According to a new report from the Washington Post, Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder attempted to silence a witness who had charged him with sexual misconduct in 2009.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has claimed Snyder, who has relinquished day-to-day control of the team to his wife, Tanya, and the team, fined $10 million, have been properly punished in the league’s investigation into workplace misconduct following a bombshell report in the Post in July 2020 that described widespread sexual harassment by team executives.
But the investigation had revealed little new information about Snyder and the Washington Football Team. The biggest news to come out of it so far has been racist, sexist and homophobic language used by former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden that led to his resignation. There has been speculation that Gruden was merely a sacrificial lamb offered up to the public to steer attention away from Snyder and Washington. After Gruden resigned, dozens of former Washington employees urged the NFL to release the full findings of its investigation.
Gruden has filed a lawsuit against the NFL for what he calls a “malicious” campaign to ruin his career.
According to Goodell:
I do think [Snyder’s] been held accountable. More importantly, steps were put in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
That drew the interest of a Congressional committee, which has requested all documents related to the investigation.
The Washington team hired lawyer Beth Wilkinson to conduct a thorough investigation into allegations of a toxic workplace, and Snyder pledged full cooperation. The new report from WaPo paints a different story:
While Snyder publicly expressed shock over allegations raised in The Post story that prompted Wilkinson’s investigation, his lawyers filed petitions in federal court seeking, in part, to identify former employees who had spoken to The Post — an effort one federal judge suggested was intended “to burden and harass” former employees who had spoken to reporters. …
According to these people, the woman’s lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, accused Snyder’s lawyers of offering his client more money beyond the $1.6 million the team paid in 2009, if she agreed not to speak to anyone about her allegations against Snyder and her settlement with the team. In court filings, Wilkinson later described phone calls to Sullivan from Snyder’s lawyers as an attempt to “silence” the 2009 accuser. Wilkinson and Sullivan declined to comment.
According to the Post, Snyder and his team of lawyers attempted to keep Wilkinson from speaking to Snyder’s accuser, whose accusation was kept under wraps for years with a $1.6 million settlement. The woman’s lawyer claimed Snyder attempted to keep her from talking to Wilkinson in a sealed letter. The Post’s story indicates it did not see the letter, but its contents were described by people with knowledge of it.
Former employees and potential witnesses tell the Post that Snyder hired investigators to effectively intimidate them from being involved with the NFL’s investigation.
While Wilkinson did ultimately speak to Snyder’s accuser, the attempts to block her call into question Goodell’s decision to not make public any communications from Snyder and his lawyers:
But among former team employees, it has not escaped notice that the emails spared Snyder any embarrassment while damaging the reputation of one of his perceived enemies: Bruce Allen, the longtime team president Snyder fired in 2019.
As all of this plays out, Snyder — once faced with a crisis that some speculated could cost him team ownership — appears to have emerged with an even stronger hold on the team. But victory for Snyder came at a cost for the NFL’s image, at least in the eyes of many of the women who came forward to participate in its investigation.
“It’s very sad and disheartening that [the NFL is] not willing to do the right thing,” said Rachel Engleson, a former team marketing director.
A second Washington Post story in August 2020 detailed lurid accusations of sexual harassment from 25 employees, including a cheerleader who claimed Snyder asked her to join his friend in hotel room, and an explicit outtakes video showing cheerleaders in the nude that one employee said was made for Snyder. Snyder has denied those accusations.