The House Oversight Committee released a 79-page report Thursday detailing the key findings of its investigation into the Washington Commanders' toxic work culture, slamming the team's owner, Daniel Snyder, and the NFL for its lack of cooperation.
The Democrat-led committee wrote that the team and the league withheld thousands of requested documents and that Snyder gave evasive and "misleading" testimony during a deposition with committee staff, claiming more than 100 times that he could not recall the answers to investigators' questions.
The report also includes new information about the allegations levied against the Commanders in 2020 and the NFL-led investigation into those claims. The committee states the league "buried" the findings of its investigation, conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson, and negotiated the terms of Washington's punishment directly with the team and Snyder.
"Our report tells the story of a team rife with sexual harassment and misconduct, a billionaire owner intent on deflecting blame, and an influential organization that chose to cover this up rather than seek accountability and stand up for employees," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, the committee's chairwoman, said in a statement.
"To powerful industries across the country, this report should serve as a wake-up call that the time of covering up misconduct to protect powerful executives is over."
In a statement Thursday, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy defended both the league's handling of the Wilkinson probe and its cooperation with the House committee.
"Over the past 13 months, the NFL has cooperated extensively with the Committee’s investigation, producing nearly a half million pages of documents, responding to dozens of written inquiries, and voluntarily participating in a two-and-a-half hour public hearing during which Commissioner Goodell answered 128 questions," McCarthy said.
ODDITIES FROM TESTIMONY: Emails, private investigators, drones and Roger Goodell's contract
Outside attorneys for the Commanders, meanwhile, criticized the report as politically-motivated. The attorneys, John Brownlee and Stuart Nash, said in a statement that committee Democrats "were only interested in chasing headlines by pursuing one side of the story."
Republicans on the oversight committee agreed, releasing a separate report about the investigation and framing it as a waste of taxpayer funds.
Their report also included dozens of emails sent by former team president Bruce Allen, whom they say perpetuated the team's hostile work environment. Some of the emails, sent from Allen's team email address, include photos of nude or partially-nude women.
Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former Commanders employees, lauded the Democrats' report as comprehensive and vital.
"In addition to creating a public record of what had been hidden for decades, the Committee’s work resulted in important legislation limiting the use of non-disclosure agreements, which will help prevent this type of widespread harassment from happening in other American workplaces," they said in a statement.
Why was Daniel Snyder being investigated by Congress?
Snyder was hardly the only subject of the House Oversight Committee's investigation, but he was a key figure in it.
The probe began in October 2021, amid renewed scrutiny of the NFL's investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and a toxic workplace culture within the Commanders.
The NFL's investigation, led by attorney Beth Wilkinson, uncovered evidence of a "highly unprofessional" environment in Washington and resulted in a $10 million fine for the team, among other sanctions. In a notable departure from precedent, however, the league declined to release a full written report detailing the findings of the investigation, citing a desire to protect the anonymity of witnesses.
The House Oversight Committee expressed concern at the time about reported back-channel communications between the team and the league during the course of the investigation, as well as the absence of a written report. Committee leaders requested documents, held a roundtable with former female employees and later called a public hearing on the issue, where NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fielded questions under oath.
Snyder, who was also asked to testify, later gave a deposition to committee staff.
What did the committee find?
Thursday's report is relatively broad in scope. It attempts to shed light on the "toxic" workplace culture within the Commanders in recent decades, Snyder's awareness of that culture and the NFL's investigation into the subject. It also outlines interactions between Snyder and the NFL over the course of that league probe.
Among the other key findings:
► Former team employees informed the committee that they were visited by private investigators hired by Snyder's lawyers during the course of the Wilkinson investigation and notified the NFL. The committee states in the report that the league "failed to take adequate steps to prevent this harassment."
► The committee found that Snyder's lawyers created a dossier on people related to the Wilkinson investigation, including Washington Post journalists and female former employees who have said they were sexually assaulted while working for the Commanders. (Snyder told the committee that this dossier was related to a separate defamation lawsuit filed against an Indian media company.)
► The committee determined that Snyder and his lawyers made more than a half-dozen presentations to the league office and Wilkinson between November 2020 and February 2021, in an attempt to convince them that he was being targeted by a smear campaign and that others were to blame for the team's culture. The information from those presentations was considered part of the Wilkinson probe, according to the report.
► The committee found that Snyder's attorneys were "actively involved" in the planned announcement of the Wilkinson investigation's outcome in 2021, including the information that would be included in the NFL's news release.
► Citing a radio interview by one of the team's outside lawyers, the committee notes that the sanctions levied against the Commanders in the Wilkinson probe were the result of a "negotiated resolution" between the team and league, rather than NFL-mandated punishment.
What is Snyder accused of?
The House investigation has since fueled a number of tangential investigations into the team – and one centering around allegations of sexual assault against Snyder.
The NFL has asked former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to conduct an investigation into allegations that Snyder harassed a former team employee, Tiffani Johnston. Johnston said at the February roundtable that Snyder had inappropriately touched her at a work-related dinner. White's probe is ongoing, and Snyder has repeatedly denied the claims.
Thursday's report also includes mention of a second sexual assault allegation levied against Snyder in 2009, which resulted in a $1.6 million confidential settlement. The settlement, like the original allegations of toxic behavor within the team, was first reported by The Washington Post.
Snyder told the House Oversight Committee that the team's general counsel at the time informed the league of the matter in 2009, as required under the league's personal conduct policy. The NFL told the committee that it was informed of a "dispute that the (team) had with an employee" and wanted to resolve via arbitration, but it did not learn of the specifics until 2020.
What's next for Snyder and the Commanders?
In the course of its investigation, the House Oversight Committee uncovered evidence of financial impropriety by the Commanders and passed along that evidence to multiple state and federal entities.
As a result of that evidence, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has filed two civil lawsuits against Snyder and his team. One alleges that the parties, and the NFL, knowingly deceived D.C. consumers. The other centers around an alleged scheme to "cheat District ticket holders out of their deposits for season tickets."
It is unclear how and when those lawsuits will be resolved. The timeline for the NFL's current investigation, led by White, is also unknown.
In the meantime, Snyder has hired a bank to "explore potential transactions" involving the Commanders – a signal that he might be willing to sell all or part of the team.
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Commanders owner Daniel Snyder slammed by Congress for testimony