The NFL has hired attorney Mary Jo White to investigate a sexual harassment allegation recently made public against Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder, a league spokesman said Friday evening.
White’s findings will be made public, NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy said. The Commanders have dropped their own internal investigation into the public accusation made on Feb. 3 by ex-Washington Football employee Tiffani Johnston at a Congressional roundtable held by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had said Feb. 9 at a news conference in Los Angeles that “I do not see any way a team can do its own investigation of itself.”
White is the former Securities and Exchange Commission chair under President Barack Obama. She is currently a partner at the New York-based law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. White conducted a six-month investigation into former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson for workplace misconduct in 2018.
The NFL’s statement read in part: “As these new allegations were made by individuals in an open forum, with no expectation of anonymity, the findings will be made public at the conclusion of the investigation. Based on review of the findings, the Commissioner will determine any appropriate actions which will be made public. A written report of the investigator’s findings will be publicly released.”
The league was criticized for not releasing a written report by attorney Beth Wilkinson, who conducted the original 10-month workplace misconduct allegations in 2020 and 2021 by dozens of women against the then-Washington Redskins. Wilkinson gave Goodell a verbal report of her investigation.
The team was fined $10 million for fostering a "toxic" work environment and Snyder was ordered to step away from day-to-day team operations "for at least the next several months" by the league on July 1, 2021.
Goodell has said the league was protecting the anonymity of the women who cooperated with Wilkinson despite some of those same women insisting a report be released.
The Commanders have dropped a planned investigation of their own. Debra Wong Yang had been retained by Pallas Global Group, LLC and was set to lead the probe into the sexual harassment claim before the NFL made clear its intent to do its own probe.
The Commanders also released a statement Friday evening that read:
“The Washington Commanders are pleased that the NFL has appointed Mary Jo White to look into the recent allegations made by Tiffani Johnston. The Commanders have always been intent on having a full and fair investigation of this matter conducted, and to releasing the results of that investigation. Given the Team’s confidence in Ms. White’s ability to conduct such a full and fair investigation, the Commanders will not separately pursue and investigation, and will corporate fully with Ms. White."
According to Johnston, Snyder made unwanted sexual advances toward her at an unspecified work dinner when he placed his hand on her thigh under a table. Johnston said she proceeded to remove Snyder's hand from her thigh.
Johnston, a one-time team cheerleader and later a marketing and events coordinator for the organization, told the committee that later the same evening Snyder attempted to coax her into his waiting limousine before being dissuaded by a colleague who called it "a very bad idea."
Snyder called Johnston’s allegations “outright lies” in a statement released by his attorney on Feb. 3.
Jason Friedman, who worked for Washington as vice president of sales and customer service for more than 20 years, submitted a letter to the Oversight Committee that corroborated Johnston's account, according to Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., the committee chairwoman.
Another former cheerleader, Melanie Coburn, who was also once marketing director for the team, went on to disclose another new allegation against Washington's owner. Coburn said that during an employee trip in Colorado she was instructed to go to the basement of Snyder's Aspen, Colo. home and remain there. Coburn told the committee she later learned from someone in attendance that the upstairs group had invited prostitutes inside.