September 24th, 2022 at 8:08pm CST by Adam La Rose
The possibility of Commanders owner Dan Snyder being pressured to sell the team – or removed from his position – has come up in 2022. The topic has once again become a topic of discussion amongst some of the league’s other owners, with significant action seemingly on the table.
That sentiment represents both a repeat of that reportedly expressed earlier this offseason, and a contrast to the trepidation which followed it. In May, a number of owners were believed to be counting votes regarding a vote to remove Snyder, a sign of growing frustration in the wake of several controversies he and the team have been involved in. The latest of those include allegations of financial impropriety, and the investigation into workplace culture during which Snyder (after a lengthy back-and-forth over the matter of a subpoena) testified to the House Oversight Committee.
In the absence of any outcomes from those investigations, though, it became clear that no firm action would be immediately forthcoming regarding an attempt to remove Snyder. Now, however, one owner has spoken rather forcefully on the subject. “He needs to sell,” the anonymous owner said, adding that, “I think there will be a movement.”
The change in opinion, the report details, could be due in part to the franchise’s struggles in landing a new stadium deal. In addition, an increase in anti-Snyder sentiment could be a reaction to the recent news surrounding Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver. He has been fined and suspended by the league, and has begun the process of selling both franchises in the aftermath of several league policy violations.
“We are making important progress on a cultural transformation to ensure our workplace is inclusive and safe for all,” Commanders president Jason Wright said in a statement. “The League has publicly recognized our efforts, and independent experts regularly examining our journey on this accord have confirmed this progress.”
The report also notes that a desire to oust Snyder is “not unanimous,” and that nothing is imminent at this time. This saga will therefore remain clouded in uncertainty for the foreseeable future, but it apparently still has the potential to take a serious turn.
An agreement has been reached between the House Oversight Committee investigating the Commanders’ workplace culture and owner Dan Snyder allowing the latter to give testimony starting today. He will do so remotely, and, as expected given previous developments in this matter, voluntarily.
“The Committee’s deposition of Mr. Snyder will go forward today,” per a written statement from a committee spokesperson, via Mark Maske, Liz Clarke and Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post. “Mr. Snyder has committed to providing full and complete testimony, and to answer the Committee’s questions about his knowledge of and contributions to the Commanders’ toxic work environment, as well as his efforts to interfere with the NFL’s internal investigation, without hiding behind nondisclosure or other confidentiality agreements.”
After weeks of negotiations regarding the circumstances under which Snyder would speak, it became known that he would only do so voluntarily, as opposed to under oath. The distinction would allow him to avoid answering questions pertaining to matters covered by nondisclosure agreements. The possibility still remains, however, for a subpoena to be issued later. The committee statement details that “should Mr. Snyder fail to honor his commitments, the Committee is prepared to compel his testimony on any unanswered questions upon his return to the United States.”
The deposition will not be public, though the transcript can subsequently be released in whole or in part later. Snyder is expected to be questioned for longer than commissioner Roger Goodell was last month. Snyder’s refusal to speak voluntarily as Goodell did at the time led to a subpoena being issued, and the resulting back-and-forth between the committee and his representatives.
Today marks the next important chapter in this saga, one of many which have further soured the perception of Snyder around the league. With more details yet to emerge regarding the allegations of financial impropriety the team is currently facing (the result of which could have significant consequences on the potential of the league’s other owners attempting to remove him), Snyder will remain in the unwanted spotlight for the foreseeable future.
JULY 13: Another effort from Snyder to avoid questioning from the House Oversight Committee may be in progress. Responding to the committee’s latest salvo, Seymour said her client would only testify voluntarily (and not under oath).
“Under the circumstances, there is no valid basis to issue a subpoena for Mr. Snyder’s testimony,” Seymour said, via the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala (Twitterlinks). “We intend that he will testify voluntarily on July 28. We are confident that Mr. Snyder will able to provide full and complete testimony during his voluntary appearance – a view the Committee apparently shared…since the Committee invited him to testify voluntarily at a hearing held just three weeks ago.”
This figures to put the ball back in the committee’s court, continuing what has become a lengthy back-and-forth. The Congressional panel approving Snyder’s request to testify voluntarily would open the door to the Commanders owner ending his silence in this investigation but punting on certain questions. Seymour said Snyder would not answer questions on matters covered by nondisclosure agreements.
