Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Football Team and a real nightmare of a human being, used a team of minions to interfere in the NFL’s extremely unserious investigation into allegations of widespread sexual harassment and misconduct inside his slipshod football operation, according to a new report from the Washington Post published Tuesday afternoon. The report says Snyder was hell-bent on preventing NFL investigator Beth Wilkinson from speaking with a woman who accused Snyder of sexual misconduct in a since-settled 2009 case, and deployed a small army of lawyers and private investigators to stymie any inquiry, even going as far as using a former team counsel as a proxy for a lawsuit aimed at preventing Wilkinson from including that incident in her investigation.
Wilkinson, you may recall, was first contracted by Snyder himself to investigate his Football Team following a damaging Post story published in summer 2020, recounting allegations from more than a dozen women of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct; the NFL assumed oversight of the investigation soon thereafter, and then in December a second, even more damaging Post story revealed a handful of details of the 2009 accusations against Snyder himself. Wilkinson had barely gotten started on that thread before she found herself being sued, not by Snyder or the team, but by a man named David Donovan. Donovan was the Football Team’s general counsel from 2005 to 2011, and retired from practicing law in 2019, but here he was taking the NFL’s investigator to court over her inquiries into allegations made against his former boss more than a decade earlier. Donovan’s justification—that he filed his suit “to defend his reputation” against even the possibility of a future report “criticizing him” and his earlier investigation of the allegations against Snyder—seems extremely dubious, especially from a guy who was and is supposed to be retired. Wilkinson, smelling this same rat, accused Donovan in court filings of “pursuing the lawsuit on behalf of someone else,” presumably Snyder.
Snyder declined to sit for an interview with the Post. Scott Bolden, a lawyer from the law firm Reed Smith, which represents Snyder and the WFT, released a statement after the publication of the Post’s story insisting that “absolutely no effort was made by me or any Reed Smith lawyers to dissuade anyone from speaking with Beth Wilkinson or otherwise cooperating with her investigation, nor was any money offered to anyone not to cooperate.”
Donovan’s absurd lawsuit was eventually dropped, and Wilkinson ultimately did speak to Snyder’s accuser, and evidently unspooled enough of WFT’s internal dysfunction for the league to slap Snyder with a $10 million fine. But, in a sign of ownership’s willingness to close ranks around even as villainous a dirtbag as Snyder, the NFL has refused to produce or even acknowledge the existence of any report or documents or materials related to the investigation. According to the Post report, the NFL’s own senior vice president of investigations contributed a declaration that Wilkinson filed as part of her defense in the Donovan suit; even after this intervention, required in order to resist Snyder’s campaign of obstructing their own investigator, the league and owners still took the extraordinary step of memory-holing any and all records related to the months-long investigation, in order to protect one of their own. And while Wilkinson was beating back Snyder’s interference, the people in charge of oversight were waving off the league’s established debt limit in order to facilitate Snyder’s consolidation of ownership over his ruined franchise. Buddy, it pays to be part of the club.
The report’s other big finding—that Snyder and his legal team pounced on a bogus story in a smalltime Indian publication (self-googling, much?) as a flimsy pretext for alleging a “global conspiracy to defame” Snyder, in order to further a campaign of paranoid antagonism of Snyder’s many well-earned enemies—is at least as significant, for what it tells us about the legal weaponry at the exclusive disposal of the rich and evil. But it was the stuff about Snyder appearing to brazenly interfere in the NFL’s investigation of rampant sexual harassment within his organization that triggered a Tuesday joint press release from the chairs of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, urging Roger Goodell and the NFL to “immediately produce to the Committee all evidence” of “Snyder’s interference in the NFL’s investigation into the WFT’s hostile workplace culture.” Probably this will all amount to nothing, as the NFL is arguably a more powerful American institution, in 2021, than the literal legislative branch of the federal government. But it certainly makes for entertaining theater.
The sheer corruption of it all—initiating and publicly supporting an accountability process but working feverishly via whole traveling platoons of well-compensated proxies to undermine and obstruct that process at every turn—is remarkable, if not exactly surprising for a member of the billionaire class. But the funniest insight into Snyder’s warped brain comes from the rundown of his relentless pursuit of petty feuds with the many enemies he’s come to suspect of dishing gossip to journalists, and his attorneys’ tenuous but often successful legal maneuvering to gain access to the private communications of those enemies. Most prominent among that group is former WFT president Bruce Allen, who Snyder fired in December 2019 following a 3–13 regular season. Snyder became convinced that Allen was connected to the big trumped-up global conspiracy business, and his lawyers insisted they had “rock-solid” evidence of this whole deal, but it turns out what really knotted up Snyder’s undies may have been that Allen didn’t congratulate him for hiring head coach Ron Rivera two years ago:
In January 2020, after the news conference announcing Rivera’s hire, according to these people, Snyder learned that Allen had sent a congratulatory text to Rivera. Snyder was insulted, these people said, that he didn’t receive a similar text from Allen, whom Snyder had fired a few weeks before.Washington Post
This was significant enough of a sticking point between the two men that Snyder attempted to use the pandemic and the threat of withholding money contractually owed to Allen as leverage, in order to force his former subordinate to send along a nice text message. Hilariously, even this failed to secure the desired congratulations:
Later that year, the team, citing the pandemic, attempted to get out of paying Allen all of the money he was owed under his contract. Allen fought back, and Snyder agreed to pay his full salary. But in a message sent to Allen’s lawyers over settlement terms, one of Snyder’s lawyers included a condition that Allen wouldn’t agree to meet, according to text messages reviewed by The Post.
“In addition, I understand that Mr. Allen has agreed to send a text message to Mr. Snyder stating, ‘Congrats on the hire,’” Snyder’s attorney wrote in July 2020, seven months after Snyder hired Rivera. Allen’s lawyers resolved the pay dispute, but he never sent this text, according to a person with knowledge of the case.Washington Post
This petty, sleazy creep, who brought the weight of his incredible wealth and power to bear on the task of forcing his former underling to say something nice to him, and fucking failed at it, is the guy Roger Goodell and his bosses are bending over backwards to protect.