Posts Tagged ‘Washington Commanders’

Wide receiver Terry McLaurin believes he’s ready to meet the Washington Commanders‘ expectations after signing a lucrative contract extension with the club.

“Playing in the NFL is a blessing and something I will never take for granted,” McLaurin wrote in an open letter Thursday. “From the moment I stepped foot on the field as a seven-year-old to now, I continue to respect the game, play it the right way, and leave everything I have on the field. I love the grind and the process of getting better.”

He added: “From the day I was drafted, I’ve had the singular goal to win a Super Bowl with this franchise. This is on my mind every day when I walk into the building. While I am both humbled and ecstatic about this contract, it motivates me to work even harder.

“I understand and embrace the responsibility that comes with signing this extension. To whom much is given, much is required. There is no other place I would rather be or fan base I would want to represent.”

McLaurin also thanked the Commanders and his teammates.

“As with any life-altering achievement, nobody accomplishes it alone,” he noted.

Washington gave McLaurin – the team’s No. 1 offensive weapon – a three-year contract extension worth up to $71 million Tuesday. The 26-year-old’s new $23.3-million average annual salary ranks seventh among wide receivers, according to Spotrac.

A third-round pick in 2019, McLaurin entered 2022 with only one year left on his rookie contract. The Ohio State product skipped mandatory minicamp and OTAs amid stalled negotiations with the Commanders.

McLaurin has led his team in receiving in each of the last three seasons. He’s racked up 222 catches for 3,090 yards and 16 touchdowns since entering the NFL despite Washington’s struggles at quarterback.

Washington Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin is signing a three-year extension that’s worth up to $71 million, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The new deal will place McLaurin among the league’s top-five highest-paid wideouts. It also contains a $28-million signing bonus, the largest figure given to a receiver, per Schefter. Additionally, over 76% of the wideout’s extension is guaranteed.

McLaurin, who had one more year remaining on his rookie pact, will now be under contract with the Commanders through the 2025 season.

Signing McLaurin to a new contract has been one of Washington’s biggest offseason priorities. Head coach Ron Rivera spoke positively of talks with McLaurin earlier in June after the receiver skipped mandatory minicamp and OTAs.

The 26-year-old wideout has been an integral part of Washington’s offense since being selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He’s put up at least 900 receiving yards in each of his three seasons and is coming off a 1,053-yard campaign in 2021.

McLaurin is the second big-name receiver from the talented 2019 draft to receive a lucrative extension. A.J. Brown struck a four-year, $100-million extension with the Philadelphia Eagles in April.

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 NFL’s Washington Commanders once again find themselves at the center of an off-the-field issue that has nothing to do with football, dealing another blow to their rapidly sagging reputation as one of the most dysfunctional franchises in professional sports.

The fallout from the latest misstep requiring an explanation or apology — assistant coach Jack Del Rio comparing the protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — could have far-reaching consequences beyond the locker room.

It immediately scuttled the team’s best opportunity to reach a deal to build a new stadium, which was the most important long-term project facing owner Dan Snyder amid a lengthy drought without a playoff victory and a dearth of fan enthusiasm. Multiple Virginia lawmakers pointed to Del Rio’s comments as another reason not to vote on legislation luring the Commanders to the state, and by Thursday the bill already on its last legs was pushed off the table for the rest of the year.

In a brief interview with The Associated Press, Democratic Virginia Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw cited various investigations and “other issues to be answered.”

The list of embarrassing and concerning issues facing the once-storied franchise continues to grow.

The Commanders, who rebranded after dropping their longtime name in 2020 amid the national reckoning over racism in the U.S. and played the last two seasons as the Washington Football Team, have been the subject of investigations into workplace culture since several employees detailed examples of sexual harassment.

Attorney Beth Wilkinson’s investigation launched first by the team and taken over by the NFL unearthed a toxic workplace culture and prompted a $10 million fine. When the league did not release a written report of the investigation last summer, Congress launched its own review of the sexual harassment allegations, which branched out into potential financial improprieties based on the testimony of a former employee.

While the Federal Trade Commission was informed of the possibility of financial laws being broken — which the team strongly denies — and Virginia and the District of Columbia officials also began looking into the matter, Congress turned its attention back to workplace culture. Just last week, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform invited Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to appear at a hearing June 22.