“Mr. Snyder has a troubling history of using NDAs to cover up workplace misconduct — behavior that is central to our investigation — and it would be highly inappropriate for him to employ the same tactic to withhold information from the Committee,” Oversight Committee chairperson Carolyn Maloney said Tuesday, via Mark Maske of the Washington Post. “Other former Commanders employees have participated in Committee depositions under subpoena, and Mr. Snyder should not be treated any differently.”
JULY 12: Dan Snyder has both avoided a House Oversight Committee request to testify in its months-long investigation into the Commanders’ workplace misconduct and has been evasive since he was hit with a subpoena to appear before the committee. But the committee is willing to accept one of Snyder’s stipulations in an effort to ensure he testifies.
Last week, Snyder attorney Karen Patton Seymour said her client would be available to be questioned by the committee on July 28 or July 29, via videoconference, but not June 30 — the date initially associated with the committee’s subpoena. The longtime Washington owner remains out of the country. The committee will now accept Snyder’s videoconference testimony, with John Keim of ESPN.com relaying (via Twitter) Snyder’s subpoena has been adjusted to allow for this session to take place July 28.
“The Committee accepts your offer for Mr. Snyder to testify on the subjects under investigation by the Committee on July 28,” the committee said in a statement to Seymour. “[We] will proceed with a subpoena in place to ensure that Mr. Snyder’s testimony will be full and complete.”
This process may encounter more Snyder resistance. The committee’s Tuesday decision pertains to Snyder testifying under its terms — via the subpoena — whereas Snyder’s offer was to testify voluntarily, according to Keim and the Washington Post’s Liz Clarke (Twitterlinks). Under the committee’s terms, Snyder must testify under oath and cannot choose the questions he does and does not answer. Snyder must decide his next move by 11am CT Wednesday, per Clarke.
Snyder cited a work conflict as the reason he could not testify alongsideRoger Goodell at the June 22 hearing. The commissioner appeared virtually and answered the committee’s questions regarding the conduct of Snyder and his franchise. The committee then issued a subpoena to bring forth Snyder testimony.
The next chapter would be Snyder testifying later this month. It will be interesting to see if the embattled Commanders owner does so, or if another move to avoid questioning transpires.
Dan Snyder has made more unwanted headlines recently as the House Oversight Committee continues its investigation into the Commanders’ workplace culture. After commissioner Roger Goodell voluntarily testified to the committee last month, Snyder stated that he was unavailable to do so at the time.
That led to a subpoena being issued by Chairperson Carolyn Maloney to compel the Washington owner’s testimony. “If the NFL is unwilling or unable to hold Mr. Snyder accountable,” she said, “then I am prepared to do so.” Snyder has, however, reportedly shown an ability to voluntarily be deposed.
As detailed by ESPN’s John Keim and Tisha Thompson, Snyder offered to testify via videoconference later this month. A letter from his attorney, Karen Seymour, states that July 28 and 29 are dates during which Snyder will be available to be questioned; he cited a work conflict as the reason he couldn’t testify when initially requested to do so. Those two days are the last until Congress’ current session ends.
Per the report, Seymour has still yet to accept the subpoena, and both sides “continue to negotiate the terms under which Snyder would testify.” His offer would consist of a private deposition being recorded, some or all of which the Committee could later release. Notably, the fact that he would be speaking voluntarily would give Snyder the ability to cite the nondisclosure agreements many former employees signed as a way of avoiding certain questions – an option which wouldn’t exist if the subpoena were to be accepted.
A statement from a Committee spokesperson reads in part: “We remain committed to securing Mr. Snyder’s testimony on the toxic work environment at the Washington Commanders following his failure to appear voluntarily at the Committee’s hearing and his continued refusal to allow his attorney to accept service of a subpoena.”
This episode also comes amidst uncertainty regarding Snyder’s future in the day-to-day operations of the team. He was removed from those duties last year, and discussions on when he will be allowed to resume them “[have] not yet happened.” Much will depend, likely, on the outcome of his testimony in determining his personal future.
Last week’s House Oversight Committee hearing featured Roger Goodell taking a few bullets for Dan Snyder, who did not comply with a testimony request. The committee then indicated a Snyder subpoena was forthcoming. The longtime Washington owner cited an out-of-country trip as the reason he would not testify along with Goodell.
