Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have been requested to testify at a congressional hearing on June 22.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-New York), the chairperson of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois), the chairperson of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, announced Wednesday morning the committee sent letters to both men requesting their presence at the hearing.
With its announcement, the Committee on Oversight and Reform is broadening the scope of its congressional investigation to include the league. In a statement, the June 22 hearing will also examine “the NFL’s role in setting and enforcing standards across the League, and legislative reforms needed to address these issues across the NFL and other workplaces.” The committee has been investigating the Commanders’ hostile workplace culture since October.
“The NFL really needs to answer the question of why it conducted the investigation in the way it did and why hasn’t it brought transparency as to how the investigation was conducted,” Krishnamoorthi told ESPN.
He said if they declined to testify then, “all options are on the table. Subpoena and compulsory process are options available to the committee as well.”
Krishnamoorthi said the fact that there’s a lot of public interest in this — as well as public pressure — should highlight the urgency to testify.
“It’s in their best interest to come and tell their own side of the story in a manner they would find illuminating for us,” he said. “What I find often on Capitol Hill is that when a party comes forward voluntarily as opposed to being subpoenaed, it ends up having a better chance of being able to explain the situation rather than events overtaking it.”
The NFL and the Commanders said in separate statements that they would respond to the requests “in a timely manner.”
“The NFL has cooperated extensively throughout the Committee’s lengthy investigation of the Washington Commanders, including by producing more than 460,000 pages of documents and responding to numerous questions in writing and in conversations with the Committee’s staff,” league spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement.
The Commanders said: “The Commanders have assisted the NFL in cooperating with all prior requests from the House Oversight and Reform Committee. We look forward to responding directly to the Committee’s invitation in a timely manner.”
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California), who is a member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform and co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, said in a statement that the Common Interest Agreement signed by the NFL and the Commanders before the league took over the investigation into the franchise’s culture “suggests the NFL never intended the investigation to be independent or made public.” She said she looks forward to questioning Snyder and Goodell “about this coverup” and about “harrowing testimony” the committee heard from former employees at a roundtable in February.
“It’s time to shine the light of truth on this dark, sordid cesspool that passes for a pro sports organization,” she said.
Last June, the NFL fined the Commanders $10 million as a result of its investigation, led by Wilkinson, into the franchise’s workplace culture. Last October, Maloney and Krishnamoorthi sent a letter to Goodell requesting all documents related to the investigation. Goodell, however, has said the full report on the investigation will not be released to protect the anonymity of the people who cooperate with the investigation.
The Washington Post reported in November that Snyder tried to prevent Wilkinson from interviewing a woman who had accused the owner of sexual misconduct in 2009. The woman was ultimately paid a $1.6 million settlement. Goodell, however, has denied that Snyder hindered the league’s investigation.
“We are pleased the House Oversight Committee has invited Dan Snyder and Roger Goodell to testify in front of the Committee,” attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent ex-employees of the Washington franchise, said in a statement. “We hope they will demonstrate the same courage as our clients and agree to testify. Dan Snyder and Roger Goodell have a lot to answer for.”
In February, at a congressional roundtable, Tiffani Johnston, a former marketing and events coordinator for the team, levied a new allegation against Snyder, accusing him of touching her without her consent at a work dinner about 13 years ago. Snyder issued a statement denying her allegations. The NFL has launched an investigation into the allegations.
In April, the Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission and several attorneys general alleging that the Commanders failed to refund security deposits, concealed revenue and kept two sets of financial books. The allegations of financial improprieties were made by former longtime employee Jason Friedman who, on March 14, met with members of the committee as part of its investigation into the team’s workplace culture. The FTC told ESPN it can neither “confirm nor deny” if it has launched an investigation as a result of the committee’s letter.
The Commanders have denied the allegations. The Virginia and DC attorneys general announced in April that they would open an investigation into the allegations. Also in April, New York’s attorney general sent a letter to the NFL on behalf of a coalition of six other attorneys general to call upon the league “to address recent allegations of workplace inequity” and “a culture of sexism and widespread workplace discrimination within the NFL, including but not limited to, sexual harassment, targeted retaliation, and harmful stereotyping.”
In response, the NFL said in a statement on April 6, “We share the commitment of the attorneys general to ensuring that all of our workplaces — including the league office and 32 clubs — are diverse, inclusive and free from discrimination and harassment We have made great strides over the years in support of that commitment, but acknowledge that we, like many organizations, have more work to do. we have implemented to act on this commitment and confirm that the league office and our clubs maintain a respectful workplace where all our employees, including women, have an opportunity to thrive.”
From the beginning, Republicans have maintained that the committee should not be investigating this situation, saying it should be left up to the courts. The Republican committee spokesperson, Austin Hacker, stressed that again Wednesday.
“The Democrats’ sham investigation into the Washington Commanders is a misuse of congressional oversight authority,” he said. “There is nothing Congress can do to remedy any of the specific allegations made. If Congress can’t provide a solution, why are the Democrats wasting valuable resources and scheduling a hearing?”