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Phillips: Congressional hearing an opportunity for Goodell to distance himself from Snyder

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There was never any chance that Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder would appear before Congress.

Snyder hasn’t spoken with reporters in years, and his sporadic public remarks have ranged from untimely (“We’ll NEVER change the name“) to embarrassing (“Happy Thanksgiving“ in January).

His wife Tanya is a much friendlier public presence, but even her first appearance as co-CEO last year, on Adam Schefter’s podcast, prompted an apology when she cast her family as the victims in the investigation into the Commanders’ workplace culture.

So when Snyder declined to appear before the U.S. House committee investigating the Commanders, it was a mere formality.

Snyder couldn’t risk potentially slipping and creating another viral moment, and speaking under oath would open up its own legal complications. In a letter from his attorney, he cited a “longstanding” business obligation that requires him to be overseas at the time, as well as issues with the potential scope of questions.

The committee will convene next Wednesday to address multiple accusations of sexual harassment within the team when it was named the Washington Redskins, as well as the conduct of the NFL in declining to release a written report by attorney Beth Wilkinson that found numerous workplace issues.

The surprise on Wednesday night, though, was that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will testify in front of the committee.

And that’s where things get interesting.

Goodell works for the teams, and is paid handsomely (a reported $63.9 million annually) to take the slings and arrows that come with running one of America’s most prominent businesses.

In normal times, his job would be to act as a shield for Snyder, and take the owner’s medicine during what’s likely to be a nationally televised event.

But there have been multiple reports in recent months that the rest of the league is growing tired of Snyder, including a USA Today report that quoted four owners anonymously as saying there was growing fatigue with Snyder and the way he is running the Commanders.

Goodell could use his appearance Wednesday as an opportunity to appease that faction, and throw Snyder under the proverbial bus.

The league has already dipped into that territory when they wrote that the Commanders were blocking access to key documents requested by the committee.

By choosing to appear virtually, Goodell also shows that Snyder perhaps could have made an appearance if he had really wanted to.

During his time as commissioner, Goodell has navigated a number of controversies and served as the public face of many.

It appears he’ll be taking on that role once again, but which way he turns on Wednesday — defending Snyder or disowning him — will be a key hint as to how the Washington ownership drama will play out in the coming years.

mphillips@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6546

Twitter: @michaelpRTD

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