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The alarm bells were loud enough to be heard all the way in France.
Daniel Snyder might have thought he’d outsmarted the House Committee on Oversight and Reform with his fortuitously timed vacation, confident that Roger Goodell’s willingness to be a human shield for NFL owners and Washington’s inability to resist grandstanding and hysteria would prevent anything meaningful from coming out of Wednesday’s hearing. But amidst the clown-show moments, of which there were plenty during the 2½-hour hearing, there were indications that Snyder – and the NFL – face serious trouble, and his days of dodging accountability might be over.
“A cover-up on behalf of a powerful owner,” committee chair Carolyn Maloney said, “should matter to all of us.”
Snyder’s first problem is that Maloney doesn’t really care if the Washington Commanders’ owner agrees that his team’s toxic workplace is the business of the committee or whether he wants to dignify its members with his presence. He’s going to have to, because Maloney announced during the hearing that she will issue a subpoena compelling him to testify next week.
That means Snyder will have to answer, under oath, questions about the sexual assault allegations raised against him in 2009 and the $1.6 million he paid to make them go away. About the misogynistic behavior he tolerated, and several have said he enabled, for years. About his efforts to intimidate former employees and subvert the NFL’s investigation. About his “exile” from his team’s operations.
Among other things. Given some committee members used their five minutes of fame, err, time Wednesday to question Goodell about racism, maybe some intrepid representative can ask Snyder about that duplicate set of books he supposedly keeps to hide money from his fellow owners.
Whatever Snyder says is all but assured of becoming public, which carries the risk of legal exposure for him as well as the certainty of embarrassment for the NFL. He could plead the Fifth but that will, impossible as it might seem, only make him look worse.
It has always been a mystery to me why Goodell and the NFL have fought so hard to protect Snyder, who has been nothing but trouble for the league. Nothing that Goodell said or was revealed in the hearing did anything to clear that up.
Goodell acknowledged that he “did not recall” Snyder telling the NFL in 2009 that he was the subject of a sexual assault and harassment complaint by a former Commanders employee. That was a direct violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, which required “players, coaches, other team employees, owners, game officials and all others privileged to work in the National Football League” to “avoid conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the” league.
Pretty sure asking an employee for sex, groping her and trying to remove her clothes, as the woman’s attorney said Snyder did, according to The Washington Post, would run afoul of that!
Goodell also admitted that he’s never seen an NFL operation “anywhere near” as toxic as Snyder’s team. Which is saying something, considering Jerry Richardson decided to sell his Carolina Panthers almost immediately after the racism and sexual harassment there came to light.
And yet, Goodell held fast to his nonsensical explanation that the NFL “couldn’t” release a written report on Beth Wilkinson’s supposedly independent investigation.
There is no written report, Goodell said, despite the fact the NFL had a written report for pretty much every other investigation it’s done. Even if it did, Goodell said somberly, repeatedly, the league had promised the women anonymity.
Except that Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., pointed out, the league somehow managed to issue a written report and protect peoples' anonymity when it investigated sexual harassment allegations involving the Miami Dolphins.
“The way that they were granted anonymity, if you review the 148-page (Dolphins) report, is that their names were redacted from that report,” Krishnamoorthi said after the hearing. “So you could do the exact same thing in this particular situation, but the NFL chose not to."
Again, why is that? Snyder dug in his heels on Washington’s racist nickname, only making a change after sponsors threatened to cut ties. His rampant arrogance and misogyny is a turnoff to women, an all-important demographic if the NFL is to become that $25 billion a year industry Goodell has predicted. His team is awful.
And the latest scandals have left Snyder almost no hope of getting a stadium deal in even the most remote corner of the DC-Maryland-Virginia area.
“The Commanders can't have it both ways,” Raskin said. “You can't be constantly asking the public for subsidies and investment, and then not observing basic laws that govern the workplace.”
Which means Snyder has gone beyond an embarrassment. He’s now costing his fellow owners money, and that might be his one sin that even they can’t forgive.
The committee shows no sign of letting this go, and there's another league investigation of Snyder that Goodell promised will result in a written report. With Snyder already on vacation, the NFL's other owners should tell him to extend it.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Daniel Snyder has ducked accountability long enough