WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Commanders created a “toxic work culture” for more than two decades, “ignoring and downplaying sexual misconduct” by men at the top levels of the organization, according to a report published Thursday by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Commanders owner Dan Snyder was involved in the misconduct, according to the report, which said he inappropriately touched a former employee at a dinner, had staffers produce a video “of sexually suggestive footage of cheerleaders,” and ordered that women who were auditioning to be cheerleaders walk on the field “while he and his friends gawked from his suite through binoculars.”
Snyder also interfered in what is known as the Wilkinson investigation, which the NFL eventually took over, that stemmed from former employees alleging in 2020 rampant sexual harassment by team executives, the report said. He also had a separate shadow investigation going, which the report said was used by his lawyers to “cast him as the victim of a defamation campaign … and deflect responsibility for the team’s toxic work culture.”
The Commanders’ legal counsel, John Brownlee and Stuart Nash, said in a statement the committee’s work was “one-sided” and there were “no new revelations” in Thursday’s report. “And, ironically for an ‘investigative’ body, supposedly engaged in an ‘investigation,’ the investigators actually criticize the team and Mr. Snyder for providing evidence to the Committee — such as e-mails former team employees sent from their workplace accounts — that reveal the actual causes of the formerly dysfunctional workplace environment at the team,” the statement said.
The legal counsel said the team is “proud of the progress it has made in recent years in establishing a welcoming and inclusive workplace, and it looks forward to future success, both on and off the field.” Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represented more than 40 ex-Commanders employees, said in a statement Thursday that the “committee’s work resulted in important legislation limiting the use of non-disclosure agreements, which will help prevent this type of widespread harassment from happening in other American workplaces.”