PHOENIX — Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder has declined to be interviewed by attorney Mary Jo White thus far as she conducts the NFL’s second investigation into Snyder and the team, three people with direct knowledge of the league’s inner workings said.
White, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and the former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has been investigating Snyder and the team since February 2022. The NFL, which has not provided a timetable for the completion of White’s investigation, has said the results will be released publicly.
The NFL declined to comment Sunday, citing the ongoing review. White did not respond to a recent request to comment.
The Commanders declined to comment Sunday through a spokesperson. The team recently called it “a confidential matter between the club and the League.”
NFL team owners began three days of meetings Sunday at a Phoenix resort as part of the annual league meeting, also attended by teams’ head coaches and top front office executives.
The owners are pausing any consideration of removing Snyder from ownership of the Commanders, two people with direct knowledge of the owners’ views said Friday. The owners, they said, will wait to see over the coming weeks and possibly months what occurs with Snyder’s attempt to sell the franchise, his efforts to secure indemnification against legal liability and the potential completion of White’s investigation.
One of those people said Friday that White could make a push “over the next month or so” to complete her ongoing investigation. It is not clear whether White would submit her findings without Snyder’s participation or to what extent his refusal to be interviewed has slowed the process.
“It is inconceivable that the NFL would allow Dan Snyder to avoid participating in a league-mandated investigation into Snyder’s own alleged sexual misconduct and financial wrongdoing, particularly when a number of my clients have once again put themselves on the line to assist in such an investigation,” attorney Lisa Banks said in a statement to The Washington Post. “If Dan Snyder is truly refusing to participate in Mary Jo White’s investigation, or is insisting on special accommodations for such participation, it speaks volumes about the NFL’s ongoing protection of him, as well as his own mindset.”
Banks and fellow attorney Debra Katz represent more than 40 former Commanders employees.
“If Mr. Snyder truly has nothing to hide regarding these allegations of harassment and financial improprieties, as he insists, he will not hesitate to participate in the NFL’s investigation and set forth whatever explanations or defense he may have,” Banks said.
White’s investigation was launched following allegations made during a congressional roundtable in February 2022 by Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team. Johnston 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 allegations, calling them “outright lies.”
White’s investigation also includes allegations of financial improprieties involving Snyder and the team. Those allegations originally surfaced as part of the Democratic-led investigation into the team’s workplace conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
The committee sought repeatedly to interview Snyder last summer, and he and his legal team effectively delayed his participation in the probe for several months by raising concerns about fairness and due process, seeking the questions in advance, trying the limit the scope of the questions and citing scheduling conflicts.
He ultimately testified voluntarily under oath before the panel for nearly 11 hours July 28, speaking remotely via Israel. In that span, according to the committee’s final report, Snyder evaded questions by saying more than 100 times he did not know or could not recall information and gave “misleading” answers.
The committee detailed financial allegations against the team and Snyder in an April 2022 letter to the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of D.C., Maryland and Virginia. In the letter, the committee said the Commanders and Snyder “may have engaged in a troubling, long-running, and potentially unlawful pattern of financial conduct” that allegedly involved withholding as much as $5 million in refundable deposits from season ticket holders and also hiding money that was supposed to be shared among NFL owners.
The office of Karl A. Racine, the former Democratic attorney general for the District, filed a consumer protection lawsuit in November against the Commanders, Snyder, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Racine’s office filed a second lawsuit that month against the Commanders regarding refundable deposits that allegedly were not returned by the team to season ticket holders from Washington. The Commanders said a review by an outside law firm “found no evidence that the team intentionally withheld security deposits that should have been returned to customers or that the team improperly converted any unclaimed deposits to revenue.”
Brian E. Frosh, then Maryland’s Democratic attorney general, announced in November that his office’s consumer protection division reached a settlement with the Commanders over allegations that the team withheld security deposits from ticket holders. The team paid a $250,000 fine under a settlement in which it did not admit to any wrongdoing. The settlement called for the Commanders to refund all security deposits that had not been returned to consumers.
The Commanders also are being investigated by federal authorities in the Eastern District of Virginia. The team has said it is cooperating with the federal investigation.
Following a previous NFL investigation conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson, the league announced in July that the Commanders had been fined $10 million and that Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, would assume responsibilities for the franchise’s day-to-day operations for an unspecified period.
Tanya Snyder is representing the Commanders at this meeting in Phoenix, along with team president Jason Wright, General Manager Martin Mayhew, Coach Ron Rivera and other front office executives.
The Commanders announced in November that the Snyders had hired Bank of America Securities to explore potential transactions involving the franchise. The team has not said whether the Snyders intend to sell all or part of the franchise.
Leading bidders for the team attempted to complete a deal with Daniel Snyder ahead of this meeting, according to people familiar with the sales process. The prospective buyers include Josh Harris, the owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns The Post; Tilman Fertitta, owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets; and Canadian commercial real estate developer and private equity executive Steve Apostolopoulos.
Any sale would have to be approved by at least three-quarters of the league’s owners. The owners on the NFL finance committee, which would vet any deal on a sale, met Sunday in Phoenix. One person with knowledge of the discussions said afterward that “nothing had changed” and expressed the view that the process could last until the fall.
But one owner expressed the view Sunday that Snyder will sell his team and leave the league without significant further rancor, adding: “What choice does he have?”
Maske and Jhabvala reported from Phoenix. Clarke reported from Washington.