Roger Goodell claims he does not have the authority to remove Daniel Snyder as owner of the Washington Commanders

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he does not have the authority to remove Daniel Snyder as owner of the Washington Commanders amid the ongoing scrutiny of the organization’s workplace culture and allegations by employees of pervasive sexual harassment from part of the team executives.

Goodell testified Wednesday before members of Congress at a hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. At some point near the end of more than two hours of testimony, Goodell was questioned by Rep Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), who asked if Goodell and the league are “willing to do more” to punish Snyder.

After initially asking if he would recommend removing Snyder as the owner of the commanders, Tlaib went on to ask Goodell, “Will you remove him?”

“I don’t have the authority to remove him, Congressman,” Goodell replied.

An NFL owner can only be removed by a three-quarter majority vote (thus, 24 out of 32) of the other owners, although Goodell has the option to officially recommend such a vote.

Snyder was invited to testify but refused, citing overseas business commitments and concerns about due process. Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) announced at the hearing that she intends to issue a summons to force him to testify.

“The NFL is unwilling or unable to hold Mr. Snyder accountable,” Maloney said. “That is why I am now announcing my intention to issue a subpoena for Mr. Snyder for a deposition next week. The committee will not be discouraged in its investigation of Washington commanders.”

Goodell told the committee that the team’s culture changed following an investigation led by attorney Beth Wilkinson and that Snyder “has been held accountable.”

After Wilkinson presented his findings to Goodell last year, the NFL fined the team $ 10 million last year and Snyder stepped away from his day-to-day operations. However, the league did not release a written report on Wilkinson’s findings, a decision Goodell said was intended to protect the privacy of former employees who spoke to investigators.

Following Wednesday’s hearing, commanders sent a letter to team employees – a copy of which was obtained from ESPN – which read in part: “We believe that the statements that have been made in the media are critical of our organization. do not accurately reflect our positive transformation and the current reality of the Washington Commanders organization that exists today. “

The committee released the results of its investigation eight months before the hearing began on Wednesday, accusing Snyder of conducting its own “shadow investigation” which sought to discredit former employees, hiring private investigators to intimidate witnesses and using a lawsuit abroad as a pretext to obtain telephone records and e-mails.

The 29-page memo claims that Snyder sought to discredit people accusing him and other team executives of misconduct and also sought to influence a team investigation conducted for the NFL by Wilkinson’s company.

Snyder’s attorneys presented the NFL with a 100-slide PowerPoint presentation that included “private text messages, emails, phone logs and call transcripts and social media posts from nearly 50 people whom Mr. Snyder apparently believed were involved in. a conspiracy to denigrate him. ” the committee said.

When asked about the alleged “shadow” investigation, Goodell said: “Any action that would discourage people from coming forward would be inappropriate.”

In a statement, a spokesman for Snyder called the report and the hearing a “politically accused sham trial” and said Congress should not investigate “a problem faced by a football team years ago.”

Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, representing more than 40 former employees of the team, have again invited Goodell to publish a report from the Wilkinson investigation, calling it “shocking and disheartening” to hear that Snyder has been held accountable.

“Today, the committee released an overwhelming report showing that Snyder and his attorneys also monitored and investigated the complainants, their attorneys, witnesses and reporters, which Goodell knew about and did nothing to address,” Banks said. and Katz in a statement.

Maloney has introduced legislation to restrict the use of nondisclosure agreements in the workplace and to offer protection to employees whose professional images are used inappropriately. Among the allegations against the commanders are that squad employees produced an obscene footage from a photo shoot involving the cheerleading squad.

Republicans on the committee accused the Democrats of chasing an NFL team to distract from more pressing matters and exceed the reach of the committee’s mission.

“A key responsibility of this committee is to lead the oversight of the executive branch, but the entire Congress, Democrats have turned a blind eye to the Biden administration,” said James Comer, Kentucky GOP representative, ranking member of the committee. . “Instead, the oversight committee is investigating a single private organization for workplace misconduct that occurred years ago.”

ESPN’s Tisha Thompson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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