Updated: Jul 19
In response to Roger Goodell’s answers to her questions as part of the House Oversight Committee Hearing on Tackling Toxic Workplaces, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney announced today that she will be issuing a subpoena for Washington Commanders’ Owner Dan Snyder to testify before the committee. The subpoena comes after Dan Snyder politely refused to voluntarily testify at today’s hearing and instead flew to France for the Cannes Lions Awards. The subpoena announcement was surely one of the biggest stories coming out of the hearing, generating a large amount of traction on social media. While the announcement is significant, Dan Snyder will more than likely not acquiesce to this demand, and we’re probably headed for a long legal battle where Dan Snyder has a path towards avoiding testifying altogether.
As Dan Wallach argued at the end of the simultaneous ConductCast of the hearings (like, rate, and subscribe to the Conduct Detrimental YouTube!), Dan Snyder will almost certainly not submit to this subpoena voluntarily. As Dan pointed out, Dan Snyder will probably file a lawsuit to challenge the subpoena and the scope of Congress’ investigation (or insert whatever legal justification he uses here) prior to being held in Contempt of Congress. Through that lawsuit, and the inevitable motions and appeals process, Dan Snyder and his attorneys will have one primary goal in mind: push this subpoena, and the related hearing, until after the mid-term elections this fall.
I’m aware this is not a political website, but the mid-term elections are important in the context of both today’s hearing and the legal proceedings regarding the Commanders’ workplace going forward. If the House of Representatives “flips,” that being where the Republican Party would control the majority of the seats and, therefore, assume responsibility to chair the various House Committees, these proceedings will probably cease. Based on the testimony of the Republican members of the committee today, there is very little appetite from the Republican members for continuing hearings on the topic. And based on Dan Snyder’s history as a Republican Donor, it’s very possible that he’ll be making some calls if the House does flip to help make these proceedings a thing of the past. Combining the expected lawsuit from Dan Snyder with the possibility of a Republican-controlled committee, there is a scenario where Dan Snyder never has to sit and answer the tough questions he should be forced to answer about the workplace of the Commanders under his tenure.
Further, the NFL may possibly tag along on this delay in order to avoid having Roger Goodell answer more questions under oath. Without the prospect of another visit to Congress, and more importantly the threatening of the NFL’s Anti-Trust Exemption, as Congressman Hank Johnson alluded to during the hearing, the NFL may conveniently wait until after the mid-term elections to publish any findings from the Mary Jo White Investigation into Tiffani Johnston’s allegations. By waiting, the NFL would take the pressure off themselves to publish a detailed-enough report, and possibly an adequately severe punishment, to satisfy Congress as well as the general public. After the mid-terms, the NFL could reasonably assume to be free from further Congressional scrutiny, and may then be able to report and administer the findings of the White Investigation on their own terms.
To be clear: I cannot say that either a Republican victory in the mid-term elections or the subsequent cessation of Congressional attention on the Commanders are foregone conclusions, but assuming they are, those who are interested in justice for the victims of the horrific workplace allegedly overseen by Mr. Snyder should turn towards the Gruden litigation for greater hope, as that would then present the more significant concern for Dan Snyder and the NFL at that point. Assuming events unfold as I have laid out, the best method for achieving any sort of transparency from the Commanders or the NFL would be through the discovery process of the Gruden lawsuit. If discovery proceeds, and is not blocked by the inevitably exhaustive appeals of the NFL, then the public may finally get a full glimpse (through the probable discovery of the rest of the unreleased emails from the Wilkinson Investigation) into how much of the Commanders’ workplace the NFL knew about, and how much (or, more likely, how little) the NFL did to fix the problem. And through that process, the renewed public attention on the heinousness of Dan Snyder’s actions combined with the lack of action by the NFL may cause enough outcry, or provide the proverbial “smoking gun,” to force the other NFL Owners to more seriously consider voting Dan Snyder out of their very exclusive club.
Michael DiLiello is an Army Officer transitioning to the Sports Law field and will enroll as a 1L in the Fall of 2022. His opinions are purely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the United States Army, the Department of Defense, or any other external agency.