The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has taken aim at the National Football League and Washington Commanders ownership over workplace culture at the organization.
Attorney Sam Dewey points out that the committee requested NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Commanders owner Daniel Snyder testify before them regarding accusations from female employees that team executives participated in “pervasive sexual harassment.”
Goodell appeared for testimony on June 22, but Snyder declined the invitation, saying he would be out of the country on business.
While Congress doesn’t hold a lot of direct power in affecting action in the case, members could ultimately influence NFL leadership to do something more than they’ve done so far.
Sam Dewey explains more below.
Why Congress Gets Involved
Some people may question why Congress gets involved in workplace culture accusations such as this, when they surely have much more important things on their plate. The simple response is because it is the duty of Congress, as the legislative branch, to pass laws that protect Americans.
If they believe a major organization is violating laws or doing something they shouldn’t be doing, they step in to try to force the issue. In the case with the Commanders, there have been accusations that the NFL was complicit in allowing the Washington organization to guide what was supposed to be an independent investigation into the allegations of workplace misconduct.
In getting involved, members of Congress are hoping to shine light on not only whether something illegal was done, but whether the NFL could’ve potentially violated anti-trust protections they get from the federal government.
What Congress Can Do
Ultimately, Congress has little power to do much about the situation with the Commanders and the NFL. The federal government does not own the NFL, which operates as a private organization with privately-owned franchises.
They can request officials with the NFL and teams testify before them at hearings, and they could try to compel that testimony if they have subpoena power. Even then, though, they can only refer individuals to the Department of Justice for criminal charges should they refuse to comply.
Knowing this, members of Congress often try to bring wider attention to situations they feel the public might not be aware of, in the hopes that NFL leadership — in this case — might take action. That really can only be done using the power of persuasion.
Members of the House Oversight Committee attempted to do that with Goodell, asking him when he testified whether he’d be “willing to do more” to ultimately punish Snyder. Michigan Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib point blank asked Goodell whether he’d remove Snyder as owner of the Commanders.
But, Goodell’s response was direct and succinct: “I don’t have the authority to remove him, congresswoman,” he said.
An NFL owner can only be removed if 24 of the 32 owners in the league vote for that to happen. So, as Samuel Dewey highlights, Tlaib’s goal may have been to turn up the heat on Goodell, who does have the power to make an official recommendation that a vote to remove Snyder take place.
About Samuel Dewey
Sam Dewey is a successful lawyer and former Senior Counsel to the US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee and Chief Investigator and Counsel to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. Mr Dewey specializes in: (1) white collar investigations, compliance, and litigation; (2) regulatory compliance and litigation; and (3) complex public policy matters. Within these fields Mr. Dewey is considered an expert in Congressional investigations and attendant matters. Mr. Dewey has a BA in Political Science, a JD from Harvard, and is admitted to practice law in Washington, DC, and Maryland.