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
A contentious partnership. The Dallas Cowboys faced criticism after announcing a new partnership with Black Rifle Coffee, the veteran-owned brand popular with conservatives and gun owners that sells roasts with names like “AK Espresso,” “Murdered Out” and “Silencer Smooth.” The announcement drew criticism in part for its timing, a day after a deadly mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill.
Paying a small price. A peer-reviewed study lookig at whether arrests for accusations of violence against women hurt N.F.L. players’ careers found that such arrests have “negligible” consequences for players as a group, based on a statistical analysis of career outcomes.
Washington Commanders investigations. As the N.F.L. was investigating his team for widespread sexual harassment, the Commanders owner Daniel Snyder directed a “shadow investigation” to interfere with and undermine its findings, a Congressional committee found. Meanwhile, the league started a second inquiry into the Commanders earlier this year, in response to a new allegation of sexual harassment that directly implicates Snyder.
Deshaun Watson’s troubling behavior. After several women said the quarterback had harassed or assaulted them during massage appointments, two grand juries in Texas declined to criminally charge the football star, who later reached settlements in 20 of the 24 cases against him. But a Times investigation showed that Watson may have engaged in more questionable behavior than previously known.
Jon Gruden’s lawsuit. In 2021, Gruden stepped down as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after The Times reported on emails in which he made homophobic, misogynistic and racist remarks. He later filed a lawsuit against the league, claiming that it had intentionally leaked the emails and sought to destroy his career. In May 2022, a judge denied the league’s motions to dismiss the suit and to compel a closed-door arbitration.
Racial descrimination lawsuit. The former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who is Black and Hispanic, sued the N.F.L. and its 32 teams for racial descrimination in their hiring practices. Mr. Flores was later hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a defensive assistant coach. Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, two Black former coaches, have joined the ongoing lawsuit.
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 olddefense: “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 $40 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 awayat 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?