Roger Goodell will be facing Congress this week. However, lawmakers might not take much away from the NFL Commissioner as he defends his league’s handling of workplace misconduct.
“He will be prepared. He’ll even know when to stop answering questions.” Geoffrey Rapp is a University of Toledo sports law professor.
Goodell agreed to give evidence Wednesday morning in front of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The committee is investigating allegations that harassment took place at Washington’s NFL franchise and the NFL’s handling of the matter. Expect him to answer tough questions by Democrats who still want answers to an internal investigation the league has not released.
“For seven months, the committee has been stonewalled by NDAs and other tools to evade accountability,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill. “Mr. Snyder and Mr. Goodell need to appear before the committee to address these issues and answer our questions.”
Daniel Snyder, the Washington Commanders owner, has sent multiple letters declining the committee’s invitation to appear for now, the Washington Post reported.
Having a commissioner for sports in front of Congress is high-level political theatre, even though Goodell may appear virtual. This is especially true of America’s troubled King sport.
Although it won’t satisfy legislators looking for new information, this hearing will achieve at least two goals: getting Goodell out on record and keeping the spotlight on the league’s refusal to release documents.
“Keeping something public is one way to seek more information,” Rapp stated. “It’s less of an opportunity, from the legislators’ perspective, to get to the truth than it is to keep asking the questions.”
Goodell’s testimony will likely stay surface-level when it comes to league practices and conduct, as he takes care to protect the league and its 32 owners who chose him as their public face. Oversight has received stacks of records from the NFL, but Goodell’s testimony will not be able to reveal much of Beth Wilkinson’s internal investigation into workplace harassment. This is the holy grail.
” The more you hold back from giving the first report, the more people believe there is something people would like to see in it,” Rapp stated. “I don’t know that interest will ever go away as long as Snyder owns the team and keeps running into trouble.”
Unfortunately, Wilkinson did not publish any information about the report. This included homophobic or sexist email exchanges between Jon Gruden and Jon Gruden (then-commentator for the Washington team) which led to Gruden being fired as the Raiders’ head coach.
House legislators representing Washington districts sent last week a request to the NFL for the report to be handed over to Snyder and the Commanders owners.
Both the Washington State and Virginia Attorney Generals have launched investigations into the team.
Oversight made reference to new claims by the Federal Trade Commission that Snyder’s league withheld money from owners. After further allegations were made at a February Oversight Roundtable, the league launched a second investigation into Snyder’s harassment culture.
Marketing coordinator and cheerleader Tiffani A. Johnston said Snyder made unwanted sexual advances, placing a hand on her thigh and “aggressively” pushing her toward a limo. A second woman claimed Snyder attempted to silence the accusers.
The league indicated that it will release the results of its investigation. It is being conducted by Mary Jo White (a former federal prosecutor and Chairwoman of Securities and Exchange Commission).
After all these developments, Snyder’s absence from Wednesday’s hearing will be obvious. According to Axios, his lawyers claimed that the committee refused him permission to move the hearing “despite Mr. Snyder’s longstanding Commanders-related conflict of interest and being out of country.”
The team was asked for comment about the nature of their business conflict but did not reply. Snyder insists that not all of the allegations against him are true.
Republicans on the committee have argued Congress shouldn’t be probing the team and league in the first place and should turn attention elsewhere.
” From the beginning, the committee Democrats used their power to push a one-sided inquiry into a private firm with no connection the federal government,” JamesComer stated.
Democrats in the committee refute Kentucky Republican’s claim, saying that the probe falls within the scope of the committee, which covers laws that regulate workplace safety and confidentiality agreements.
On Friday Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney revealed two bills that she claimed resulted of the investigation by the committee so far.
The first is a continuation of Congress’s work on overhauling nondisclosure legislation and it aims to stop the use NDAs for misconduct. Second, the rules prohibit employers from sharing photos with permission. Employees of the football team were charged with taking photos of nude cheerleaders at photo shoots, and then sharing them.
” I strongly believe that the Washington Commanders culture of harassment, abuse and intimidation must be punished,” Maloney stated in a statement to announce the new legislation. “As lawmakers, we must use our legislative powers to protect other employees from this serious misconduct.”