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Dan Snyder, the longtime owner of the US National Football League’s Washington Commanders, will pay a fine of $60mn after an independent investigation found that the franchise was engaged in financial impropriety and that he sexually harassed a former cheerleader.
The report was published on the same day that league owners voted unanimously to approve the sale of the Commanders to private equity billionaire Josh Harris, a record transaction of more than $6bn that brings to a close the tumultuous tenure of Snyder’s ownership.
Snyder bought the team in 1999 for a then-record $800mn. His stewardship of the club was marred by a long fight with American Indigenous groups over the team’s former nickname — the Redskins — along with allegations that he had fostered a toxic workplace environment. There were also revelations of financial improprieties that sparked hearings in Congress.
The NFL’s report, commissioned last year and overseen by former US attorney and SEC chair Mary Jo White, reveals a damning portrait of conduct within the organisation.
“The conduct substantiated in Ms White’s findings has no place in the NFL,” said league commissioner Roger Goodell. “We strive for workplaces that are safe, respectful and professional.”
The report found that Snyder inappropriately touched Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing employee, at a work dinner and subsequently pushed her towards his limousine in an unsuccessful attempt to leave the event with her.
The report also found that the Commanders’ front office withheld at least $11mn in revenues from the rest of the league. Under NFL bylaws, those revenues are required to be shared with other owners. According to the investigators, in 2010, “a former employee, after agreeing to allocate NFL shareable revenue instead to a college-football game, jokingly emailed the CFO: ‘[i]f the NFL had a jail . . . we would be in it’.”
The report said the investigators corroborated the financial schemes through emails, texts, calendars and other materials provided by the Commanders. The team had denied the accusations after they came to light during an investigation by the House of Representatives into other workplace misconduct.
The report said that the investigation was hindered by the limited personal co-operation of Snyder, who did not agree to be interviewed until June 29, and the refusal by the Commanders to co-operate “for many months”.
As a result, “on the evidence available, the investigation neither found, nor ruled out, that Mr Snyder directed or personally participated in the improper shielding of revenues from sharing to the extent required by NFL policies”, the report said.
In a statement after the sale of the team was approved, new Commanders owner Harris said: “Our promise is simple: We will do the work, create the culture, and make the investment needed to deliver for this team and for Washington.”
A spokesperson for Snyder did not immediately respond to a request for comment.