Who is going to hold Daniel Snyder accountable for his misdeeds?
The fan base for the woeful team he has owned since 1999, now known as the Washington Commanders, which has long been the Animal House of the league?
Before Thursday, Snyder had done all he could to stiff-arm the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which has been investigating his team for nearly a year. Instead of appearing before the committee, he dawdled, defied, and had his legal team pull out all the delaying stops. He declined to attend the June hearing where N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell sat and faced the committee’s grilling.
Then, avoiding subpoena, he sailed off to the sunset, out of the country, far from Congress’s prying reach.
Finally, on Thursday, he relented — but only halfway. Snyder agreed to speak to the committee via video conference from abroad. On his behalf, his legal team did all it could to set the parameters. He decided to talk but not under the restricting power of a subpoena, which would have made it harder to avoid truth-telling. He “volunteered” to answer the questions he was willing to answer.
And, unlike the congressional hearings we’ve seen on TV, this hourslong question-and-answer session was not be televised. Transcripts may be provided at some point, but it’s unknown how much of the hearing they will capture and when they will be released.
Snyder, who possesses a kind of hubris that animates petty dictators, is mocking an investigation into a culture that scarred lives. The cheerleaders Snyder and others on the team are said to have treated with misogynous contempt. The female marketing and events coordinator who told Congress she’d been physically harassed by Snyder. The team employee who, according to the Washington Post, accused Snyder of sexual harassment and assault before reaching a $1.6 million settlement. These examples are just a sampling.
Who, exactly, is running this show? Snyder, that’s who.
Congress finds itself hamstrung by his recalcitrance and its own inability to mold private business affairs. Public shaming seems to be the committee’s only recourse.
The N.F.L. should hold Snyder to account, but Snyder is a member of the billionaire (mostly) boys club that runs the league. That group doesn’t seem overly inclined to punish one of its own. Banishment, forcing Snyder to sell his team, is currently a bridge too far for this privileged, insulated clique.
Investigating Snyder, trying to pin him down and make him accept responsibility for his team’s knuckle-dragging culture and misdeeds, has become a theater of the absurd.
As it engaged in an eight-month inquiry into how the Commanders and the N.F.L. dealt with accusations of widespread sexual harassment of the team’s female employees, the committee beckoned Snyder with a polite invitation. When it became clear he wasn’t going to cooperate without a push, the committee threatened to subpoena Snyder and force him to testify under oath.
Understand the N.F.L.’s Recent Controversies
Deshaun Watson’s suspension. The quarterback, who was accused by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage treatments, was suspended for six games for violating the N.F.L.’s personal conduct policy. Two grand juries in Texas declined to criminally charge Watson, who later reached settlements in all but one of the 24 lawsuits against him. But a Times investigation showed that Watson may have engaged in more questionable behavior than previously known.
But Snyder was nowhere to be found. At least not in the United States.
Snyder’s representatives said he was off doing long-planned business in Europe — and then had gone to Israel to memorialize the first anniversary of his mother’s death. Ah, the old defense: “I’m too busy to accept your congressional subpoena.”
A Twitter account popped up on the internet: The Dan Snyder Tracker followed his floating villa — the Lady S., 305 feet long, replete with IMAX theater and helipad — as it plied foreign seas.
The yacht is in Monaco!
No, it’s off the coast of Elba, Italy!
No, it’s sailing at 13.3 knots and Pisa, Italy!
Was he even on his massive yacht as it floated around the Mediterranean?
Had he taken his private plane to Europe?
What a tricky bit of shenanigans. But how can anyone be surprised? Washington’s owner hardly has a reputation as a stand-up guy swathed in rectitude.
Gallons of ink have been spilled and digital space used to catalog the off-field problems and allegations that have plagued Washington’s football team under Snyder.
Commanders executives, and Snyder himself, have been accused of rampant sexual harassment of female employees, to say nothing of financial impropriety and verbal abuse. The claims span 18 of the 23 years Snyder has owned the team.
In his June testimony before the committee, Goodell — who has ordered a second investigation into the Commanders — said Snyder had already been held accountable after the first. The owner agreed to steer clear of the team’s daily operations for a time and the team paid a record $10 million to the league in penalties.
What a scam.
Snyder got a nice vacation — though it’s unclear if he’ll be back to meddling in the team’s day-to-day affairs now that training camp has begun.
And does Goodell honestly think Snyder, who is said to be worth $4 billion, will sweat over $10 million? To him, $10 million doesn’t amount to so much as a wrist slap. It’s not even a bite from a flea.
Goodell and the N.F.L. seem content with selling the narrative that all is well and good in Washington now. Snyder’s team, after all, has hired a new, diverse, well-respected staff helmed by President Jason Wright and a pro’s pro of a coach, Ron Rivera.
But who writes the checks for the new hires? Snyder. Everyone employed in that operation toils away at his bidding.
Goodell’s narrative carries no water. The congressional committee made public last month that it had found Snyder interfered with the N.F.L.’s investigation through a campaign of witness intimidation. Snyder’s adjutants compiled a dossier of those who shared claims of harassment against the Commanders with the press.
So, we’re all to believe the N.F.L. story line: This is not your father’s Washington football team. Say it enough times, and maybe you’ll be tricked into believing it.
Forcing Snyder to sell would be the one penalty with teeth. But Goodell has quickly reminded us that he couldn’t make such a move alone. “I don’t have the authority,” he told Congress in June.
Who does? The other owners. To remove Snyder, 75 percent of them would have to vote for it. The owners know Snyder would tangle the N.F.L. with lawsuits from here to eternity. You can be sure many don’t want the tables reversed and probing glare put on them and their business practices.
On and on goes the spectacle. Snyder, Animal House president, is still able to make everyone around him respond and react to his whims. Thursday, it was the congressional committee.
Will anyone have the nerve to step up and stop this sordid show?