The NFL has informed the House Oversight Committee and Reform that Mary Jo White will lead the investigation into new allegations surrounding Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder.
The NFL says that a written report will be released publicly, something that was not done after the initial investigation into Washington’s workplace culture.
White, a former Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, led the 2018 investigation into Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who was accused of workplace misconduct – including sexual harassment and one case of a racial slur by former Panthers’ employees. Richardson decided to sell the team long before White’s five-month investigation ended. The league fined him $2.75 million after her findings found him at fault.
The NFL already has fined Washington $10 million for its workplace culture following a nearly year-long investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson and her firm. That fine was announced on July 1. However, based on White’s findings there could be further penalties levied on Washington and Snyder.
A new charge by former Washington employee Tiffani Johnston about Snyder led to the team and the league both saying they would investigate the situation. But NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that only the NFL would look into the matter.
Johnston, a former marketing and events coordinator for the team, told a congressional committee at a roundtable session on Feb. 3 that she was “strategically” placed next to Snyder at a work dinner sometime in 2005 or 2006 “not to discuss business, but to allow him, Dan Snyder, to place his hand on my thigh under the table.”
She also said Snyder later tried to force her into his limousine. A letter from Jason Friedman, another former employee, was presented at the roundtable, stating he had witnessed Snyder trying to steer Johnston into the limo.
Johnston was one of five women who shared their story in front of Congress, but the others had cooperated during the initial investigation so the NFL already knew their stories. Johnston said she declined to talk to Wilkinson, who was in charge of the investigation, out of fear of retaliation by Snyder.
The initial report was delivered orally, Goodell said, because many who participated wanted to remain anonymous. A number of women, though, who did participate have been vocal about their desire for all the information to be released.
White’s investigation will be made public because, the league source said, the allegations were made in an open forum “with no expectation of anonymity.”
White, who is part of the Debevoise & Plimpton firm, also was part of the NFL’s external expert advisory panel on domestic violence. She helped review allegations against Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was then suspended for six games in 2017.
The NFL and Washington have been at odds lately over this situation and the team’s cooperation with Congress. The league sent a letter to Congress on Feb. 9, saying the team has blocked access to more than 100,000 documents. The team denied preventing the NFL from obtaining any non-privileged documents.
At the time, an Oversight committee spokesperson said, “Until the NFL holds Mr. Snyder accountable and stops hiding the truth about the outrageous workplace conduct under his watch, the League’s claims about transparency and accountability will continue to ring hollow.”
If Congress is not satisfied with the documents it receives, or if information in those reveal a need for more action, it could opt to hold hearings, possibly issuing subpoena’s if necessary.
Tisha Thompson contributed to this report.