The Ongoing Sexual Assault / Harassment Investigation
into Daniel Snyder and the Washington Commanders
Snyder, Owner of the Washington Commanders
Photo from CNN Sports, 2021
TW: This article mentions details of sexual assault and harassment that some readers may find disturbing. Resources can be found at the bottom of the story.
The NFL Investigates the Washington Football Team
The Washington Commanders have long been accused of sexual misconduct and inequity in the workplace. As of July 2022, at least 50 former employees have come forward to make claims against at least 11 members or former members of the collective. Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Commanders, has multiple sexual assault and harassment claims against him that span over the past three decades.
On July 16, 2020, the Washington Post published a piece in which 17 women, 15 of which had been Washington employees, shared they had been sexually assaulted or harassed by members of the team. Prior to this the team has had several well reported scandals that have taken place with a variety of different staff members. Upon its release the team hired D.C. attorney, Beth Wilkinson. Their statement said Walsh was hired “to conduct a thorough independent review of this entire matter and help the team set up new employee standards for the future.”
On August 31 however the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told Snyder that the NFL would be taking over the investigation. Wilkinson was now to report to Goodell. This shift in power wouldn’t stop Wilkinson from investigating. After her 10-month investigation Wilkinson claimed the Commanders had a “highly unprofessional” workplace sighting examples of persistent sexual harassment, bullying, and intimidation. Upon releasing her findings to Goodell, the NFL fined the Washington Football Team $10 million.
Congress Investigates the Washington Football Team
The NFL refused to release all of Wilkinson’s findings. Many members of the team were outraged by this withholding of information. Emily Applegate, a former marketing coordinator for the team, said “the NFL is showing us their complete lack of respect for women, for their employees, and for the culture of our country.”
On October 16, 2021, The House Committee on Oversight and Reform stepped in, calling on commissioner Roger Goodell to submit the findings of the Beth Wilkinson investigation to Congress no later than November 4. Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N. Y.) and Raja Kirshnamoorthi (D-I11) wrote, “The NFL’s lack of transparency about the problems its recently uncovered raise questions about the seriousness which it has addressed bigotry, racism, sexism, and homophobia – setting troubling precedent for other workplaces.” The ongoing investigation has led to further findings including intentionally mishandling finances.
Sexual Assault & Harassment Claims Against Daniel Snyder
Dan Snyder was first accused of sexual assault in 2009. Claims against him continued to amass. In December of 2020 Snyder paid off the former employee who had accused him for $1.6 million dollars in agreement that she won’t speak to the press. Throughout the past 15 years of allegations Snyder has adamantly denied any involvement calling the claims an “extortion campaign” in public statements.
On February 2, 2022, Dan Snyder was publicly accused of sexual harassment and assault by former Washington Football cheerleader and marketing manager Tiffani Johnston. Johnston claimed at a Congressional oversight committee hearing that Snyder assaulted her at a work dinner in 2005 or 2006.
Johnston claims Snyder put his hand on her thigh throughout the dinner until she would move it away. At the end of the night Johnston claims Snyder put his arm around her and directed her towards his limo. She said Snyder was aggressively pushing her the vehicle. According to Johnston, it wasn’t until Snyder’s lawyer said “Dan, Dan, this is a bad idea. A very bad idea” that Snyder relented.
Melanie Colburn, another former cheerleader, also came forward alleging Snyder would fire people “because they weren’t the prettiest, in his opinion.” Colburn along with another anonymous women shared that Snyder had asked the team’s video department to create a sexually suggestive compellation video of cheerleaders exposing their private areas. This video was created and distributed around the office.
Snyder’s Shadow Investigations
On June 22, 2022, The House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a report having found that Snyder and his legal team conducted a “shadow investigation” during Wilkinson's initial investigation for the NFL. It was found that they had created documents in hopes to discredit accusers, reporters, and others.
It was found that Snyder sent private investigators to accusers' homes to offer them hush money. Snyder worked to intimidate those around him to avoid punishment and keep his position with the team. He was trying to pass the blame to the team's former president, Bruce Allen.
Sexual misconduct in the NFL is not limited to Snyder & other Commanders staff. On numerous occasions the NFL has ignored accusations against all levels of team members of sexual harassment and assault. This stonewalling of information is becoming increasingly evident. “Are you seriously telling me that you can issue a 200-page report on possibly deflated footballs in 2015, with the New England Patriots and a zero-page report when it comes to an owner, and his team, and his franchise being charged with some of the most heinous crimes of the Goodell commissionership? That says it all to me,” said Peter King, a host on NBC Sports Pro Football talk.
Sexual assault is a crime. Under the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment commission, it is unlawful to harass a person. Yet there are many players and staff members in the NFL with many claims against them.
As the investigation into the Washington Commanders and Snyder continues the actions the league takes will set major precedents for cases to come.
The NFL is an important part of people's lives & American history to many. Numerous fans wear their favorite players' jerseys, enjoying them and their lifestyles. The example the NFL is setting by keeping these individuals involved in the league shows fans that most of those types of actions do not hold major consequences (beyond fines and suspensions).
If you or someone you love has been affected by sexual assault, there are resources available.
For the National Sexual Assault Hotline call (1-800-656-4673) and visit rainn.org for 24/7 online chatting and alternate resources.