That’s about to change.
According to the Washington Post, the league has retained former SEC chairperson Mary Jo White to investigate Snyder and the Commanders, and her report will be made public.
White will focus on new allegations made at a Congressional roundtable discussion earlier this month. One allegation drew considerable attention. Tiffani Mattingly Johnston, a former Washington marketing manager and cheerleader, asserted that Snyder placed his hand on her thigh during a dinner, among other unwanted and disturbing acts.
White, a partner at Debevoise and Plimpton who also served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is a formidable litigator and no stranger to investigating NFL owners accused of mistreating women.
The NFL previously hired White to investigate then-Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. In December 2017, a Sports Illustrated investigative report found that multiple women who worked for the team accused Richardson of sexual harassment and inappropriate physical contact. SI retold of Richardson’s use of a racial slur in the presence of a black scout. After a five-month investigation, White confirmed the allegations.
To be clear, White’s investigation didn’t lead to Richardson selling the team. He had already agreed to sell the Panthers voluntarily—he did so, in fact, within two days of the SI story. White’s critical report, however, led the NFL to fine Richardson $2.75 million.
White’s background and expertise should be of concern to Snyder. She will know how to uncover obscured evidence, how to adroitly question difficult witnesses and how not to fall for diversions and head fakes. At the same time, White’s investigation will be limited in important ways. She is now a private citizen, and thus has no subpoena power. Also, witnesses who speak with White will do so voluntarily, in some cases, and not under oath. These dynamics can limit her fact-finding. Still, the 74-year-old shouldn’t be underestimated. She’s made a career out of investigating and in some cases prosecuting businesses and high-level executives.
White’s probe won’t be the first into Snyder and Commanders executives. The NFL previously retained attorney Beth Wilkinson to investigate other claims of workplace misconduct. Her report wasn’t made public. The league and team agreed to keep the report private unless both supported releasing information. The league has argued that the report contains sensitive information, including in regard to accusers and the accused. However, the league has declined to issue a redacted report that would mitigate those concerns.
Many Commanders fans are likely wondering if White’s appointment is the first step in the removal of Snyder as team owner. As Sportico explained this week, the legal steps needed to remove an NFL owner are challenging, and it has never been done. And Snyder would fight it.
But there’s always a first.