Posts Tagged ‘Team Owner’

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder conducted a “shadow investigation” that sought to discredit former employees making accusations of workplace sexual harassment, hired private investigators to intimidate witnesses, and used an overseas lawsuit as a pretext to obtain phone records and emails, according to a document released by a House committee Wednesday.

The Committee on Oversight and Reform is investigating the Commanders’ workplace culture following accusations of pervasive sexual harassment by team executives of women employees. It released the memo ahead of a hearing Wednesday in Washington that featured testimony from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, appearing remotely from New York.

Snyder was invited to testify but declined, citing overseas business commitments and concerns about due process. The committee chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., announced during the hearing that she plans to issue a subpoena to compel a deposition from Snyder next week.

The 29-page memo alleges Snyder tried to discredit the people accusing him and other team executives of misconduct and also tried to influence an investigation of the team conducted for the NFL by attorney Beth Wilkinson’s firm.

Snyder’s attorneys presented the NFL with a 100-slide PowerPoint presentation including “private text messages, emails, phone logs and call transcripts, and social media posts from nearly 50 individuals who Mr. Snyder apparently believed were involved in a conspiracy to disparage him,” the committee said.

In a statement, a spokesman for Snyder characterized the report and the hearing as “a politically charged show trial” and said Congress should not be investigating “an issue a football team addressed years ago.”

Goodell told the committee that the team’s culture has transformed as a result of the Wilkinson probe and that “Dan Snyder has been held accountable.” Asked by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., whether he would remove Snyder as owner, Goodell said, “I don’t have the authority to remove him.”

An NFL owner can only be removed by a three-quarters majority vote of fellow owners.

The NFL fined the team $10 million last year and Snyder stepped away from its day-to-day operations after Wilkinson presented her findings to Goodell. However, the league did not release a written report of Wilkinson’s findings, a decision Goodell said was intended to protect the privacy of former employees who spoke to investigators.

Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, again called on Goodell to release a report from the Wilkinson probe, calling it “stunning and disheartening” to hear him say Snyder has been held accountable.

“Today, the committee released a damning report demonstrating that Snyder and his lawyers also surveilled and investigated complainants, their lawyers, witnesses and journalists, which Goodell knew about and did nothing to address,” Banks and Katz said in a statement.

When announcing the discipline against Snyder, the NFL said none of the people accused of sexual harassment still worked for the Washington franchise. But two separate accusations of sexual harassment by Snyder himself have since surfaced.

Former employee Tiffani Johnston told the committee that Snyder groped her at a team dinner and tried to force her into his limousine, which Snyder denies. And The Washington Post reported Tuesday that a woman accused Snyder of sexually assaulting her on a team plane in 2009, resulting in a $1.6 million settlement.

Goodell acknowledged Wednesday that he was aware of the 2009 allegation and that Snyder did not inform the league at the time, which is a violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

Johnston’s allegation prompted the NFL to hire former Securities and Exchange Commission chairwoman Mary Jo White to conduct a new investigation of Snyder and the team, and the league plans to release her findings to the public.

Maloney has introduced legislation to curb the use of workplace nondisclosure agreements and to offer protections for employees whose professional images are used inappropriately. Among the accusations against the Commanders are that team employees produced a video of lewd outtakes from a photo shoot involving the cheerleading squad.

According to the memo, Snyder used a defamation lawsuit against an obscure online media company based in India as a pretext to subpoena emails, phone records and text messages from former employees who spoke to The Washington Post about workplace harassment. The subpoenas were unusually broad, and many of the people targeted “had no plausible connection” to the Indian media company, the committee said.

The committee also alleged that Snyder sought to blame former team president Bruce Allen for the problems with Washington’s workplace culture and that Snyder’s lawyers provided Wilkinson and the NFL with 400,000 emails from Allen’s account, highlighting specific ones they deemed “inappropriate.” Some email exchanges with Allen included homophobic and misogynistic comments by Jon Gruden, which were leaked to reporters last fall and prompted Gruden’s resignation as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Witnesses also told the committee that Snyder sent private investigators to their homes and offered them hush money. The NFL was aware of Snyder’s use of private investigators, according to documents obtained by the committee, but the practice continued, witnesses said.

Another new allegation came from David Pauken, the team’s former chief operating officer, who told the committee in a deposition released Wednesday that Snyder directly ordered the firings of a female front-office employee for having a sexual relationship with a coach and two cheerleaders for having sex with a player. He also said the men involved were not disciplined.

