NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified in front of the U.S House Oversight Committee, Wednesday afternoon to discuss the NFL’s investigation of the Washington Commanders, and its owner Dan Snyder.
To say it was chaotic would be an understatement.
Comparisons to Deflate-gate, questions on Dave Portnoy’s ban, and arguments on the status of the country turned a committee highlighting workplace misconduct into a fiasco.
Sports attorney, Dan Lust spoke out on what Goodell’s purpose at the hearing was for.
“I think Goodell did a pretty good job…his job was to deflect, and give Dan Snyder a heads up on the questions that will be asked of him without giving away too much.” Lust said.
While the hearing went off-the-rails at times, there were still some important moments and questions that were given to the commissioner.
Subpoena Issued to Snyder
The biggest news from Wednesday was that Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chairwoman of the US House Oversight Committee, announced a subpoena will be issued to Snyder following his absence during the current round of questioning.
The hearing began with opening statements from Goodell stating “If appropriate, we will make a public summary of the key findings”
Maloney quickly responded with the subpoena announcement. Sports Attorney, Dan Lust explained the significance of the move.
“It’s big. Roger Goodell was not subpoenaed today, he opted to voluntarily provide testimony. Dan Snyder was under the same voluntary obligations and chose not to.” Lust later added “It’s only important to force Dan Snyder to the table and if he doesn’t appear, certainly there’s legal ramifications for not adhering to a subpoena.”
Failure to respond to a subpoena is punishable as contempt by either the court or agency issuing the subpoena. In this case, it would only further increase the problems that Snyder and the Commanders face.
The subpoena would force Snyder to appear before Congress next week.
Even with Goodell looking to deflect on key answers, Lust was surprised at some of the commissioner’s more candid responses.
“He said that he has never seen another organization that resembled what went on in Washington…He was very candid which was unexpected.”
Lust later explained importance of the commissioner’s openness to answer questions in front of Congress.
“There were many times where Goodell was given an opportunity to have said ‘you don’t need to investigate this. This is an inappropriate invasion into the NFL’ but he didn’t say that. He was saying ‘we need to continue to get better’. It was almost him saying they welcomed the spotlight on this because we need to do a better job.”
Goodell’s candidness came at one of the few times a commissioner of the sport spoke before Congress in a court case. The league’s battles with Al Davis and the USFL in the early 1980’s saw the NFL in violation of anti-trust laws.
House Oversight Committee and their Evidence
Part of the hearing was for the House Oversight Committee to bring forth evidence to the public and show what has been going on in Washington.
In one such instance, a video of a Washington employee made inappropriate comments towards a female coworker.
Goodell later responded saying it was “unacceptable.”
Congress also pressed Goodell on the lack of a written report during Beth Wilkinson’s investigation of the club’s culture. The commissioner was later asked why the league did not use a redacted report similar to how the 2014 investigation into bullying allegations of the Miami Dolphins was written.
Congress also displayed other pieces of evidence like a letter from 2009 that accused the Commanders’ owner of sexual assault.
Further evidence from the committee also accused the NFL of helping Snyder “cover-up” the findings of the Wilkinson investigation.
Even with the committee displaying evidence to the matter, the commissioner was quick to add the point that he felt the league had punished the Commanders and their owner enough back in 2021 when Snyder was forced to step down from day-to-day operations and the team was fined $10 million.
Snyder’s wife, Tanya has been in charge of the everyday responsibilities of the job as early as last June.
What’s next for Goodell, Congress and Snyder
The NFL has anti-trust exemptions that historically has kept them safe from any governmental oversight. Wednesday’s hearing with Goodell, and subsequent subpoena of Snyder further muddies the waters of where exactly the NFL and Congress could go from here.
“Congress tends to threaten the removal of anti-trust exemptions a lot. They threatened it to Major League Baseball. It’s unlikely… it was brought up today.” Lust said. “They can threaten it but actions speak louder than words.”
A larger question remains on the future of Dan Snyder though.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib asked Goodell why the commissioner had not removed Snyder as owner to this point.
75% of the league owners need to vote in favor of removing an owner from a team. That same 24 votes will be needed to also approve of a sale of an NFL team as well.
Lust finds it hard to see Goodell or NFL owners agreeing to force Snyder to sell the team.
“Probably not. There was an opportunity for Roger (Goodell) to say that…and he said it wasn’t his authority to do that.” Lust responded. “When you have hearings like this, politicians lose sight of core issues…but that seems to be the sentiment.”
Lust also pointed to the sale of the Denver Broncos that sold for over $4 billion as another reason Snyder could sell the team.
The Snyder controversy has not ended yet with the House Oversight Committee expected to continue to present evidence of the course of the next few days.
While Goodell’s answers held the league accountable at times, all eyes will turn to next week when Dan Snyder will be forced to testify before Congress.
Shortly after Goodell’s testimony, Snyder and the Commander’s organization sent out a memo to employees detailing the steps they have taken in the last two years to improve workplace relationships.
“We believe the statements that have been made in the media critical of our organization do not accurately reflect our positive transformation.” the statement includes.
Snyder is expected to testify to the House Oversight Committee next week.
For more on Dan Snyder and the NFL, turn to AMNY.com