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Congress announced Wednesday it will subpoena Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, but that wasn't the only buzzy moment from the House committee hearing investigating Snyder and his team's workplace culture.
While Snyder himself declined an invitation to appear before Congress, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did testify, albeit virtually. Committee members asked Goodell a broad range of questions during the hearing, oscillating from issues both related and unrelated to the investigation into the Commanders.
In his opening statement, Goodell acknowledged that "the workplace in Washington was unprofessional and unacceptable in numerous respects ..." and had a "woefully deficient HR function, particularly with respect to reporting practices and recordkeeping."
Goodell's testimony included a lot of back-and-forth posturing by members of the committee as well as the commissioner, but here are the biggest takeaways as well as the responses by various interested parties.
Goodell won't remove Snyder as owner
When asked by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) if Goodell would remove Snyder as the owner of Commanders, the NFL commissioner said "I don't have the authority to remove him."
This is true, but Goodell does have the power to refer any matter relating to an owner who "has been or is guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the league or professional football" to the league's Executive Committee, who in turn could vote on the removal of an owner, per the NFL's constitution and bylaws.
Questions about the NFL's investigation
The committee hammered Goodell with questions related to the league's internal investigation as well as the reporting of 2009 sexual harassment allegations against Snyder.
Goodell repeatedly claimed the NFL didn't publish a full report because of concerns over the confidentiality of names, but Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) asked why the league did publish a 2014 report on workplace harassment within the Miami Dolphins as well as a 243-page report on the Deflategate scandal within the New England Patriots in 2015.
Goodell's response: "Congressman, with all due respect, redaction doesn't always work in my world."
(This is perhaps a reference to the committee's determination that Snyder conducted a "shadow investigation" into his accusers that sought to discredit their allegations against him and the team).
The commissioner also said he didn't recall the league being informed in 2009 of allegations of sexual assault against Snyder but that he did know about the allegations by July 2020 – a month before the league took over the investigation into the Commanders. Snyder reportedly paid his accusers $1.6 million to settle those claims.
Why did Goodell testify?
One of the more interesting questions unrelated to the Commanders investigation was posed by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). He asked Goodell if he only agreed to testify because of the NFL's exemption from antitrust laws that gives the league special privileges with television networks. The Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 allowed the NFL to sell packages to networks that the league shares equally among its teams.
"You [appeared today] because you understand Congress has granted the NFL an exemption from antitrust laws which enables NFL teams to collaborate on TV contracts, and the NFL does not want Congress to tamper with that antitrust exemption, am I correct?" Johnson asked.
Goodell denied that assertion by Johnson.
The hearing became heated at different times during the questioning period when members of the committee raised concerns about the use of government time. Some members mentioned other issues which they believed to be more important for the country than the current topic of discussion.
Others asked football-related questions that had nothing to do with the Commanders investigation.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) asked Goodell about two seemingly random topics — Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy and Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
Claiming a First Amendment rights issue, Jordan asked Goodell why Portnoy is banned from NFL games. Goodell said he was "not familiar with that issue." Jordan followed up by asking if Goodell agreed with Commanders head coach Ron Rivera's decision to fine Del Rio $100,000 for Del Rio's statements about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Goodell responded that he didn't believe he should be in a position to agree or disagree with Rivera's decision.
Rep. Pat Fallon (R-MA) recounted the Deflategate scandal that led to a four-game suspension of then-New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and asked Goodell how the league can guarantee the consistency of the PSI levels in footballs.
Goodell simply answered that the officials check the footballs before the game.
Other members of the committee asked Goodell about his opinions on racism in America and in the NFL.
Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT), who played 10 years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the then-Oakland Raiders in 1980, asked Goodell about the league's "race norming" standard which led to denied insurance claims for Black athletes, especially with regards to dementia related to football-related concussions. The league disavowed the practice in 2021 and it led to a $1 billion settlement last October.
Goodell stated those standards weren't required by doctors and that the NFL adopted new standards.
In perhaps the weirdest line of football-adjacent questioning, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) asked Goodell if he would "use his mouthpiece" to dispel the "myth of systemic racism in policing." This came after Grothman condemned Goodell for embracing "left, woke anti-American propaganda."
Goodell responded by saying he would not "apologize for fighting against racism.”
Response from Snyder, ex-Commanders employees and Jon Gruden
A lot of other people had things to say after Goodell's testimony.
The Commanders sent an email out soon after the hearing detailing the changes within the team's workplace culture, some of which were a direct result of the NFL's investigation into the Commanders. That included a reminder that Snyder hired the only Latino coach in the NFL (Ron Rivera and the first Black team president (Jason Wright), and the appointment of Snyder's wife, Tanya, to co-CEO (which was mandated as part of the NFL investigation in 2021).
The attorneys for more than 40 former Washington Commanders employees issued a statement, via Washington Post reporter Nicki Jhabvala:
"Today it was stunning and disheartening to listen to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell insist that Dan Snyder and the Washington Commanders have been held fully accountable for the team's two-decades long sexual harassment of female employees," attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz said in the statement. "This, of course, is not true. Today the Committee released a damning report demonstrating that Snyder and his lawyers also surveilled and investigated complainants, their lawyers, witnesses and journalists, which Goodell knew about and did nothing to address.
"In his inexplicable and apparently unending desire to protect Dan Snyder, Goodell continues his refusal to release the findings by Beth Wilkinson citing reasons that do not withstand even minimal scrutiny. Confidentiality can be protected in a written report by redacting the names of witnesses, which is common practice, including by the NFL.
"The NFL issued a written report and protected promised confidentiality in 2014 when it investigated sexual harassment in the Miami Dolphins organization. And most recently, the NFL has directed Mary Jo White to interview numerous witnesses, promise them confidentiality, and produce a written report that honors that promise. It was made clear at today's hearing that the NFL could have done the same with the Wilkinson investigation, except for the continued reluctance of Mr. Goodell to expose the full extent of the wrongdoing by Dan Snyder and the Washington Commanders.
"To be clear, our clients want and deserve a full accounting of Beth Wilkinson's findings. Until he agrees to release such findings, Mr. Goodell's purported concern for the employees who suffered through 20 years of harassment and abuse is a sham."
In a separate statement, the attorneys for former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden released a statement condemning Goodell and the NFL. Gruden is suing the league over leaked racist, homophobic and misogynistic emails between Gruden and former Washington executive Bruce Allen which led to Gruden's decision to step down as the Raiders coach in 2021.
"It was apparent from Commissioner Goodell's testimony today that the NFL is still resisting actual accountability and is only willing to be selectively transparent. In the Jon Gruden lawsuit, the Nevada court comprehensively rejected the NFL and Commissioner Goodell's attempt to compel arbitration and conceal their conduct from the public," the attorneys said in the statement. "If they do appeal, we welcome the opportunity for the Nevada Supreme Court to issue a published opinion confirming the rulings and invalidating the NFL Constitution and the unfair arbitration provisions that the NFL has hidden behind for so long.
"Jon Gruden's fight matters to many more people than just himself and real accountability won't exist until the NFL's misconduct stops being addressed behind closed doors."