June 22 (UPI) -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell assured congressional lawmakers on Wednesday that the sexual misconduct scandal that's hounded the Washington Commanders has been investigated and the "toxic" workplace atmosphere has changed.
Appearing remotely via a Zoom call, Goodell told the House oversight committee that the team's negative culture no longer exists, and classified the troublesome environment under owner Daniel Snyder as "unprofessional and unacceptable."
The Commanders have been criticized by more than a dozen former employees who said it was a "toxic" environment that included sexual harassment of female workers.
Goodell's testimony came at a time when former employees and advocates want the league to release a full report on the investigation into the Commanders. It has yet to do so.
Goodell defended the privacy of the investigation, saying that it's necessary to protect the anonymity of those involved. He noted that the team was fined more than $10 million and was required to make a number of changes as a result of the inquiry.
"There has been a substantial transformation of the team's culture, leadership and human resources practices," he said.
"To be clear -- the workplace at the Commanders today bears no resemblance to the workplace that has been described to this committee."
The hearing is a followup to a roundtable the committee held in February, which included testimony from former employees of the team -- which was known as the Washington Redskins from the time it began playing in D.C. in 1937 to 2020, when it was decided that the name was racially insensitive. The club was known as the Washington Football Team for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons and was branded the Washington Commanders in February.
In July 2020, 15 former female employees of the team accused members of the organization, including former scouts and members of Snyder's inner circle, of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
"For nearly two decades, under the leadership of team owner Daniel Snyder, Commanders employees were subjected to a toxic workplace and silenced by non-disclosure agreements," the committee said in a statement before the hearing.
Snyder was invited to testify on Wednesday but he declined to appear. His attorney cited a "business conflict."
At Wednesday's hearing, the committee announced a subpoena for Snyder to give a deposition next week.
The accusations span across most of Snyder's tenure as owner, from 2006 to 2019, and fell into two categories -- unwelcome overtures or sexual comments, and encouragement to wear revealing clothing and flirt with clients to close sales deals.
The commissioner promised lawmakers that that type of behavior has been corrected.
"I have been and remain committed to ensuring that all employees of the NFL and the 32 clubs work in a professional and supportive environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, or other forms of illegal or unprofessional conduct," Goodell said.
"As a league, we recognize our powerful standing as a world leader in sports and entertainment, and embrace our responsibility to lead by example, creating workplaces that prioritize respect and promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
"We hold ourselves to the highest standards, and I hope this description of our workplace training programs helps to demonstrate the many ways in which we work to uphold them."
Last October, the NFL Players Association asked the league to release all emails related to its investigation, including those tied to former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden -- who later who resigned amid reports of racist, homophobic and misogynistic remarks he'd used in email communications between 2010 and 2018.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the panel's ranking Republican, slammed the committee for focusing on the Commanders and the NFL -- and not on misconduct accusations in the federal government under President Joe Biden's administration.
He said the committee and Congress can provide no additional relief and the Commanders have already been investigated and some personnel replaced.
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