Goodell testified Wednesday before members of Congress at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing. 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 are “willing to do more” to punish Snyder.
After initially asking if he would recommend removing Snyder as owner of the Commanders, Tlaib followed up by asking Goodell, “Will you remove him?”
“I don’t have the authority to remove you, Congressman,” Goodell replied.
An NFL owner can be removed only by a three-quarters majority vote (ie 24 of 32) of the other owners, although Goodell has the ability to officially recommend such a vote.
Snyder was invited to testify but declined, citing foreign business commitments and due process concerns. Committee chair Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) announced during the hearing that she plans to issue a subpoena to force 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 for Mr. Snyder to testify next week. The committee will not be deterred in its investigation of the Washington Commanders.”
Goodell told the committee that the team’s culture has been transformed as a result of an investigation led by attorney Beth Wilkinson and that Snyder “has been held accountable.”
After Wilkinson presented his findings to Goodell last year, the NFL fined the team $10 million last year and Snyder walked away from his day-to-day operations. However, the league did not release a written report of Wilkinson’s findings, a decision Goodell said was intended to protect the privacy of former employees who spoke with investigators.
Following Wednesday’s hearing, the Commanders sent a letter to team employees, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, which read in part: “We believe statements that have been made in the media critical of 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 results of its eight-month investigation before Wednesday’s hearing began, accusing Snyder of conducting his own “shadow investigation” that sought to discredit former employees, hire private investigators to intimidate witnesses and use a lawsuit abroad as a pretext to obtain phone records and emails.
The 29-page memo alleges that Snyder tried to discredit people who accused him and other team executives of misconduct and also tried to influence a team investigation conducted for the NFL by Wilkinson’s firm.
Snyder’s attorneys presented the NFL with a 100-slide PowerPoint presentation that included “private text messages, emails, phone records and call transcripts, and social media posts from nearly 50 people Mr. Snyder apparently believed that they were involved in a conspiracy to disparage him.” the committee said.
When asked about the alleged “shadow” investigation, Goodell said: “Any action that discourages people from coming forward would be inappropriate.”
In a statement, a spokesman for Snyder characterized the report and hearing as “a politically charged show trial” and said Congress should not investigate “an issue that a football team addressed years ago.”
Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, again asked Goodell to release a report of the Wilkinson investigation, calling it “impressive and disheartening” to hear him say Snyder has been held to account.
“Today, the committee released a damning report showing that Snyder and his attorneys also monitored and investigated whistleblowers, their attorneys, witnesses and journalists, something Goodell knew about and did nothing to fix,” Banks and Katz said in a statement. .
Maloney has introduced legislation to curb the use of nondisclosure agreements in the workplace and to offer protection to employees whose professional images are used inappropriately. Among the allegations against the commanders is that team employees produced a video of lewd shots from a photo shoot involving the cheerleading squad.
Republicans on the committee accused Democrats of going after an NFL team to distract from more pressing issues and exceed the scope of the committee’s mission.
“A core responsibility of this committee is to carry out executive branch oversight, but throughout this Congress, Democrats have turned a blind eye to the Biden administration,” said Kentucky Republican Rep. James Comer, the member of senior committee rank. “Instead, the Oversight committee is investigating a single private organization for workplace misconduct that occurred years ago.”
Tisha Thompson of ESPN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.