace issues, according to Maloney’s June memo.

“It is widely acknowledged that the single most significant step the Team took to remedy its toxic workplace was to rid itself of Mr. Allen,” Davis wrote in Wednesday’s letter. “The fraternity-house culture that Mr. Allen instilled in the Commanders organization is the principal reason that the Commanders came under investigation in the first place.”

Davis characterized the efforts “of Mr. Snyder and the Team to uncover evidence of unlawful conduct directed against him and his family” as “proper and separate from the NFL’s workplace investigation.” He also said that the NFL “was contemporaneously aware of those efforts.”

Snyder gave a voluntary deposition under oath to the committee remotely for more than 10 hours in July. That came after he declined to appear at the June 22 hearing and one of his attorneys refused to accept service electronically of a subpoena by the committee.

According to Davis’s letter, Snyder denied to the committee the allegations made by Tiffani Johnston at a congressional roundtable in February. Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team, told committee members that Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, putting his hand on her thigh and pressing her toward his limo.

“For reasons the Committee has refused to share publicly, Ms. Johnston was not required to take an oath prior to presenting her story,” Davis wrote. “By contrast, Mr. Snyder was required to provide sworn testimony, and sternly admonished by Committee counsel of the criminal consequences of providing false testimony. Mr. Snyder testified that he did not recall ever meeting Ms. Johnston and certainly did not recall ever dining with her. Mr. Snyder, and numerous other current and former employees of the Commanders organization are prepared to testify that they do not recall Mr. Snyder ever dining with any cheerleader in a setting such as that portrayed by Ms. Johnston.”

Allen gave a deposition under subpoena to the committee remotely for about 10 hours last month.

“I believe that the public has a right to know the truth about this NFL franchise and why the Committee has decided to insulate itself from highly relevant information that has been available from the inception of the investigation, and that runs counter to the Committee’s preconceived narrative,” Davis wrote. “I expect that the Committee will address, in any report it releases, why such evidence was deemed unworthy of even being requested in the course of the Committee’s so-called ‘investigation.’ ”