NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he does not have the power to fire Daniel Snyder as the Washington captain’s owner amid ongoing scrutiny of the organization’s workplace culture and accusations from female employees of rampant sexual harassment by team executives.
Goodell testified Wednesday before members of Congress at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing. At some point near the end of the more than two-hour testimony, Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) questioned Goodell, who questioned whether Goodell and Douri were “willing to do more” to punish Snyder.
After initially asking him if he would recommend firing Snyder as owner of the leaders, a student followed him up by asking Goodell: “Are you going to remove him?”
Goodell replied, “I have no power to impeach him, Congresswoman.”
An NFL owner can only be removed by a three-fourths majority (therefore, 24 out of 32) of fellow vote holders, although Goodell has the ability to formally recommend such a vote.
Snyder was invited to testify but declined, citing outside business obligations and concerns about due process. Committee Chair 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 Snyder responsible,” Maloney said. That is why I am now declaring my intent to issue a subpoena to Mr. Snyder for his testimony next week. The Commission will not back down in its investigation of Washington’s leaders.
Goodell told the committee that the team’s culture had changed as a result of an investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson and that Snyder had “been held accountable.”
After Wilkinson presented her findings to Goodell last year, the NFL fined the team $10 million last year and Snyder walked away from its day-to-day operations. However, the league did not release a written report on Wilkinson’s findings, a decision Goodell said was intended to protect the privacy of former employees who spoke to investigators.
After Wednesday’s session, the leaders sent a letter to team staff — a copy of which was obtained by ESPN — stating in part, “We believe that statements made in the media critical of our organization do not accurately reflect the positive transformation and current reality of the Washington Leaders Organization that exists today.”
The committee released the results of its eight-month investigation before the hearing Wednesday began, accusing Snyder of conducting his own “shadow investigation” that sought to discredit former employees, hire private investigators to intimidate witnesses, and use an overseas lawsuit as a pretext to obtain phone records and emails.
The 29-page memo alleges that Snyder attempted to discredit people accusing him and other team executives of misconduct and also attempted to influence an investigation with the team the Wilkinson Company conducted for the NFL.
Snyder’s attorneys presented to the NFL a 100-slide PowerPoint presentation including “private text messages, emails, phone records, call transcripts, and social media posts of nearly 50 individuals that Mr. Snyder apparently believes were involved in a conspiracy.” to underestimate it,” the commission said.
Asked about the alleged “shadow” investigation, Goodell said, “Any measure that would dissuade people from progress would not be appropriate.”
In a statement, a spokesman for Snyder called the report and the hearing a “politically charged show trial” and said Congress should not investigate “a case that a football team dealt with years ago.”
Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former employees of the team, again called on Goodell to release a report from the Wilkinson investigation, calling it “stunning and disheartening” to hear him say Snyder has been held accountable.
“The commission today released a damning report making clear that Snyder and his attorneys also monitored and investigated the complainants, their attorneys, witnesses, and journalists, something Goodell was aware of and did nothing to address,” Banks and Katz said in a statement.
Maloney has introduced legislation to limit the use of nondisclosure agreements in the workplace and to provide protection for employees whose professional image is inappropriately used. Among the accusations against the leaders is that the team’s staff produced a video clip of obscene excerpts from a photo session in which the cheerleading team participated.
Republicans on the committee accused Democrats of going after the NFL team to divert attention from more pressing issues and beyond the scope of the committee’s mission.
“One of the primary responsibilities of this committee is to oversee the executive branch, but this entire Congress, the Democrats turned a blind eye to the Biden administration,” said James Comer, Republican of Kentucky. “Instead, the oversight committee of one private organization is investigating workplace misconduct that occurred years ago.”
ESPN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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