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Roger Goodell Defends Commanders Investigation, but Not Snyder

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N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell stood by the league’s investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct on the Washington Commanders organization at a congressional hearing on Wednesday, despite being challenged by House members concerning the N.F.L.’s decision to not compel a written report of the findings or to come back down more harshly on the Commanders’ owner, Daniel Snyder.

Hours after the House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a memo that said Snyder had interfered within the investigation, Goodell testified that he believed Snyder had been held accountable through the league’s assessment of a $10 million high quality on the team and having Snyder step away from the team’s day-to-day operations for the past yr.

While Goodell lauded the Commanders for transforming their organization’s culture within the wake of the investigation, including an overhaul of their human-resources practices, he also said he had not seen one other workplace within the N.F.L. “anywhere near” what former employees alleged they experienced with the Commanders over a period that ran from 2006 through 2019.

Snyder didn’t appear at Wednesday’s hearing. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of Recent York and the chairwoman of the committee, said she would subpoena Snyder to look for a deposition next week.

Goodell testified under oath for greater than two hours in front of the committee, which conducted an eight-month inquiry into how the Commanders and the N.F.L. handled claims of rampant sexual harassment of the team’s female employees. In a memo released on Wednesday morning, Maloney detailed the committee’s findings, including that Snyder sought to interfere with the league’s investigation of his organization by directing intimidation of witnesses and launching a “shadow investigation” that yielded a 100-page dossier on those that had shared claims of harassment against the Commanders.

Goodell said the league would find unacceptable and “not permit” any motion that might discourage individuals with knowledge of violations from coming forward. He added that, in August 2020, because the N.F.L. took over the investigation which had begun under the Commanders’ oversight, the league told the team to not conduct its own investigation.

Throughout his testimony, Goodell reiterated his defense of the league’s approach, even within the face of Congress members’ questions that burrowed into the N.F.L.’s handling of great claims of workplace violations, particularly his decision to maintain the investigation’s findings confidential.

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, pushed back on Goodell’s assertion that a written report couldn’t be prepared and released for this investigation out of concern for the confidentiality of among the people interviewed. Raskin referred to the N.F.L.’s 148-page report released in 2014 regarding the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal wherein names and identifying information of participating witnesses were redacted, and asked the commissioner why the identical was not done with the league’s report led by the lawyer Beth Wilkinson.

“Redaction doesn’t at all times work in my world,” Goodell said.

Later, Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, read from a September 2020 engagement letter wherein the N.F.L. appeared to commit to Wilkinson producing a written report of the investigation’s findings. Goodell said the league decided a month later that the report can be delivered only orally, an approach that has been criticized by most of the people interviewed for the league-run investigation.

Goodell didn’t exit of his technique to defend Snyder, who declined two requests to look at Wednesday’s hearing, citing a longstanding “Commanders-related business conflict.” The commissioner asserted that, because the team owner, Snyder is answerable for his club’s workplace environment and said he didn’t imagine Snyder contemporaneously told the league office that a team worker had accused Snyder of sexually harassing and assaulting her in 2009 before reaching a $1.6 million confidential settlement, as reported by the Washington Post.

Understand the N.F.L.’s Recent Controversies

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A demoralizing culture for girls. After the 2014 Ray Rice scandal, the N.F.L. stepped up its efforts to rent and promote women. But greater than 30 former staff members interviewed by The Times described a stifling corporate culture that has left many ladies feeling brushed aside. Six attorneys general warned the league that it could face an investigation if it doesn’t address the issue.

At one point, when Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, pressed Goodell on if he would remove Snyder as a team owner, he at first demurred but then replied when she repeated her query: “I don’t have the authority to remove him,” Goodell said.

While Goodell can’t unilaterally remove Snyder, he could recommend that the remainder of the league’s owners achieve this. Such a measure would require a vote by at the very least 24 of the league’s 32 member clubs, and it is predicted that Snyder would vigorously fight against any such effort.

But two high-ranking officials at other teams said that Snyder’s fellow owners and other top executives had grown impatient with answering a relentless barrage of unflattering news concerning the Commanders. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the problems are still being investigated. One in all the team officials said the N.F.L. team owners planned to debate the second league inquiry — which is looking right into a recent allegation of sexual harassment against Snyder in addition to claims of economic malfeasance by the organization — once it’s accomplished.

Several Republican members of Congress disagreed with the committee’s decision to give attention to the workplace culture of an N.F.L. team. Maloney replied that a driving purpose in holding the hearing was to strengthen workplace protections for all employees and proposed two recent pieces of laws, one which might prohibit the usage of nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs, to hide workplace misconduct and require employers conducting investigations to share the consequence with victims.

Goodell said the N.F.L. would work with lawmakers on such laws, though the league has not instructed teams not to make use of such agreements, but slightly has said that NDAs can’t be used to forestall employees from participating in a league investigation.

Ken Belson contributed reporting.

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