A spokeswoman said the committee has been in communication with the team and league about the request, which has now been pushed to the backburner by Del Rio’s comments made this week on the verge of public hearings opening into the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“People’s livelihoods are being destroyed, businesses are being burned down, no problem,” Del Rio said Wednesday when asked about a social media post he made comparing the summer of 2020 protests to the insurrection. “And then we have a dust-up at the Capitol, nothing burned down, and we’re going to make that a major deal. I just think it’s kind of two standards.”

He apologized hours later in a Twitter post, saying it was “irresponsible and negligent” to call Jan. 6 a “dust-up.” Del Rio added he stands by comments “condemning violence in communities across the country.”

The president of the NAACP on Thursday called for Del Rio to be terminated, saying the comments could not have been more offensive and ignorant.

“Downplaying the insurrection by comparing it to nationwide protests, which were in response to a public lynching, is twisted,” Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “You can’t coach a majority Black team while turning your back on the Black community.”

There is no indication Del Rio’s job is in danger as a result of his comments.

Coach Ron Rivera brushed off any notion of Del Rio’s opinions becoming an issue around the Commanders, whose roster is made up of a majority of Black players. Del Rio’s comments have not led to public outrage by Commanders players or around the league.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league has no comment on Del Rio when contacted by The Associated Press on Thursday.

Jonathan Allen, a team leader who is Black, told NBC Sports Washington: “I don’t care about his opinion. As long as he shows up every day and he works hard, that’s what I want from my defensive coordinator.”

The potential impact of Del Rio’s remarks on a stadium that wouldn’t open until he, Rivera and almost every current player is no longer with the team may extend beyond Virginia. It already appeared unlikely for the team to return to its old home at the site of RFK Stadium in the District of Columbia, and several city councilmembers on Thursday made it “unequivocally” clear they won’t support using that land for a new Commanders facility.

D.C. City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who was not one of the seven members to send a letter to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton about RFK, said Del Rio’s comment was inappropriate and evidence of revisionist history about the events of Jan. 6.

“It’s just part of many controversies,” Mendelson told The AP. He added his biggest issue with the team is the lack of a written report from the workplace misconduct investigation.

That remains an open issue, with no indication by the league that a report will ever be released. But Del Rio’s comments are indicative of Washington’s team culture, according to a lawyer who represents more than 40 former employees.

“Jack Del Rio’s ignorant remarks, and the failure of the team leadership to immediately make clear that his comments were inappropriate and offensive, is only further evidence of the failure of this organization to evolve or grow,” attorney Lisa Banks said. “It remains a dysfunctional, toxic environment with no conscience or accountability, despite all claims to the contrary.”

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is retiring from the NFL, ending a career that spanned 17 seasons and nine teams, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Fred Jackson seemed to announce the quarterback’s decision by posting a screenshot of an apparent text message from Fitzpatrick, his former Buffalo Bills teammate.

The veteran signal-caller is in talks with Amazon for a “key role” this season, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Amazon is set to take over the rights to Thursday Night Football in 2022.

Fitzpatrick spent the 2021 campaign with the Washington Commanders but suffered a season-ending hip injury in Week 1.

He also suited up for the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, and St. Louis Rams.

Fitzpatrick started for all nine teams he played for, which is an NFL record, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

The 39-year-old – whom the Rams drafted in the seventh round in 2005 – finishes his career with 34,990 passing yards (32nd all time) and 223 touchdowns (tied for 36th all time) and a record of 59-81-1.

The Washington Commanders have bought land in Woodbridge, Virginia, for what could be a potential site of the NFL team’s next stadium, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the team had not announced the acquisition. The Commanders paid approximately $100 million for 200 acres of land in Prince William County and are still considering other locations in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, the person said.

This site is just over 20 miles outside D.C., about a 45-minute drive from RFK Stadium, which was the team’s home from 1961-1996. The Commanders’ current lease at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, expires in 2027.

ESPN, which first reported the sale, added that the site is the team’s preferred choice for a 60,000-seat domed stadium that would be available for use year-round and include a practice facility and amphitheater. Building a stadium that could host a Super Bowl has long been considered one of the organization’s goals.

Owner Dan Snyder and Co. have been looking at several possible sites in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, though the specter of investigations into the team’s finances clouded how those jurisdictions might handle helping him finance a stadium.

The Maryland House last month approved a $400 million plan to develop the area around FedEx Field that did not include money for a new stadium. Virginia lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would make it favorable for the Commanders to build their next stadium there.

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.