The embattled Commanders owner may be taking it a step further this week. Snyder is resisting the subpoena, according to a committee spokesperson. The committee asked Snyder attorney Karen Patton Seymour if she could accept service of the subpoena Monday, according to the Washington Post’s Mark Maske, Liz Clarke and Nicki Jhabvala, but Seymour is now out of the country. As such, no resolution on this matter has emerged. Goodell said last week he has no authority to force Snyder to testify.
“Mr. Snyder has so far refused to accept service of the Committee’s subpoena,” a committee spokesperson said in a statement Monday (via The Athletic’s Ben Standig, on Twitter). “While the Committee has been, and remains, willing to consider reasonable accommodations requested by witnesses, we will not tolerate attempts to evade service of a duly authorized subpoena or seek special treatment not afforded to other witnesses who testified in this matter.”
For his part, Snyder said (through a spokesperson) he has not refused to appear for a deposition, via Jhabvala (on Twitter). Per Snyder, the committee has offered only one date (June 30) for testimony. He said his attorney will be out of the country on that date. Snyder took a similar path to passing on the committee’s initial request.
The committee has been investigating Snyder and his franchise since last fall, with that probe beginning shortly after the NFL’s investigation did not produce a written report. The then-Washington Football Team was fined $10MM, with Snyder ceding day-to-day control of the franchise. Snyder quickly pushed back on having done so, and his involvement has been in question since. Potential Snyder evasion tactics should not be expected to work, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who expects the owner to testify before the committee.
Snyder has run into recent trouble on other fronts as well — from the discovery of a seven-figure settlement paid to a woman who accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment to allegations of financial impropriety to his conducting a shadow investigation of ex-employees and journalists amid the NFL’s probe — but he has thus far avoided other NFL owners seriously considering his removal.
An independent officer, Sue Robinson, will decide on Watson’s discipline. That ruling is expected to happen before the Browns begin training camp. But Roger Goodell would handle an appeal. However, the NFL, NFLPA and Watson advisors entered talks about a negotiated punishment, Josina Anderson of USA Today tweets.
If a negotiated ban came to pass, Watson would waive his appeal right. These talks, however, broke down because the parties were not on the same page regarding suspension length, Anderson adds. This will keep the process moving toward Robinson’s decision.
If Robinson’s decision does not meet with NFLPA approval, the union plans to use recent punishments for teams and owners (or lack thereof) in its appeal. The NFLPA would cite NFL treatment of Dan Snyder, Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones in its Watson appeal, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes.
The NFL is believed to have changed its plans regarding what information was made public in its investigation into Snyder and the Commanders, which wrapped in 2021. That probe did not produce a written report of the league’s findings, leading to Congress becoming involved. The NFL fined the franchise $10MM, and Snyder gave up day-to-day operations. However, his involvement with the team since has been in question. Kraft pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution in connection with a January 2018 incident at a spa. The Patriots owner’s case was later dismissed, and no NFL punishment came down. The Cowboys paid a confidential $2.4MM settlement after four cheerleaders accused the team’s former senior vice president for public relations and communications, Rich Dalrymple, of voyeurism in the team’s locker room during a 2015 event at AT&T Stadium. The NFL did not investigate the Cowboys.
These arguments would bring other teams into the Browns’ controversy. The union believes its strategy would be more effective since the 2020 CBA moved Goodell further away from disciplinary matters, Florio adds. But with the NFL overseeing an appeal, it is unclear how much traction they will have considering both the volume of accusations levied against Watson and the league’s apparent hope for a year-long suspension.
Watson, who was not charged in connection with these accusations and has denied all wrongdoing, settled 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits against him this week. The NFL said that will not impact his potential punishment. The settlements will prevent Watson from going through most of his suits next year, which would take the prospect of the commissioner’s exempt list — something Goodell has already said would not apply here — completely off the table. If Watson were to miss 2022 games, it would only happen because of a suspension.
But the committee plans to go a step further during its investigation into the Commanders. Chairperson Carolyn Maloney said she would issue a subpoena to Snyder for a deposition next week.
