A year later, the NFL’s ‘punishment’ of Daniel Snyder remains a joke, while the ongoing problem is very real
It has been one year and four days since the NFL announced the outcome of the Wilkinson investigation into the cesspool that is the Washington Commanders workplace.
In a signature show of hubris, the league sent out the news on the eve of Fourth of July weekend, as if the 24-hour news cycle and smartphones hadn’t existed for well over a decade, and anyone with even a passing interest in the league would have no idea what happened because they were too consumed with buying more hamburger buns and oohing and aahing and fireworks.
The “discipline,” such as it was, was a joke.
The coverup, however: That still seems to be very real.
Because one year and four days since the NFL owner class and its obscenely compensated lackey, Roger Goodell, refused to offer any meaningful specifics about what that presumably expensive investigation found, and months after Goodell used the laughable excuse of some victims preferring anonymity as the reason why their findings were not made public – as if using Jane Doe or other pseudonyms wasn’t an option – we’ve learned that Washington’s Dan Snyder reportedly was deeply involved in what was happening in his offices.
It was easy to make that assumption, particularly since there are 20 years of stories painting Snyder as a micromanager at best and a megalomaniacal bully at worst, and Snyder’s frequent declarations that any allegation against him was a “blatant lie” always gave the whiff of him protesting too much.
But the drip-drip of information that’s come out over the past 369 days have basically suggested that Snyder wasn’t turning a blind eye; he was the ringleader.
The latest came a couple of days ago, via another Washington Post story, this one detailing findings among the documents released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which began its own investigation into Snyder’s team workplace last fall.
Via the Post, Snyder was an active participant in the toxicity and underlings followed, the slime running downhill from the top. The team’s former chief operating officer, Dave Pauken, testified that Snyder repeatedly suggested Pauken “must be gay” because, according to Snyder, the women on the cheerleading squad were ugly. The squad was under Pauken’s purview.
Pauken also testified that when he suggested that the choreography for cheerleaders be less suggestive and their costumes less risqué, Snyder would mock him in front of colleagues, and Pauken revealed that Snyder insisted women be fired for taking part in consensual, inter-office relationships while the men involved in those relationships were never penalized.
Pauken and others have said that in their experience, Snyder’s claim that he was “hands off” around the office could not have been further from the truth.
Another former COO, Brian Lafemina, testified that when a woman made a credible allegation of misconduct against then play-by-play voice Larry Michael in 2018, Snyder brushed it off because he was fond of Michael.
One woman, who had worked in team offices and had been a cheerleader, said after she came forward with her story, someone tied to the team hired a private investigator to show up at her front door to ask her questions. That woman said she knew of at least a handful of others who had experienced the same situation of a PI accosting them at their homes.
Remember, Washington paid a $ 1.6 million settlement to one female former employee in 2009 to settle a sexual misconduct allegation against Snyder, and Tiffani Johnston, another former employee, told Committee members earlier this year that she had been the victim of unwanted physical contact from Snyder .
The only reason we know much of this is because members of the US House of Representatives had to get involved.
When the NFL oversaw an investigation, it was either so indifferent to the harmful environment in Washington’s workplace or so bent on protecting Snyder that it demanded independent counsel Beth Wilkinson not produce a written report.
We’re going to repeat that, because that level of opacity will never fail to be stupefying: They demanded Wilkinson not produce a written report.
Goodell appeared before the House Oversight Committee last month, but to this point Snyder is refusing to comply with the subpoena.
Because nothing screams “I’m innocent” like rebuffing a Congressional subpoena and refusing to even meet with the committee remotely.
Which all leads us back to the same questions we’ve had for the last year and four days: Why are Goodell and the NFL owner class protecting Snyder so fiercely? Are they OK with what he’s been accused of doing? Are some of them worried about the same type of stories coming out about their own behavior and that’s why they continue to let this steady stream of bad news go unnoticed? Is this kind of rank toxicity commonplace in NFL workplaces?
Do they really think they can’t find another obnoxious billionaire to buy the Commanders, someone who is apparently less menacing toward women and doesn’t revel in belittling employees with bigoted taunts?
And the question that never goes away: If this behavior continues, will the NFL finally stop repeating the lie that it cares about the health and well-being of women?
The headlines around this scandal haven’t stopped, and there’s no indication they will anytime soon. Snyder is in hiding, and his fellow owners have shown no inclination to force him into the light or force him out of their club.
If the last 369 days have shown us anything, it’s that Dan Snyder was not innocent.
But the NFL is happy to protect him.