Dan Snyder’s sneaky. Vindictive, also. And cheerleaders: Please steer clear.
That pretty much nutshells the report released today by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on the Washington Commanders owner. The most interesting parts of this latest use of taxpayer money to lambaste the crap out of Snyder reveal how much effort he put into digging up dirt on journalists, former employees, and all known critics of his organization.
Turns out that all the while Snyder was publicly declaring his support for the investigation of his workplace being conducted by D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson, he was covertly running an aggressive opposition research operation through the use of private investigators, lawyers, and bad-faith subpoenas. “Shadow investigation” shows up at least nine times in the 29-page report.
From the report:
This memorandum describes evidence uncovered by the Committee demonstrating that although publicly, the NFL and Commanders touted the hiring of a respected D.C. attorney to conduct an internal investigation of the Commanders toxic workplace, privately, Commanders owner Daniel Snyder launched a shadow investigation in an apparent effort to discredit his accusers in the eyes of the NFL and offer up an alternative target for the investigation.
Snyder is accused of, among many nefarious things, hiring private investigators to visit the homes of former cheerleaders for his team, ostensibly to intimidate them into not cooperating with or providing dirt on the owner to Wilkinson. Snyder is also said to have employed “abusive litigation tactics,” namely requesting overreaching subpoenas for emails from potential enemies of his business or him, and using those to hurt his rivals.
That latter tack is how he gained access to a trove of “over 400,000 emails” from the account of Bruce Allen, the former team president turned mortal Snyder enemy. Snyder and his cohorts “identified ‘inappropriate’” emails from Allen’s big stash and turned them over to the NFL, so as to damage the reputation of his adversary. Allen’s inappropriatest emails ended up being turned over to both the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times by somebody as yet unknown, and the publishing of the most homophobic and misogynist of the bunch resulted in the resignation of shamed Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden.
Snyder is said to have used his ill-gotten intelligence to put together a “100-slide Powerpoint presentation” that included background information on anybody who might have damaging information about his team. Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, author of some of the most scathing Snyder stories ever written, has the honor of getting her own slide in what the federal lawmakers refer to repeatedly as Snyder’s “dossier.”
There’s lots in the report about Snyder’s very un-secretive and by all appearances unhealthy obsession with cheerleaders. These portions are largely rehashes of the aggressive reporting done by The New York Times and Washington Post in recent years. But David Pauken, the Commanders’ former chief operating officer, provided the committee with a few personal anecdotes related to cheerleaders that confirm the owner’s reputation as a bully and creep.
During a deposition recorded on June 7, Pauken testified that after he told Snyder he was concerned by “the way the NFL sexualizes cheerleaders,” Snyder retaliated by trying to embarrass him in juvenile, stupid ways. Pauken said that “on more than one occasion” Snyder called him to the owner’s box on game day just to humiliate him in front of friends.
Snyder’s saddest shtick, Pauken said, was to insult the attractiveness of the Washington cheerleaders and say that the COO was responsible for how the women looked, and somehow link that to Pauken’s sexuality. “Mr. Snyder remarked to a friend, ‘Hey, do you think Dave is gay?’” Pauken testified. “And his friend would say, ‘Yeah, he must be gay.’ And Dan would say, ‘Yeah, he has to be gay. As ugly as these cheerleaders are. Pauken, are you gay? You must be gay. How could you have a cheerleading squad that looked like this?’”
Pauken also testified that during his tenure in Ashburn he realized Snyder’s organization applied so-called “anti-fraternization” rules, which banned workers from having romantic relationships with players, in ways that were biased against female employees. As an example of the unfairness cited by Pauken, the Congressional report shows that two cheerleaders got fired for dating Chris Cooley, while Cooley kept his job. (Poor Cooley, who was known as an owner’s pet during his playing days, is misidentified in the report as a halfback, though he played tight end or h-back.)
“This was a situation where the female employee was treated differently than the male,” Pauken said. “The female employees were fired, the male employee was—there were no repercussions other than he was restricted from additional sex with the cheerleaders.”
Those cheerleader banishments created a pretty big scandal among the burgundy and gold fanbase on Fan Appreciation Day in 2005, when a rookie cheerleader who went by “Frankie,” and fan-favorite veteran “Christie,” who had served as Washington’s representative in Maxim’s tawdry NFL cheerleader issues the two seasons prior, were both asked to turn in their pom-poms for dating Cooley.
Cooley, who was married at the time, ended up leaving his wife and marrying Christy, whose full name, Christy Ogelvee, appeared in news reports detailing their 2008 wedding and again in articles about their 2012 divorce.
Disclosure: Dan Snyder once sued the author for writing mean things about him. During the lawsuit Snyder’s lawyers demanded all emails between the author and the great Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post in hopes of establishing a conspiracy against him. Those emails were never turned over, but included lots of attempts by the author to arrange playdates at D.C. playgrounds for his toddlers and Steinberg’s.