Republicans on the committee accused Democrats of going after an NFL team to distract from more pressing issues and exceeding the scope of the committee’s mission.

“A core responsibility of this committee is to conduct oversight of the executive branch, but this entire Congress, Democrats have turned a blind eye to the Biden administration,” said Kentucky GOP Rep. James Comer, the committee’s ranking member. “Instead, the Oversight committee is investigating a single private organization for workplace misconduct that occurred years ago.”

Asked by Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., what authority the committee had to investigate an NFL team, Maloney responded, “We have authority to investigate anything and everything.”

“Anything and everything,” Norman said. “That’s a total embarrassment.”

Maloney tried to clarify that comment in her closing remarks, saying the committee was authorized “to investigate anything within Congress’ legislative power.”

Commanders coach Ron Rivera issued a statement late Wednesday night, distancing himself from the team’s past.

“These investigations into inappropriate workplace issues pre-dates my employment,” said Rivera, who was hired in 2020. “I cannot change the past, but I would hope that our fans, the NFL and Congress can see that we are doing everything in our power to never repeat those workplace issues. And know that our employees are respected, valued and can be heard.”

A woman accused Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder of sexually harassing and assaulting her on a team plane in 2009, and the woman was later paid $1.6 million by the team to settle her claims, according to a document obtained by the Washington Post.

The Post reported Tuesday that it had obtained a letter by an attorney working for the team that detailed the woman’s allegations while arguing that her claims were not credible. The $1.6 million settlement had been previously revealed in legal filings related to more recent investigations of the team, but details of the woman’s allegations were not disclosed. The woman agreed not to sue the team or publicly disclose her allegations as part of the settlement.

Snyder denied the woman’s allegations, according to the letter, and a team investigation accused her of making up the claims in an attempt to extort him.

The contents of the letter were disclosed a day before a scheduled hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is investigating the Washington team’s workplace culture. Snyder has declined an invitation by the committee to testify, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was scheduled to testify remotely.

The NFL fined the team $10 million and Snyder stepped away from its day-to-day operations after an investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson revealed a workplace culture that was abusive to women. But the league declined to release a written report of Wilkinson’s findings.

The committee has since uncovered an allegation of sexual harassment by Snyder. Former team employee Tiffani Johnston told the committee that Snyder groped her at a team dinner and tried to force her into his limousine, claims that Snyder denied.

That triggered a new investigation of the team ordered by the NFL and led by Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney and chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. White is also looking into claims of financial improprieties by a former vice president of sales for the team. The NFL has said White’s findings will be made public.

The letter obtained by the Post was written by Howard Shapiro, an attorney at WilmerHale law firm, which had helped the team investigate the woman’s allegations. Shapiro wrote that the woman’s claims were “knowingly false.” He declined to comment to the Post.

According to the letter, the woman accused Snyder of asking her for sex, groping her and trying to take off her clothes in a private, partitioned area at the back of a team plane during a return flight from a trip to Las Vegas.

The letter stated that none of the other passengers on the flight supported the woman’s account. Others said the door to the back area of the plane was open for most of the flight and that other passengers and flight attendants were frequently present in that section, according to the letter.

The attorney for Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder reiterated Monday that Snyder would not testify before Congress on June 22, despite a request from the committee to reconsider.

Karen Patton Seymour declined the initial invitation from the House Oversight Committee investigating the Commanders’ alleged “toxic workplace culture,” saying that Snyder had a “longstanding Commanders-related business conflict” and is out of the country at the end of June. Seymour had also requested copies of documents that committee members intend to use in their questioning.

On Friday, chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., had sent Snyder’s attorney a six-page letter stating Snyder could testify virtually at the June 22 hearing, similar to what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to do that day. The chairwoman also said the committee was under no obligation to provide documents, but would do so if Snyder agreed to testify.

On Monday, Seymour wrote the committee that, “Mr. Snyder’s business conflict was scheduled long before then and cannot be rescheduled. Moreover, your letter’s suggestion that Mr. Snyder may testify remotely does not address my concern that a virtual appearance would not sufficiently protect Mr. Snyder’s interest in having his counsel physically present with him.”

She went on to say, “The Snyders and the Team remain fully willing to cooperate with the Committee, and are eager to share the cultural transformation undertaken by the Commanders if the Committee is interested in obtaining that information in a manner consistent with appropriate due process and fairness protections.”