“Mr. Snyder has not been held accountable,” Maloney said, via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post (on Twitter). “His refusal to testify sends a clear message that he is more concerned about protecting himself than coming clean with the American people. If the NFL is unwilling or unable to hold Mr. Snyder accountable, then I am prepared to do so.”
This marks one of a few issues the embattled Washington owner faces. The committee accused Snyder of conducting a “shadow investigation” aimed at discrediting former team employees and journalists amid the NFL’s inquiry into allegations of workplace misconduct, according to the Washington Post’s Mark Maske, Liz Clarke and Jhabvala. The league’s investigation wrapped last year, but after the league failed to issue a written report, Congress launched its own investigation into Snyder and the Commanders.
The alleged Snyder-driven counterstrike effort attempted to accuse former team president Bruce Allen of being primarily responsible for the workplace issues that came under scrutiny. Snyder fired Allen after the 2019 season.
Goodell attributed the lack of a written report in Beth Wilkinson’s Washington investigation to select former Washington employees seeking anonymity, but the committee’s findings during its probe revealed the NFL had planned for Wilkinson to issue a report instead of an oral summary. The committee uncovered a document indicating a September 2020 agreement between the NFL and Wilkinson’s firm that a written report — outlining the findings in the league’s inquiry into accusations of Washington workplace misconduct — would be in the cards, per Jhabvala. Goodell has been accused to changing that plan, prompting Congressional involvement.
The NFL’s investigation into Snyder and his franchise did result in the owner ceding day-to-day operations to his wife, Tanya Snyder. Goodell said Wednesday he believes that arrangement is still in place nearly a year later.
Another report, from the Washington Post’s Will Hobson, revealed Dan Snyder settled with a former employee who accused him of sexual assault in 2009. The woman accused Snyder of sexually harassing and assaulting her, leading to a $1.6MM settlement. Snyder has denied the allegations, with a team investigation accusing the alleged victim of an extortion attempt. When asked about that report Wednesday, Goodell said he did not recall if Snyder informed him of the allegation and settlement. Teams are required to inform Goodell of such allegations, per the personal conduct policy (Twitterlinks via Jhabvala and The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones).
JUNE 20: Goodell has agreed to testify at Wednesday’s hearing, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Goodell will testify remotely, however. Snyder’s refusal to testify this week prompted a Committee response.
“If Mr. Snyder was truly committed to cooperating with the Committee’s investigation, he would have accepted the Committee’s invitation to testify about the Commanders’ toxic workplace culture,” a Committee spokesperson said, via Keim. “As the Chairwoman’s letter made clear, the Committee has been more than accommodating — even allowing Mr. Snyder to testify remotely from France. His refusal to testify sends an unmistakable signal that Mr. Snyder has something to hide and is afraid of coming clean to the American public and addressing major worker protection concerns facing the NFL.”
JUNE 15: Snyder has turned down the Oversight Committee’s request. Indicating he will be out of the country June 22, the Commanders owner will not testify, John Keim of ESPN.com reports. This had been the long-expected outcome, Keim adds. A letter from attorney Karen Patton Seymour notes Snyder had a “longstanding Commanders-related business conflict and is out of the country on the first and only date the Committee has proposed for the hearing.”
The letter also indicates Snyder would be willing to testify if the date is changed. The Committee intends to move forward with the hearing, absent the embattled owner. It is not yet known if Goodell will testify before the Committee next week.
JUNE 1: The subject of the Washington Commanders’ workplace culture continues to be an issue for the NFL. Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee, which has been investigating the Commanders for months, invited Daniel Snyder and Roger Goodell to testify in a June 22 hearing.
Snyder’s long-scrutinized tenure as the NFC East franchise’s owner has become an increasingly higher-profile topic for the league. Rumors of frustration among other owners, due to the Snyder-centered scandals that have emerged in recent years, have emerged. Wednesday’s development will certainly not cool anything down.
“The hearing is the next step in the Committee’s months-long investigation into the Commanders’ hostile workplace culture and will also examine the NFL’s handling of allegations of workplace misconduct, 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 said in its statement.
Last year, the NFL fined Snyder $10MM as a result of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations from 15 former Washington Football Team employees. The fallout from this proved controversial for the league, which did not produce a written report of the findings. The NFL also did not suspend Snyder, who took a backseat to his wife, Tanya, regarding day-to-day operations. This came under the purview of Congress late last year, when it began its own investigation.
