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PHOENIX — When the NFL launched its second recent investigation into the Washington Commanders‘ alleged workplace misconduct, it committed to a level of transparency that its initial investigation did not include: a written report of findings.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated that commitment Tuesday afternoon as the league’s annual owners meetings concluded. Notably, Goodell confirmed that a sale of the Commanders will not impact that commitment.
“Yes, we committed to releasing the findings of the report,” Goodell said during a news conference at the Arizona Biltmore hotel. “We made that commitment back in February . We made it in front of Congress and we’ll continue with that.”
That decision could complicate the legal resolution of a sale or split from Commanders owners Dan and Tanya Snyder. Dan Snyder demanded in February that the NFL and franchises indemnify him against future liability and legal costs if he sells the team, The Washington Post reported.
Momentum toward a Commanders ownership transfer has continued to grow in recent months. In October, Indianapolis Colts team owner Jim Irsay publicly confirmed he believed “there’s merit to remove” Snyder amid investigations into alleged workplace harassment and financial impropriety. The Snyders and Commanders announced in November that they had hired BofA Securities (formerly Bank of America) “to consider potential transactions.”
Roger Goodell confirmed that they’ll release written report whoever is owning it. They “committed” to that and have not changed.
On Jerry saying he knows everything in report, Goodell adamant Mary Jo White has not been sharing details and is professional about it https://t.co/FxlzHj5Tkz
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) March 29, 2023
Potential ownership groups have since emerged, with two submitting formal bids Wednesday, according to multiple reports including ESPN and The Washington Post.
Josh Harris — co-founder of Apollo Global Management, which owns Yahoo, Inc., and owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils — led an ownership bidding group that includes D.C.-area billionaire Mitchell Rales and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos, who founded private equity firm Six Ventures and now works in commercial real estate, submitted the other.
Both bids met Snyder’s $6 billion asking price and were fully funded, ESPN reported.
Goodell said he delivered a brief report to NFL team ownership on both the Commanders’ sale exploration and the league’s investigation, which is being led by former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White.
“They’re both ongoing processes,” Goodell said. “The Washington Commanders are obviously the ones conducting the process on the sale. It is a transaction that will pass and we will proceed on that. Mary Jo White, we gave a brief update that she’s in the middle of her process.
“When she concludes that, we’ll also brief the ownership as well as make the findings public.”
In 2020, more than 40 women who worked for the Commanders alleged they were sexually harassed in the workplace by colleagues including Snyder and team executives. The NFL’s first investigation into those claims determined “the culture of the club was very toxic and fell far short of the NFL’s values.” The league fined Snyder $10 million in July 2021 but did not officially suspend Snyder then. Instead, daily operational oversight transferred to Tanya Snyder.
Soon after, the U.S. Congress’ House Committee on Oversight and Reform opened its own investigation. In Feb. 2022 Congressional testimony, former Washington cheerleader and marketing manager Tiffani Johnston accused Snyder of making sexual advances, including his hand on her thigh, during a work dinner. Snyder also pushed her toward his car afterward, she said, before his attorney stopped him and said it was “a very bad idea, Dan.”
That testimony prompted the league to hire White, a former U.S. attorney, for a second investigation.
White’s investigation has stretched more than 13 months and counting. Goodell has been emphatic that he and the league will not press her for a timeline.
Tanya Snyder was the Commanders’ highest-ranking executive seen at the league’s Arizona meetings this week. She did not address team owners on any transaction process, Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones said.
Speaking outside the conference center as a vehicle awaited his departure, Jones said he did not have direct knowledge of an impending sale and does not take any recent news as a “signal” that closure is imminent.
Jones also said he supports the release of a written investigation report regardless of whether the investigation concludes during Snyder’s ownership tenure.
“Because I know everything that is in the report.”
It was unclear whether Jones was referring to knowledge of the Snyders and Commanders broadly or the specific findings of the investigation.
Goodell, when asked about Jones’ comments, refuted the second possibility.
“That would be impossible, since the only person I know who knows anything about the investigation is Mary Jo White and her counterparts,” Goodell said. “I don’t know any of it since Mary Jo is a professional. She’s not giving access to anybody. I’m comfortable on that point.”
Goodell is also comfortable that access will eventually be granted to investigation findings — regardless of who owns the franchise when that time comes.
“We’ve been very clear and the Commanders were very clear that the findings will be made public,” Goodell said. “So we’re going to continue on that course.”