Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder “permitted and participated in” a troubling toxic workplace culture for decades, and the National Football League failed to protect workers from sexual misconduct, US lawmakers declared Thursday.
The findings were outlined in a 79-page report released by the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform.
“The NFL’s handling of toxic workplace conduct shows the need for increased oversight and legislative reforms to protect workers,” the report said.
A 12-month probe was launched last year after the NFL refused to release the results of an internal investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson, who found bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct by executives of the team, formerly known as the Redskins.
“Commanders’ leadership perpetuated a toxic workplace culture by ignoring and downplaying sexual misconduct by senior male employees,” the report said.
“Dozens of employees at the Commanders were harmed by a toxic work culture for more than two decades. The team’s owner permitted and participated in this troubling conduct.”
The report said workplace misconduct was “rampant” under Snyder’s ownership.
He intimidated witnesses, blocked the production of more than 40,000 requested documents and obstructed the Congressional inquiry, it said.
“Rather than seek real accountability, the NFL aligned its legal interests with Mr. Snyder’s, failed to curtail his abusive tactics and buried the investigation’s findings,” the report said.
Snyder refused to appear at a public hearing but ultimately agreed to a private deposition during which he claimed more than 100 times that he could not recall answers, even to basic details about his role as owner.
The report said the NFL refused to reveal the full scope of the findings of the prior probe — which resulted in a $10 million fine and Snyder retreating from day-to-day team operations — and did not hold Snyder accountable for his actions.
“The NFL was aware of serious interference with the Wilkinson investigation but failed to take action to stop it,” the report said.
“The committee’s investigation shows that the NFL has not protected workers from sexual harassment and abuse, has failed to ensure victims can speak out without fear of retaliation and has not sought true accountability for those responsible, even after decades of misconduct.
“Congress should act swiftly to address these deficiencies and protect workers across the United States.”
Bills under consideration
There are two bills before the House of Representatives to better protect workers as a result of the Commanders investigation.
One would ban any agreements as a condition of employment that would limit a person’s ability to disclose workplace harassment, discrimination or retaliation.
The other would require employers to obtain consent from employees before using their images.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell supported both measures when he spoke with the committee.
The Congressional report concluded by saying US lawmakers should consider other reforms, including demonstrated compliance with state and federal employment laws as a condition to keep federal antitrust exemptions and tax-exempt municipal bonds used to finance stadium construction and renovation.
‘Professional and supportive’
“The NFL 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,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement.
“The NFL and the 32 clubs have implemented substantial and effective programs to advance this commitment at all of our facilities.”
McCarthy said workplace reviews have shown significant improvement with the Commanders in workplace culture issues.
Commanders attorneys John Brownlee and Stuart Nash said in a statement that Congressional investigators “were not interested in the truth” and that the report was “the predictable culmination of that one-sided approach.”
The attorneys declared the committee “is far more interested in blaming Mr. Snyder than actually investigating the underlying allegations” and added “the team is proud of the progress it has made in recent years in establishing a welcoming and inclusive workplace.”
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