A House Oversight Committee spokesperson told ESPN in a statement, “If Mr. Snyder was truly committed to cooperating with the Committee’s investigation, he would have accepted the Committee’s invitation to testify about the Commanders’ toxic workplace culture. As the Chairwoman’s letter made clear, the Committee has been more than accommodating-even allowing Mr. Snyder to testify remotely from France. His refusal to testify sends an unmistakable signal that Mr. Snyder has something to hide and is afraid of coming clean to the American public and addressing major worker protection concerns facing the NFL. The Committee will not be deterred in its investigation to uncover the truth of workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders.”

In July 2021, the NFL fined the Commanders $10 million after its investigation into the franchise’s workplace culture under Snyder’s ownership. Congress began its investigation shortly after, in October, and is also investigating allegations by a former employee who said she was sexually harassed by Snyder in 2019.

Washington fired multiple employees after allegations of sexual harassment were uncovered by The Washington Post in the summer of 2020. Others who also were charged with sexual harassment had already left the organization or resigned that summer.

Maloney said Snyder could testify despite other ongoing investigations, which was another reason given for Snyder’s hesitation, according to his attorney’s letter. The NFL opened another investigation after the former employee’s allegations in February. Also, the attorneys general in Virginia and Washington, D.C., are looking into allegations of financial improprieties.

“Congress has long investigated matters subject to parallel proceedings,” Maloney wrote.

She said by not testifying, Snyder refuses to “accept accountability for his actions for the culture he has fostered within his team” and casts doubt on his “assertion that the Commanders are now a model of how to make extraordinary improvements in workplace culture.”

A lawyer representing Dan Snyder told Congress the Washington Commanders owner will not testify at a hearing next week as part of an investigation into the team’s workplace conduct.

Attorney Karen Patton Seymour sent a letter to the leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Wednesday explaining the reasons why Snyder was declining the invitation to appear at the June 22 hearing. Among the reasons given were a lack of assurance about the scope of questioning given the existence of multiple ongoing investigations and a scheduling conflict preventing Snyder from appearing in person.

Seymour wrote Snyder “is unable to accept the Committee’s invitation to testify” at the hearing, which the committee called the next step in the investigation and said it will examine how the NFL handles allegations of workplace misconduct and how it sets and enforces standards for all teams.

“Mr. Snyder remains fully willing to assist the committee in its investigation,” Seymour wrote in the letter addressed to Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.).

A spokeswoman for the committee said it intends to move forward with the hearing as scheduled and plans to respond to the letter from Snyder’s camp.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has accepted the invitation to testify and informed the committee on Wednesday that he will appear virtually, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Semyour said the committee failed to assuage concerns about what topics would be broached to Snyder, citing the investigations being done by former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White on behalf of the NFL and the attorneys general of Virginia and the District of Columbia.

“Although the committee indicated that the hearing would be ‘focused on’ the historical workplace culture issues, I was informed that the committee would not provide any assurance that the questions directed to Mr. Snyder would be limited to those issues, given the wide latitude granted to members to ask questions beyond the topics identified by the committee,” she wrote.

Congress launched an investigation into the team’s workplace culture after an independent review overseen by the league prompted a $10 million fine, but did not include a written report to be released to the public.

The Montreal Alouettes are entering the 2022 season with big expectations in the eyes of their owner and a failure to meet them could result in major organizational changes.

In an interview with the Montreal Gazette this week, Alouettes owner Gary Stern told long-time beat reporter Herb Zurkowsky that this will be a make-or-break season for his franchise.

“This year will tell if we’re just talk or real — and I believe we’re real,” Stern said. “If it doesn’t come together, I have a lot of questions. We owe it to the fans to put a team together that’s entertaining and wins. If the team wins and is entertaining, I don’t see why they won’t come out. If they don’t … you have to look at your own internal organization.”

“This season will determine what the CFL and Als are about. If not, by midseason, you’ll see me take action, although I’m not sure what that means.”

Stern and his late business partner Sid Spiegel purchased the Alouettes in January of 2020 under the corporate entity S and S Sportsco. Siegel passed away in July of 2021 having never seen his franchise play and Stern has yet to reap financial benefits after the 2020 season was cancelled and the 2021 campaign was shortened.

The team averaged just over 13,000 in the stands at Percival Molson Stadium last year while finishing with a 7-7 record, numbers that weren’t good enough on either front to see a return on investment for the Als owner.

