After weeks of negotiation, Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder testified under oath July 28 before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform amid its investigation into sexual harassment in the team’s workplace. Snyder did so remotely from Israel for more than 10 hours, with seven of his lawyers joining him.
During his testimony, Snyder directed blame at Bruce Allen, the team’s longest-serving president during Snyder’s 23-year ownership, for what the committee characterized as the team’s toxic workplace. Allen, who has not been implicated in wrongdoing by the more than 40 former employees who have made allegations of sexual harassment and mistreatment on the job, appeared before the committee Sept. 6, with one lawyer present.
In his deposition, Snyder portrayed himself as the victim of a disgruntled former employee’s campaign to defame him and refuted allegations against him personally, including the claim that he sexually assaulted a former employee on his private plane, which led to a $1.6 million settlement in 2009. He also denied seeing the lewd videos culled from outtakes of the team’s annual cheerleaders’ bikini calendar shoot, which some former employees alleged were created for his entertainment and led to a $2 million settlement.
More than 100 times in his deposition, Snyder said he couldn’t recall facts and key events. And he repeatedly praised the work of his wife, Tanya Snyder, who was installed as the team’s co-CEO on the eve of a negotiated NFL punishment that required Snyder to step away from the team’s daily affairs.
Allen’s deposition followed a little more than a month later and lasted nearly as long. Allen testified that an NFL executive told him that it was Snyder’s representatives who leaked the offensive emails written by Jon Gruden in his dormant team email account to the Wall Street Journal in October 2021.
Allen also recounted being surveilled by private investigators hired by the Commanders and his disbelief over the lengths to which Snyder sought to make him a “scapegoat” for virtually all wrongdoing.
Below are excerpts of exchanges in their respective depositions:
Daniel M. Snyder, July 28
On the 2009 allegation that Snyder sexually assaulted a female employee on his private plane:
Q. So The Washington Post reported about this 2009 incident and settlement in which you allegedly sexually assaulted a former employee. Did you, in fact, assault the person who accused you of this in 2009?
Q. When did you learn of her allegations?
A. A week or two afterwards.
Q. How did you learn about these allegations?
A. The general counsel told me about them.
Q. Was the NFL informed of these allegations at the time?
On the lewd videos, allegedly created for Snyder and other team executives, culled from outtakes of inadvertent nudity in a cheerleader calendar shoot:
Q. Mr. Snyder, as you sit here today, do you acknowledge that these two videos of lewd outtakes from the cheerleader calendar photo shoot exist?
A. I’ve never seen any videos or had anything produced for me. That’s all I can tell you.
Q. Mr. Snyder, my question was whether you know, you can say today whether or not these videos exist.
A. I can just tell you what I know, which is I know nothing about these purported videos, period.
On the Commanders’ $2 million settlement with cheerleaders whose inadvertent nudity was included in the lewd videos:
Q. Mr. Snyder, can you confirm that a settlement was reached with regard to these videos in February 2021?
A. I know we settled some claims from cheerleaders. I don’t know the particulars. That’s it.
Q. So you know that the team settled some claims from the cheerleaders in February 2021. Do I have that right?
A. I believe so.
Q. Were the Commanders a party to this settlement?
Q. Were you a party to this settlement?
A. I’m unaware.
Q. You’re unaware whether or not you were a party to this settlement?
Q. Were the cheerleaders featured on these lewd videos parties to the settlement?
A. I’m unaware of what — the settlements we had.
Q. You said cheerleaders were part of the settlement. What cheerleaders were part of the settlement?
A. I don’t know.
Q. Did your team randomly pick cheerleaders with whom to enter into a settlement?
Q. How did they pick the cheerleaders with whom they entered into a settlement?
A. It was a claim with a group of cheerleaders, [represented by lawyers Debra] Katz and [Lisa] Banks, and I just know that it was settled.
Q. What was their complaint?
A. I don’t remember the particulars.
On why he fired Bruce Allen:
Q. You terminated Mr. Allen in December 2019. Is that correct?
Q. And I believe you testified earlier that you were unaware of the allegations that were detailed in The Washington Post report but was not published until July 16, 2020. Is that correct?
A. That’s correct.
Q. So what culture are you referring to when you say that there was a workplace culture and you’re suggesting that Mr. Allen was responsible for it in 2019?
A. I believe it’s four or five days prior to termination of Jay Gruden, who was on TMZ smoking marijuana. And we knew we had a problem, obviously. He was the head coach.
Q. Mr. Allen was the head coach?
A. No. I’m referring to four or five days prior to the termination of Jay Gruden at a press conference where Bruce Allen said, ‘We have a damned good culture,’ it was on TMZ, Coach Jay Gruden was smoking marijuana on a sidewalk somewhere. Crazy video. And we knew that it was an obvious signal there was a culture problem.
