Dan Snyder and his lawyers are lobbying the NFL to limit the release of attorney Mary Jo White’s report into sexual misconduct allegations and financial improprieties against the embattled Washington Commanders owner, sources told ESPN.
While there are ongoing questions about legal indemnification for Snyder, and procedural hurdles around vetting the bidding group led by Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Josh Harris, the contents of White’s report — and whether it’s released in its entirety and when — are among the final major stumbling blocks to a sale of the team for $6.05 billion, the sources said. Snyder’s main leverage is time — to try to drag out the process, sources said.
“It’s the main remaining issue,” a source close to Snyder told ESPN.
A Commanders spokesperson called ESPN’s reporting for this story “completely false and a blatant fabrication by someone with no actual knowledge of this matter.” An NFL spokesperson declined comment.
A source with firsthand knowledge of White’s inquiry told ESPN that “it appears her work is all but done” and that in the past several weeks White has conducted the final round of interviews with key witnesses. As a result, conversations between Snyder’s lawyers, league lawyers and executives over the release of her investigation’s findings have intensified.
White, a former U.S. attorney from the Southern District of New York and former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has told lawyers and witnesses involved in the case that she expects her entire report to be made public, not just her findings, sources told ESPN. White was hired by the NFL to conduct the inquiry in February 2022.
“If the findings that are released are the complete findings, drafted by Mary Jo White and not the league, that’s one thing,” attorney Lisa Banks, who represents several witnesses, told ESPN. “But if what we see is a truncated, watered-down version of the findings, drafted by the league, similar to what we saw with [attorney] Beth Wilkinson’s report, we have a big problem.”
Sources both close to Snyder and in league circles expressed skepticism that Snyder would be able to use his objections to the report’s release to hold up the sale of the team to the Harris group. But one owner told ESPN that Snyder “won’t go away without a fight.” The Washington Post reported in February that Snyder wanted to keep the report confidential, and the sale process has continued in the time since, albeit slower than most team sales. Another source said Snyder’s “only leverage” is to threaten his fellow owners that he won’t sell the team unless the White report is “killed” — an option, this person said, “he doesn’t have. He isn’t holding any cards. And I don’t see how the league doesn’t release the report.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell has told Congress and reporters that the league is “committed” to making White’s “findings public.” The NFL never released Wilkinson’s full findings and instead asked the Washington D.C. attorney for an oral presentation to top league officials. A brief summary of Wilkinson’s findings was released in July 2021, when Snyder was fined $10 million and gave up day-to-day leadership of the team to his wife, Tanya, who stepped in as co-CEO and attended league meetings on the team’s behalf. Sources said Snyder — who released a statement when White was appointed that the team was “pleased” she would be investigating allegations against him — is now pushing for an outcome similar to that of the Wilkinson report.
None of Wilkinson’s specific findings were made public, in part due to a “common interest agreement” that meant Snyder and the league both had to agree on any information that was released. It is not known whether Snyder has a common interest agreement with the NFL on the White inquiry. When the findings are released, Banks will look for White to publicly validate them. “I would like to hear from Mary Jo White directly that these are her findings in full,” she told ESPN.
One of the main areas of White’s inquiry dates back to 2009, when Snyder settled an allegation of sexual misconduct with a former team employee for $1.6 million. According to a 2020 report in The Washington Post, the former employee accused Snyder of groping her, asking her for sex and trying to remove her clothes aboard his private plane. Snyder has denied the allegations, calling them “meritless.”
Last year, however, Snyder’s lawyers unsuccessfully attempted to keep the woman from discussing the alleged incident with anyone, including White, by offering to pay her a second undisclosed sum, Brendan Sullivan Jr., the woman’s lawyer, told ESPN last October. The woman refused and has spoken to White and her team several times, sources have told ESPN.
White is investigating a second alleged incident of sexual harassment involving Tiffani Johnston, a former Commanders marketing manager and cheerleader, who said in February 2022 that Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, put his hand on her thigh and pressed her toward his limousine. White has interviewed Johnston multiple times.
Snyder has repeatedly refused to be interviewed by White and her team.
After NFL committee meetings this past week in New York, there has been some optimism in league circles that parts of the sales process could be tentatively approved as soon as the league’s spring meetings, which begin May 22 in Minneapolis, sources said. Other sources said the vetting process for the high number of limited partners in the Harris group is too fluid and complicated and will take more time. A special meeting of owners could also be called later this summer to approve a sale, sources said.
Ownership and league sources told ESPN that Snyder’s support among fellow owners has dwindled to zero.
“His odds of burying the report are the same as his odds of trading for Patrick Mahomes,” a source close to Snyder said. “He can try to not sell the team, but that isn’t a real option.”
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors in Virginia are still investigating financial improprieties by the team, including a secret $55 million loan that Snyder’s limited partners claim they didn’t know about. The team has denied any wrongdoing with the loan and has said that it’s cooperating with investigators on the issue of other financial improprieties.