“I’m a big man and I’m not stupid,” Stern told the Gazette. “I knew what I was getting into. Am I putting in way more work than I thought? Yes. Way more money? Yes. I admit I could have handled some things differently. It’s nobody’s fault. Last year, I don’t know how anybody could have made money; we knew we weren’t. I can’t blame people for not coming out.”

“The fans are passionate and love it; there’s just not enough of them. It’s up to ownership and the team to give them what they need. Then if they don’t come, you go as a business person and say I think we have a problem.”

The Alouettes will need to reach new heights on the field if they expect the stands to be filled and that presses a bullseye firmly onto the back of head coach Khari Jones. While team president Mario Cecchini and general manager Danny Maciocia arrived on the scene shortly after Stern’s purchase, Jones was a hire from the previous administration suddenly thrust into the top job to begin the 2019 season.

While he’s led the Alouettes to back-to-back playoff appearances, criticism of his team’s discipline plagued Jones last season and there have been rumours of a rift between him and Maciocia, who could be eyeing a return to the sideline.

While Stern won’t say where the axe will come down if the team underperforms — and later promised not to meddle on Twitter — the expectations are clear. Jones will need to field a winning team that’s exciting enough to put butts in seats or changes will be made.

Los Angeles Chargers controlling owner Dean Spanos has been accused of repeated breaches of fiduciary duty and misogynistic behavior in a lawsuit filed by his sister.

The filing escalates the ongoing battle among the four Spanos siblings over control of the franchise.

Dea Spanos Berberian filed a petition Thursday in San Joaquin County Superior Court seeking sole control of the family trust that has a 36% stake in the ownership of the Chargers. The lawsuit also asks the court to suspend and remove Dean Spanos as a co-trustee in the trust and requests the disqualification of Michael Spanos as successor co-trustee.

Dean Spanos, Michael Spanos and Alexis Spanos Ruhl issued a statement saying they are united in continuing ownership of the team.

“It is unfortunate that our sister Dea, who clearly has no interest in continuing to participate in the family’s businesses, has resorted to leveling false and provocative charges in an attempt to impose her will on the rest of the family,” the statement said. “The three of us and our children, representing more than 75% of the family and its ownership of its businesses, stand united in support of our parents’ and grandparents’ wishes, including as to the continued ownership and operation of the Chargers.”

Dean Spanos and Berberian were left as co-trustees of the trust following the deaths of Alex and Faye Spanos in 2018.

Of the remaining 64% of the Chargers ownership stake, Dean Spanos, Berberian, Alexis Spanos Ruhl and Michael Spanos each own 15%. The remaining 4% is owned by non-family members.

Alex Spanos bought the San Diego Chargers in 1984 and Dean Spanos took over managing the franchise in 1994.

In the filing, Berberian accuses Michael and Dean Spanos of repeatedly acting “out of their deeply-held misogynistic attitudes and sense of entitlement as the men in the family.” It states that Dean and Michael “believe to their cores that, regardless of what their parents intended and their wills specified, men are in charge and women should shut up.”

Spanos Ruhl issued a separate statement saying the allegations by her sister are untrue.

“Throughout this entire ordeal that was instigated without justification by my sister Dea Berberian, my brother Dean has been unfailingly respectful of me and of my wishes. And he has been fighting, along with my brother Michael and me, to fulfill the wishes of our mother, Faye, relating to our family and our businesses,” she said. “To characterize Dean as somehow being less than fully respectful of the women in our family is just not right.”

According to the trust’s financial statements, debts totaled over $358 million as of Dec. 31, with debt service and expenses of at least $11 million per year. The trust’s stake in the Chargers makes up 83% of its holdings.

Forbes valued the Chargers at $2.6 billion in its recent franchise rankings. The trust’s share could be worth nearly $988 million.

Berberian has also accused Dean and Michael Spanos of borrowing over $60 million from the trust to buy an airplane and “deliberately” damaging her relationship with the pastor of her Greek Orthodox church.

Berberian filed a petition last March in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking to have the court put the trust and team’s ownership stake up for sale. Berberian agreed earlier this week to have the matter heard before the NFL in arbitration.

The NFL declined to comment on the matter.

Carson Wentz doesn’t think his one-year stint with the Indianapolis Colts was “a mistake,” as Colts owner Jim Irsay described. In fact, Wentz, now a member of the Washington Commanders, said Irsay’s recent remarks caught him off guard.

“Last year was a really fun year,” the quarterback said Wednesday on “The Colin Cowherd Podcast.”

