NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he doesn’t have the authority to remove Daniel Snyder as owner of the Washington Commanders amid scrutiny of the organization’s work culture and accusations widespread sexual harassment by team leaders.
Goodell testified Wednesday before members of Congress during a hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. At some point near the end of more than two hours of testimony, Goodell was questioned by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), who asked if Goodell and the league were “willing to do more” to punish Snyder.
After initially asking if he would recommend Snyder’s removal as owner of Commanders, Tlaib went on to ask Goodell, “Do you want to remove him?”
“I don’t have the authority to fire him, Congressman,” Goodell replied.
An NFL owner can only be removed by a three-quarters majority vote (so 24 out of 32) of the other owners, although Goodell has the ability to formally recommend such a vote.
Snyder was asked to testify but declined, citing overseas business commitments and due process concerns. Committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) announced during the hearing that she plans to issue a subpoena to compel him to testify.
“The NFL is unwilling or unable to hold Mr. Snyder accountable,” Maloney said. “That is why I am now announcing my intention to issue a subpoena to Mr. Snyder for a deposition next week. The committee will not be deterred in its investigation of the Washington commanders.”
Goodell told the committee that the culture of the team transformed following an investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson and that Snyder “was held accountable.”
After Wilkinson presented his findings to Goodell last year, the NFL fined the team $10 million and Snyder retired from day-to-day operations. However, the league has not released a written report on Wilkinson’s findings, a move Goodell said was intended to protect the privacy of former employees who spoke to investigators.
Following Wednesday’s hearing, commanders sent a letter to team employees – a copy of which ESPN obtained – which said, in part: “We believe statements that have been made in the media to criticizing our organization do not accurately reflect our positive transformation and the current reality of the Washington Commanders organization that exists today.”
The committee released the findings of its eight-month investigation before the start of Wednesday’s hearing, accusing Snyder of conducting his own ‘shadow investigation’ aimed at discrediting former employees, hiring private investigators to intimidate witnesses and to use a lawsuit abroad as a pretext to obtain telephone records and e-mails.
The 29-page memo alleges that Snyder attempted to discredit those accusing him and other team leaders of misconduct and also attempted to influence an investigation into the team conducted for the NFL by Wilkinson’s Company.
Snyder’s attorneys presented the NFL with a 100-slide PowerPoint presentation that included “private text messages, emails, phone logs and call transcripts, and social media posts from nearly 50 individuals who Mr. Snyder believed were apparently involved in a conspiracy to disparage him,” the committee said.
Asked about the alleged “fictitious” investigation, Goodell said: “Any action that would discourage people from coming forward would be inappropriate.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Snyder called the report and hearing a “politically charged show trial” and said Congress should not investigate “a matter that a football team addressed a long time ago. years old”.
Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, again called on Goodell to release a report of the Wilkinson investigation, calling it “astounding and disheartening” to hear him say that Snyder was held responsible.
“Today the committee released a damning report demonstrating that Snyder and his attorneys also monitored and investigated plaintiffs, their attorneys, witnesses, and reporters, which Goodell knew and did nothing,” the statement said. Banks and Katz in a statement.
Maloney has introduced legislation to limit the use of nondisclosure agreements in the workplace and to provide protections for employees whose professional images are used inappropriately. Among the charges against the commanders are that team employees produced a video of obscene shots during a photo shoot involving the cheerleading team.
Republicans on the committee accused Democrats of suing an NFL team to distract from more pressing issues and overstep the scope of the committee’s mission.
“A key responsibility of this committee is to oversee the executive branch, but all this Congress, the Democrats have turned a blind eye to the Biden administration,” said Kentucky GOP Rep. James Comer, a member of the committee. “Instead, the Oversight Committee is investigating a single private organization for malpractice that occurred years ago.”
Commanders coach Ron Rivera released a statement late Wednesday night, distancing himself from the team’s past.
“These investigations of improper workplace issues predate my employment,” said Rivera, who was hired in 2020. “I can’t change the past, but I hope our fans, the NFL and the Congress will be able to see that we are doing everything in our power to never repeat these issues in the workplace, and know that our employees are respected, valued and can be heard.
ESPN’s Tisha Thompson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.