At Hearing with NFL Commissioner, Oversight Committee Seeks Accountability for Workplace Misconduct at Washington Commanders and the NFL’s Failed Response
Washington, D.C. (June 23, 2022)—Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing with Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), on the toxic workplace culture at the Washington Commanders (Commanders), including allegations of sexual harassment, spanning multiple decades. The hearing also addressed the failure by the Commanders and the NFL to take meaningful steps to prevent and address this misconduct.
“For more than two decades, Dan Snyder refused to protect the women who worked for him from the toxic culture he created. The NFL has also failed to protect these women. Now, I believe it is up to Congress to protect them, and millions more like them,” said Chairwoman Maloney in her opening statement.
At the hearing, Commissioner Goodell expressed support for legislation introduced by
Chairwoman Maloney to rein in the abuse of non-disclosure agreements in the workplace and create new protections for employees whose professional images are used for illegitimate purposes. Discussing the framework for both bills, Mr. Goodell stated, “We certainly support it, and we would be happy to work with your staff.”
In advance of the hearing, the Chairwoman released a memo detailing findings from the Committee’s investigation, including new evidence on Mr. Snyder’s role in creating a hostile work environment and his efforts to influence the NFL’s internal investigation into these harassment allegations and discredit his accusers. The memo shows that Mr. Snyder and his attorneys created a 100-slide dossier with private emails, text messages, telephone records, and social media posts from journalists, victims, and witnesses who had made credible accusations of harassment against the Commanders.
During the hearing, Chairwoman Maloney announced her intent to issue a subpoena to Mr. Snyder for a Committee deposition following his refusal to provide voluntary testimony.
Mr. Goodell acknowledged that the work environment at the Commanders was “toxic” and the worst he has seen in his career at the NFL.
- When Rep. Krishnamoorthi asked, “In your view, is Dan Snyder’s behavior and the workplace culture he created and fostered one of the worst and most toxic you’ve seen in your time as Commissioner and your decades of service with the NFL?”, Mr. Goodell replied, “I have not seen a workplace in the NFL that is anywhere near what we saw in the context of that period of time for the Washington Commanders.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Tlaib detailing how Dan Snyder routinely turned a blind eye to his employees’ misconduct—including a coach who groped a member of the team’s public relations staff and a senior executive’s crass comments about an intern that were caught on tape—Commissioner Goodell described that conduct as “not acceptable” but refused to say whether he would recommend removing Mr. Snyder as the Commanders’ owner.
Members questioned Mr. Goodell about the NFL’s knowledge of the toxic workplace culture at the Washington Commanders under the leadership of Dan Snyder.
- Mr. Goodell testified that he did not recall Mr. Snyder informing him about the 2009 sexual assault allegations against Mr. Snyder at the time they were made, and that failure to report such an incident would be a violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
- Questioned by Congresswoman Norton about when the NFL learned of the 2009 allegations against Mr. Snyder, Commissioner Goodell confirmed that the NFL was aware of them by July 2020, explaining that “we did know about the 2009 allegations by July” and that “we were aware of the issue in that summer.” As shown in the Committee’s memo, in July 2020, the NFL allowed Mr. Snyder to oversee an investigation into his own sexual misconduct at the Commanders, before the NFL ultimately took over the investigation weeks later.
- Commissioner Goodell refused to commit to releasing the findings of the NFL’s internal investigation into the Washington Commanders, arguing that this was necessary to protect the identities of witnesses. However, Rep. Krishnamoorthi emphasized that in the past, the NFL has released public reports while honoring witnesses’ requests for confidentiality. For example, at the conclusion of an investigation into workplace misconduct at the Miami Dolphins, the NFL released a 143-page report that redacted witness names.
Members questioned Mr. Goodell about the shadow investigation launched by Mr. Snyder and his efforts to influence the NFL’s internal investigation into the toxic workplace issues at the Washington Commanders.
- In response to a question from Rep. Brown about whether the NFL told Mr. Snyder to stop using private investigators to intimidate witnesses, Commissioner Goodell said: “As soon as we took over the investigation, we made it clear to them that they should not be investigating any of these matters. Secondly, we asked that the Commanders reach out to current employees as well as former employees to encourage them to participate. So any efforts to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from doing it would be inconsistent with that.” The Committee’s investigation has shown that the Commanders continued to contact and send private investigators to former Commanders’ employees homes throughout the Wilkinson investigation.
- Rep. Raskin pressed Mr. Goodell about the shadow investigation conducted by Mr. Snyder and attempts to intimidate witnesses with legal action, to which Mr. Goodell answered, “Any kind of harassment against people who want to come forward and tell the truth—we would not permit, and we would not find acceptable.”