“Since we launched our investigation in October, the Committee’s goal has been to uncover the truth about the culture of harassment and abuse at the Washington Commanders, to hold accountable those responsible, and to better protect workers across the country,” said New York Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Committee chairwoman. “The Committee has worked tirelessly to obtain critical information, including the findings of the internal investigation conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson, only to be met with obstruction from the Commanders and the NFL at every turn.
“We must have transparency and accountability, which is why we are calling on Mr. Goodell and Mr. Snyder to answer the questions they have dodged for the last seven months. The hearing will explore how Congress can act to prevent employers from silencing victims of workplace misconduct and ensure that what happened at the Commanders organization does not happen again.”
Issuing similar statements, the Commanders and the NFL said they would issue responses to the invites “in a timely manner,” via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitterlinks). The Commanders’ statement indicated they have complied with all previous Committee requests.
Wilkinson’s investigation lasted 10 months; the Oversight Committee’s ensuing probe is approaching that benchmark. The Federal Trade Commission has also been investigating the Commanders’ alleged financial wrongdoing, adding to the turmoil currently engulfing Snyder. Attorneys general in Virginia and Washington D.C. announced subsequent investigations into this matter. The team has denied those allegations. Earlier this year, the NFL launched an investigation into this matter as well.
Earlier this week, it was reported that a number of NFL owners were considering action against Dan Snyder which could rise to the level of an attempt to remove him from the Commanders. Given the remarks made by certain others, however, that may not be the case.
As detailed by Mark Maske of the Washington Post, support seems to favor a suspension. He writes that “no meaningful steps have been taken toward making a push to remove Snyder from ownership of his franchise” – a rather stark rebuttal to the notion that the numerous controversies the 57-year-old has been involved in could threaten his position.
The latest of those controversies (allegations of financial impropriety, which was labelled by one owner as potentially being “the nail in the coffin”) will have a significant impact on owners’ decisions. The investigation into the matter is ongoing, the result of which will likely be the next major turning point in this situation. As Maske writes, multiple owners would support “significant disciplinary action” being taken against Snyder should the allegations be proven true.
“We’d have to know a lot more than we do now” one owner said, via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. While that still leaves the door open to action like a vote on removal being possible at some point, Maske reports that multiple owners have not been approached regarding their position should any such vote take place.
“There’s certainly concern”, said one owner. “There’s anger. But there’s quite a difference between wishing he was gone and taking steps to force him out.” Breer adds that the precedent Snyder’s removal would set is a key point, and that the “bar will be set very high” for as many as the requisite 24 owners being prepared to go ahead with that action.
For the time being, little is expected to take place regarding this situation. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, though, this could remain a key storyline.
Dan Snyder has been involved in another controversy surrounding the Commanders this offseason, and it could affect his future in the NFL. As detailed by Jarrett Bell of USA Today, a number of other owners are considering “drastic options” in advance of this week’s league meetings.
The latest source of angst in Washington is centered around the ongoing FTC investigation into financial wrongdoing, much of which is alleged to have taken place between the years 2010 and 2015. The team has publicly rebuked the allegations, calling them “baseless”, “false and reckless” and based on “pure speculation”.
While the investigation has yet to be completed, its very existence has left Snyder “very much on the minds of some fellow NFL owners who would go as far as trying to force [him] from their ranks”, Bell notes. As one such owner anonymously said, “there’s growing frustration about the Washington situation and not over one issue, but over how much smoke there is”, adding “I think everybody’s getting tired of it”.
Last offseason, it was announced that Snyder would not be suspended as a result of the investigation into the team’s workplace culture. Instead, his wife assumed the day-to-day duties of running the franchise, which was fined $10MM. Even before this latest investigation, Bell reports, there was an “anti-Snyder sentiment” which was “significant”.
As a result, another owner remarked that the allegations of Washington using two sets of books for the purpose of hiding league revenue, if proven to be true, would be “the nail in the coffin”. Furthermore, yet another said that “we are counting votes” – a statement which signals an intent, if sufficient support exists, to compel Snyder to sell the team.
As Bell notes, however, it is “unclear” at this point how many owners would be prepared to go that far. A three-fourths majority (that is, 24 other owners) would be required to remove the 57-year-old, who will not be in attendance at this week’s meetings.