Daniel Snyder declines congressional request to appear at hearing

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Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder informed the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that he will not appear at a hearing next week on the team’s workplace issues, as requested.

Snyder responded to the committee’s request in a four-page letter from his attorney dated Wednesday. That came after more than a week of deliberations beyond the deadline set by the committee for Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to respond.

the hearing is scheduled for June 22 at 10 am on Capitol Hill.

“[G]iven the Committee’s refusal to accommodate my request to delay the hearing and its unwillingness to recognize Mr. Snyder’s interests in a manner consistent with fundamental fairness and due process, Mr. Snyder is unable to attend the hearing that the Committee has scheduled for June 22, 2022,” attorney Karen Patton Seymour wrote in the letter.

“Mr. Snyder, together with Mrs. Snyder and the Team, remain fully willing to cooperate with the Committee in all other respects, including by continuing to discuss the reasonable requests regarding his potential appearance, and by providing information to the Committee about the remarkable changes undertaken by the Commanders to improve and enhance the experience of all Commanders’ employees.”

It remains unclear whether Goodell has responded to the committee’s request. Multiple people familiar with the situation have said they expect Goodell to testify.

“The Committee intends to move forward with this hearing,” a committee spokesperson said. “We are currently reviewing Mr. Snyder’s letter and will respond.”

The NFL did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, attorneys who represent more than 40 former team employees, called for the committee to issue a subpoena to compel Snyder’s testimony.

“We, along with our clients, are disappointed but not surprised that Dan Snyder does not have the courage to appear voluntarily,” Banks and Katz said in a statement. “We fully expect the Committee will issue a subpoena to compel Mr. Snyder to appear. It is time that Mr. Snyder learns that he is not above the law.”

Wednesday’s letter from Snyder’s attorney was addressed to Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.), the committee’s chairwoman, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), the chairman of the subcommittee on economic and consumer policy.

In the letter, Snyder’s attorney wrote that “although the Committee indicated that the hearing would be ‘focused on’ the historical workplace culture issues, I was informed that the Committee would not provide any assurance that the questions directed to Mr. Snyder would be limited to those issues, given the wide latitude granted to members to ask questions beyond the topics identified by the Committee.”

Seymour cited a “long-standing Commanders-related business conflict” for Snyder and his plans to be out of the country on the June 22 hearing date; and concerns about issues of “fundamental notions of fairness and due process,” given the committee’s refusal to accommodate requests for further information and documents that Snyder’s lawyer enumerated in a June 6 letter to the committee’s lawyer and discussed in a follow-up conversation the next day.

The letter references the information that Snyder’s lawyer had requested in weighing whether he would take part in the hearing. It includes the materials and matters that he would be expected to address; assurance that the questions would be limited to “the historical workplace culture issues” within the team; the “the identity of any other witnesses that have testified about the team and/or [Snyder]whether any such witnesses have made allegations about the team and/or [Snyder], and the substance of any such allegations”; and copies of documents that members of the Committee intend to question Snyder about, which Seymour wrote is “a courtesy that I understand is often extended to witnesses at congressional hearings.”

Seymour wrote, “It goes against fundamental notions of fairness and due process to decline to provide such basic information that would enable a witness to defend himself or even respond fully during a public hearing, particularly in light of pending investigations addressing similar allegations.”

Seymour also wrote that the committee “would not consider my offer to propose another knowledgeable witness” to attend next week’s hearing on the team’s behalf.

The committee made its requests to Snyder and Goodell in separate letters sent June 1 from Maloney and Krishnamoorthi. In those letters, the committee asked for responses by June 6.

A committee spokesperson said last week that the committee was “in communication” with the NFL and the Commanders.

Daniel Snyder, Roger Goodell requested to appear at congressional hearing

The committee’s June 1 letters said the hearing “will address the Washington Commanders’ toxic workplace culture and the National Football League’s (NFL) handling of that matter. It will also examine the NFL’s role in setting and enforcing standards across the League, which serves as a leading example to other American workplaces.”

The committee’s investigation also uncovered allegations of financial improprieties involving the team and Snyder.

Republicans on the committee have criticized the Democrats’ examination of the team’s workplace as a misuse of the committee’s time and resources amid more pressing national concerns. The Democrats have responded that the issues being examined in this case apply to other workplaces.

“The hearing will help inform legislative efforts to strengthen protections for employees across all workplaces, including legislative efforts to prevent and address toxic work environments and workplace investigation processes; strengthen protections for women in the workplace; and address the use of nondisclosure agreements to prevent the disclosure of unlawful employment practices, including sexual harassment,” Maloney and Krishnamoorthi wrote in the letters to Goodell and Snyder.

Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team, told the committee during a Feb. 3 congressional roundtable that Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, putting his hand on her thigh and pressing her toward his limo. She was among six former employees who appeared at the roundtable to speak about their experiences working for the team.

Snyder called the accusations made directly against him “outright lies.”

The NFL is conducting its second investigation of the team. This review is being led by attorney Mary Jo White, a former US attorney for the Southern District of New York and the former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The NFL has said it will make the findings of White’s public investigation.

Following an earlier investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson of sexual harassment allegations within the organization, the NFL announced in July 2021 that the team had been fined $10 million and that Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, would assume responsibility for overseeing the franchise’s daily operations for an unspecified period.

Several owners said at last month’s quarterly league meeting that, if the latest allegations are substantiated by White’s investigation, they would support a meaningful penalty for Snyder imposed by the NFL, perhaps a significant suspension. Multiple owners said they were not aware of any efforts to ascertain the level of support to remove Snyder from ownership of his team. Such a move would require 24 votes among the 32 NFL teams.

Some NFL owners support ‘tough suspension,’ wary of forcing out Snyder

the allegations of financial improprieties were detailed in a 20-page letter sent in April by the committee to the Federal Trade Commission. That letter detailed allegations made by Jason Friedman, a former vice president of sales and customer service who worked for the team for 24 years. According to the letter, Friedman accused the team of withholding as much as $5 million in refundable deposits from season ticket holders and also hiding money that was supposed to be shared among NFL owners.

Commanders denied committing any financial improprieties. An attorney for the team wrote in a letter to the FTC that the allegations were “baseless” and asserted that “no investigation is warranted.”

The FTC has not commented on its response to the committee’s request for an investigation beyond acknowledging the receipt of the committee’s letter.

The offices of attorneys general Jason S. Miyares (R) of Virginia and Karl A. Racine (D) of the District of Columbia have announced they are conducting their own investigations.

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