BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The NFL has not established a timeline for the completion of its latest investigation, conducted by attorney Mary Jo White, of the Washington Commanders and owner Daniel Snyder, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday.
“As far as his status, as we all know, there’s an ongoing investigation, a congressional investigation as well as our investigation into those issues,” Goodell said. “As we get to resolution on that, Dan and I will discuss where he participates.”
White, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and a former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, began the NFL’s latest investigation of the Commanders and Snyder after allegations made during a congressional roundtable in February. Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team, told members of Congress that Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, putting his hand on her thigh and pressing her toward his limo. Snyder denied the accusations, calling the allegations made directly against him “outright lies.”
Asked Tuesday about a possible timeline for the completion of White’s investigation, Goodell said, “We don’t force timelines on those.”
Late last month, Snyder participated remotely for more than 10 hours in a sworn deposition with the House Oversight Committee after weeks of negotiations about the terms of the interview. Snyder gave a voluntary deposition under oath on issues related to the team’s workplace.
His attorney had rejected the electronic service of a subpoena from the committee, and Snyder’s travel overseas complicated the process of serving a subpoena in person.
“We were not party to that,” Goodell said Tuesday of Snyder’s testimony to the committee. “We did not participate in that in any way.”
Goodell testified remotely before the committee at a June 22 hearing on Capitol Hill. Snyder declined the committee’s invitation to appear at that hearing, with his attorney citing a scheduling conflict as well as issues of fairness and due process.
The Washington Post reported in June details of a former employee’s claim that Snyder sexually assaulted her during a flight on his private plane in April 2009. Later that year, the team agreed to pay the employee, whom it fired, $1.6 million in a confidential settlement. In a 2020 court filing, Snyder called the woman’s claims “meritless.”
In April, the committee detailed allegations of financial improprieties by Snyder and the team in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission. The attorneys general for D.C., Karl A. Racine (D), and Virginia, Jason S. Miyares (R), announced they would investigate. The team denied committing any financial improprieties.
Following a previous NFL investigation conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson, the league announced in July 2021 that the team had been fined $10 million and that Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, would assume responsibility for the franchise’s daily operations for an unspecified period.
Tanya Snyder represented the team at Tuesday’s meeting, along with top Commanders executives.
Goodell designated Peter Harvey, the former attorney general of New Jersey, to resolve that appeal, under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. The original ruling of a six-game suspension was made by Sue L. Robinson, a former U.S. district judge who is the disciplinary officer appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association.
“As you know, it’s part of the CBA,” Goodell said Tuesday. “Two parties had that right. Either party could certainly challenge and appeal that. And that was something that we felt was our right to do, as well as the NFLPA’s, and we decided it was the right thing to do.”
Robinson found that Watson violated the personal conduct policy, calling his behavior “egregious” and “predatory,” but said she was bound by precedent on the length of the suspension. In its appeal of Robinson’s ruling, the NFL is seeking an indefinite suspension of at least one full season, along with a fine and required treatment, according to a person familiar with the case.
Asked why the league continues to seek a season-long suspension, Goodell said Tuesday: “Because we’ve seen the evidence. [Robinson] was very clear about the evidence. She reinforced the evidence that there [were] multiple violations here, and they were egregious and it was predatory behavior. Those are things that we always felt were really important for us to address in a way that’s responsible.”
Robinson considered the cases of four women presented to her by the NFL. Goodell said Tuesday that the league believes Watson committed four violations of the personal conduct policy, adding: “I think that’s the case. Those were the facts.”
Watson has denied allegations of sexual misconduct made in civil lawsuits filed against him by women based on his conduct in massage therapy sessions. He has not been charged with a crime.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam attended Tuesday’s meeting and was asked beforehand about the NFL’s appeal of Watson’s six-game suspension. “I’ll just say we’ll respect and honor the process,” he said.
White also attended the meeting. She conducted the NFL’s just-completed investigation of the Miami Dolphins based on the allegations of tampering and game-tanking made by the team’s former coach, Brian Flores, in his racial discrimination lawsuit against the league and teams. White’s findings in that probe resulted in Dolphins owner Stephen Ross being fined $1.5 million and suspended through Oct. 17 and the team being stripped of first- and third-round draft picks.
“The integrity of the game is critically important,” Goodell said Tuesday. “I think the findings were very clear on the tampering charges. While tanking clearly did not happen here, I think we all have to understand that our words and our actions have implications, can be interpreted. We have to be careful.”