On firing employees during his 23 years as an NFL owner:
Q. Well, Mr. Snyder, are there any employees that you recall participating in their termination?
A. First that comes to mind is Bruce Allen.
Q. Anyone else?
A. That I terminated?
Q. You were involved in the termination, whether you made the decision directly or otherwise.
A. Bruce Allen comes to mind.
Q. That’s the only person you recall terminating in course of your ownership of the Commanders?
A. Coach Jay Gruden.
Q. Anyone else?
A. Not off the top of my head.
On hiring lawyers to investigate the source of a defamatory article published on an India-based website in July 2020:
A. On July 16, 2020, there obviously was a campaign, a disparagement campaign with a laws- — excuse me, articles appearing in India that refer to me — there were bots — being affiliated with Jeffrey Epstein, being on his airplane, being on his list, all these things about a person I’ve never met in my life, but, yet incredibly damaging to me and my family, my children. There was a campaign — this coincided exactly with the timing of this — The Washington Post story of July 16, 2020. And we were devastated. The kids — my son was the target of a bot campaign with Epstein. I mean, just atrocious, atrocious, the most heinous things ever, just completely disparaging and devastating. So we — then on Aug. 1, we got back to our home …. Upon getting back, we discovered ourselves that members of our personal staff, my wife’s longtime household executive, been with her 20 years, told my wife, ‘I was attempted to be bribed to say defamatory information about your husband, about Dan, and saying he was a drug addict.’
On hiring private investigators to gather information about former employees?
Q. Did you continue to use private investigators in connection with the Indian defamation lawsuit and/or any investigation into the leaks to The Washington Post regarding the exposé, the July 16 and/or the Aug. 26 exposé?
A. We used investigators regarding the India lawsuits. And, obviously, if the investigators made a mistake and went somewhere wrong, I apologize to anyone for that behavior. But our intention was very, very clear. And as I told the Committee, our entire focus was on this [India] situation.
On Commanders employees being fearful of him:
Q. Mr. Snyder, are you aware that your employees were instructed to never to look you in the eyes, to always call you, “sir,” and to walk away whenever you are walking in their direction?
A. The reality is it’s quite the opposite. I have people call me “Dan,” and these — this is just not true. And, in fact, if you ask Ron Rivera how many times I told him, 'Stop calling me Mr. Snyder at the press conferences, call me Dan,’ he said, ‘No, I won’t.’ And I said — we kid ourselves about it. Talk to any employee who works for us, and you’ll find it’s not true.
Bruce Allen, Sept. 6
On realizing private investigators hired by Commanders were surveilling him:
Q. When were you followed by a private investigator, Mr. Allen?
A. Last year.
Q. Do you recall when, approximately?
A. Yes. It was in around — well, I don’t know when it started. I met him I think in — right around beginning of March. But I don’t know when it started and I don’t know if it stopped.
Q. And how did you know the person who was following you was a private investigator?
A. My wife was concerned. We live in a — we had just moved into a home. And the street’s a real narrow street. It’s hard [for] two cars even to go by. And she saw a car out there the night before, and then in the morning it was there and it’s running, the engine’s running. And I had made some coffee. And I went out. And the gentleman stepped out of the car and he said, “Hi, Mr. Allen.” I said, “Well, that’s interesting. You need a cup of coffee? Are you here to serve me with a subpoena or something?” He said, “No, we’re just here to follow you,” and something like “document your actions.”
On the NFL executive indicating that Snyder’s representatives leaked the offensive Jon Gruden emails found in Allen’s team account:
A. I called Lisa Friel. … I was adamant. … I said, “Well, who in the hell is giving my emails to The Wall Street Journal? Why don’t I — I’m the only person that doesn’t have my own emails. Why?”
And she went on to say, “We didn’t do it at the league office. It came out of their side.” And she said, “Well, you know, you don’t look good with this.”
And I said, “Can someone tell me what it is? I don’t even know what it is. There’s something that he says is racist and homophobic in an email to me, but I have no idea what you guys are talking about.”
Q. When she said it came out of their side, what did you understand her to mean by that?
A. She was saying her crew, all the crew that — whoever the crew is on their side who have all my emails, including my mom’s friends, didn’t do it. So she’s pointing a finger at the team — unless there’s another group who has my emails who I don’t know.
Q. So Lisa Friel was saying that the NFL hadn’t leaked it and it had come from the team, to your understanding?
On Snyder’s efforts to unseat NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:
Q. Did Mr. Snyder ever take any other steps to remove Commissioner Goodell, to your knowledge?
A. You know, [Snyder] says a lot of things, which I never would have put one and one together except that I’m sitting here. You know, he said at that time I’m going to follow — ‘I’m going to have him followed, follow the Commissioner. You know, I’m going to find something out about him.’ But, one, I didn’t believe him, so it was like just one of those comments. Two, I never would have approved it, because if it came through finance and someone said, we’re following the — they never would have approved that, like they’re doing now. Now, after I read about everyone who’s getting followed around the country, I don’t know if it was true or not. I have no idea. ---
On Snyder’s lawyers sending the Oversight Committee a batch of disparaging emails from Allen’s team email account on the eve of this Sept. 6 deposition:
A. Well, leaking my emails randomly that involve family and friends and personal issues to different media outlets I think is — it’s despicable, but I think it’s also trying to send a message.
Q. And what message do you think it’s trying to send?
A. “Be careful.”
Q. Be careful about what?
A. There’s — in these exhibits, I see there’s things I don’t remember from 10, 12 years ago that occurred. It’s just saying, ‘He owns me, with these emails,’ which affect my co-workers, the alumni, my family and friends.