Editors’ note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org.
The Washington Post obtained and published legal documents Tuesday that detailed how a woman employee accused Commanders team owner Dan Snyder of sexual harassment and assault in 2009.
According to the documents, the allegations include the team owner “asking her for sex, groping her and attempting to remove her clothes.” The alleged incident reportedly occurred in a private portion of one of the team’s private planes. Three months later, the Commanders reached a $1.6 million settlement, which the Post reported two years ago.
A letter written by attorney Howard Shapiro, who assisted with the investigation, did not mention any league involvement in the probe. The Post reported that, according to the letter, then-team general counsel David Donovan oversaw the investigation and reported to Snyder.
Details had not been reported until now. Part of the settlement agreement reportedly included that the woman could not publicly discuss the allegations or sue.
Snyder denied the allegations, according to the documents, and the team investigation accused the woman of fabricating her account to extort Snyder. Shapiro stated in the letter that the Donovan had reached the conclusions that the woman had an “impeccable personal and professional reputation,” noting that she “wore revealing clothing and flirted with other men on the trip to Las Vegas,” per the Post.
This is not the only sexual misconduct allegation the team owner has faced.
- The Post released another article in 2020 reporting that a former senior executive instructed employees to create a behind-the-scenes video for Snyder. The video included videos of partially naked team cheerleaders from an ’08 team swimsuit calendar shoot. That same year, the Post published an article in July detailing workplace sexual harassment experienced by 15 former employees within the franchise.
- The Post previously reported that “lawyers and private investigators working on Snyder’s behalf took steps that potential witnesses … viewed as attempts to interfere with the NFL’s investigation.” The numerous alleged attempts to interfere included reaching a $1.6 million settlement with a former employee who described sexual misconduct by the co-owner and filing petitions to identify employees who had spoken to the Post.
- The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hybrid roundtable with several former employees of the franchise, and Tiffani Johnston detailed new allegations that directly implicated Snyder, who denied them.
“I learned that placing me strategically by the owner at a work dinner after this networking event was not for me to discuss business, but to allow him to place his hand on my thigh under the table,” Johnston said in her opening statement. “I learned how to discreetly remove a man’s unwanted hand from my thigh at a crowded dinner table, at a crowded restaurant to avoid a scene. I learned that job survival meant I should continue my conversation with another co-worker rather than to call out Dan Snyder right then, in the moment.
“I also learned later that evening how to awkwardly laugh while Dan Snyder aggressively pushed me towards his limo with his hand on my lower back, encouraging me to ride with him to my car. I learned how to continue to say no even though a situation was getting more awkward, uncomfortable and physical.”
Details concerning the 2009 allegation come a day before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform’s hearing. The committee had requested that Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell testify in front of the committee concerning the investigation into the Commanders. Snyder declined but Goodell will attend.
The months-long probe that began in October 2021 is looking into the franchise’s workplace culture, how the league handled misconduct reports, “the NFL’s role in setting and enforcing standards across the League, and legislative reforms needed to address these issues across the NFL and other workplaces,” according to the committee’s press release from earlier this month.
The league has shared documents with the committee, such as a Common Interest Agreement between the NFL and Washington and an engagement letter between lawyer Beth Wilkinson’s firm and the franchise. Here is a summary of what was found in the documents.
Additionally, the committee penned an explosive letter to the Federal Trade Commission, asserting that the Commanders and Snyder “may have engaged in a troubling, long-running, and potentially unlawful pattern of financial conduct that victimized thousands of team fans and the National Football League.” Here is more on the letter and evidence from the committee.
In July 2021, Snyder agreed to temporarily cede control of the team to his wife, Tanya, in wake of widespread controversy surrounding the franchise. The announcement came after the league partially released its findings from a workplace misconduct probe, levying a $10 million fine against the team.