“We did some incredible things, (but) came up short at the end. Obviously, I struggled down the stretch there, and timing was poor. I didn’t expect that, I didn’t expect things to unfold the way they did, and I thought things were in a pretty good place there.

“I had an awesome relationship with every single person in that building, can’t say enough good things about the people over there. (Irsay’s comment) kind of came out of left field. He’s entitled to his own opinion, and he’s entitled to do what he wants with his football team.”

Wentz, who joined Indianapolis in the 2021 offseason via trade from the Philadelphia Eagles, put up solid numbers with the Colts last year, but he failed to reach the playoffs. Indianapolis reportedly also grew frustrated with his lack of leadership and reckless playing style throughout the campaign.

After trading first- and third-round picks for Wentz in 2021, the Colts sent the 29-year-old to the Commanders this offseason. Irsay recently said it was “very obvious” his club had to move on from the veteran signal-caller.

Wentz completed 62.4% of his passes for 3,563 yards and 27 touchdowns against seven interceptions in 2021. Indy fell one win short of the playoffs after its Wentz-led offense scored just 11 points in a Week 18 loss to the previously 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Commanders and Wentz will visit the Colts in Week 8 this season.

The Dallas Cowboys are worth an estimated $6.5 billion, but Jerry Jones is confident he could get much more than that if he were to sell the team.

Jones, who purchased the Cowboys for $150 million in 1989, recently told NBC Sports’ Peter King he believes he’d get “more than $10 billion” if he put the team up for sale. However, he has no intention of ever doing that.

“But let me make this very clear,” the Cowboys owner said. “I’ll say it definitively. I will never do it. I will never sell the Cowboys. Ever.”

Forbes ranked the Cowboys as the NFL’s most valuable franchise at $6.5 billion in 2021, an increase of 14% from the previous year. The New England Patriots were the second most valuable at $5 billion, followed by the New York Giants at $4.85 billion.

Jones’ comments were sparked by the upcoming sale of the Denver Broncos, whom Forbes estimated were worth $3.75 billion last year. Reports have suggested the Broncos could fetch anywhere from $4 billion to upward of $5 billion, which would be the most expensive team sale in U.S. sports history.

San Antonio Spurs owner Peter J. Holt on Tuesday told fans not to worry: The team isn’t going anywhere.

A plan to have the Spurs play a few games in Austin, 80 miles away, had raised some local anxiety that the owners may be considering moving the team.

“I want to reassure you that the Spurs are in San Antonio to stay,” Holt said in a message posted on Twitter.

“My family became involved in the Spurs in the 90s because there was a real threat the team would be moved. We would not let that happen then and we will not let that happen now,” Holt said. “There are no Spurs without the city and the people of San Antonio.”

Bexar County owns AT&T Stadium where the Spurs play home games. County commissioners last week raised concerns about the team’s request to play two homes games in Austin’s new Moody Center, which will host University of Texas games. A team official told the commission the franchise is simply trying to expand its brand.

Austin’s soaring popularity and an influx of large corporations who could be major team sponsors have made San Antonio officials nervous that Texas’ capital city could lure away the Spurs. San Antonio was stung a few years ago when Major League Soccer opted to expand in Austin instead of the Alamo City.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was “home and fine” on Thursday, one day after a report that he was involved in a traffic accident and taken to a hospital as a precaution.

Stephen Jones, the owner’s son and an executive vice president for the Cowboys, updated his father’s condition to The Associated Press.

Citing unidentified police sources, Dallas TV station WFAA reported that Jerry Jones, 79, was involved in a crash Wednesday night near downtown Dallas. The station reported emergency crews were summoned, and Jones sustained minor injuries.

A Dallas police spokesman told the AP the department doesn’t release names of individuals involved in vehicle crashes unless there is a fatality. The spokesman confirmed there was a two-vehicle crash but didn’t offer any other details.

The crash involving Jones was the latest incident in a tumultuous offseason for the Cowboys.

An ESPN report in February revealed the club paid a $2.4 million settlement to four Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders over allegations of voyeurism against a public relations director who retired a few weeks before the report. A week later, a woman who grew up in North Texas filed a lawsuit alleging Jerry Jones is her biological father.

The Cowboys also are awaiting a Dallas police investigation into a fatal drive-by shooting in which cornerback Kelvin Joseph was a passenger in the vehicle. Joseph’s attorney says the second-year player was unarmed and “found himself in a situation that escalated without his knowledge or consent.”