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House Committee investigation finds NFL owner Dan Snyder led by a ‘culture of fear’

<i>Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports/Reuters</i><br/>Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder handed control of the franchise's daily operations to his wife.
USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports/Reuters
Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder handed control of the franchise's daily operations to his wife.

By David Close and Emma Tucker, CNN

A year-long investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform revealed on Thursday that Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder established a “culture of fear” within the NFL organization and attempted to intimidate witnesses from cooperating with investigators.

The 79-page report found “sexual harassment, bullying, and other toxic conduct” pervaded the workplace for decades. The investigation was announced last October by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, following allegations against Snyder.

At a previous congressional roundtable, former employees and cheerleaders accused Snyder of asking staff to compile lewd video clips of cheerleaders without their knowledge or consent.

An internal investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson last year resulted in the NFL fining the Commanders $10 million and Snyder handing control of the franchise’s daily operations to his wife. But the NFL declined to publicly release its findings, sparking the House Oversight Committee’s review in October.

Snyder has denied the accusations and said last month that he is considering a sale of the team.

The report noted the NFL was aware that Snyder and the Commanders organization “used a variety of tactics to intimidate, surveil, and pay off whistleblowers and to influence and obstruct Ms. Wilkinson’s work.”

The investigation revealed Snyder attempted to intimidate witnesses by sending private investigators to the homes of former employees. The congressional report also states how Snyder told former team president Bruce Allen that Snyder planned to deploy private investigators to follow others, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

CNN has reached out to Snyder for comment.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy issued a statement on Thursday afternoon in response to the report’s findings, saying it did not impede the investigation.

“No individual who wished to speak to the Wilkinson firm was prevented from doing so by non-disclosure agreements,” the statement reads. “And many of the more than 150 witnesses who participated in the Wilkinson investigation did so on the condition that their identities would be kept confidential. Far from impeding the investigation, the common interest agreement enabled the NFL efficiently to assume oversight of the matter and avoided the potential for substantial delay and inconvenience to witnesses.”

The NFL said it has cooperated “extensively” with the committee’s investigation and is committed to “ensuring that all employees of the NFL and the 32 clubs work in a professional and supportive environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, or other forms of illegal or unprofessional conduct.”

In October, Snyder denied allegations he hired private investigators to look into his NFL counterparts, as well as Goodell.

On Thursday, lawyers for the Commanders said congressional investigators “were not interested in the truth” in their investigation of Snyder and “no new revelations” were revealed in Thursday’s report.

As for the NFL, the congressional inquiry concluded the league was complicit in Snyder’s behavior by aligning “its legal interests with Mr. Snyder’s.” The league “failed to curtail his abusive tactics, and buried the investigation’s findings,” the committee said.

“Today’s report reflects the damning findings of the Committee’s year-long investigation and shows how one of the most powerful organizations in America, the NFL, mishandled pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct at the Washington Commanders,” Maloney said in a statement.

“Our report tells the story of a team rife with sexual harassment and misconduct, a billionaire owner intent on deflecting blame, and an influential organization that chose to cover this up rather than seek accountability and stand up for employees,” the statement continued. “To powerful industries across the country, this report should serve as a wake-up call that the time of covering up misconduct to protect powerful executives is over.”

In its conclusion, the committee has called for Congress to introduce reforms that would “strengthen oversight of toxic workplaces in the NFL and other professional sports leagues.”

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