Commanders’ Daniel Snyder faces hardened attitudes from fellow NFL owners

Sentiment among NFL team owners regarding Daniel Snyder’s ownership of the Washington Commanders has changed significantly as they await the results of both a congressional investigation and a league-commissioned inquiry into allegations of misconduct by him and his team. Several owners said in recent days they believe Snyder could be seriously considered forcing Snyder out of the league’s owner ranks, either by convincing him to sell his franchise or by voting to remove him.

All spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, but their willingness to even raise it is notable given that the league and owners have publicly said little to nothing substantive about the prospect of yanking Snyder out of the NFL. While no action is imminent, the comments reflect a growing level of frustration among owners over the controversies that have engulfed Snyder and the Commanders and the financial performance of the team under his ownership, including his inability to secure public funding for a new stadium to secure. Just a few months ago, several owners expressed concerns about such an attempt, in part because of the prospect of Snyder taking legal action.

One owner was particularly vigorous this week, saying the initial effort could be to urge Snyder to voluntarily sell the team.

“He has to sell,” said the owner. “Some of us need to go up to him and tell him he needs to sell.”

Unless Snyder could be voluntarily persuaded to do so, NFL rules would require a vote by at least 24 of the 32 owners to force him to sell.

“I think there will be a movement,” said the same owner. “We need 24 votes.”

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While the other owners who spoke were less emphatic, one agreed that many owners would be pleased if Snyder was sold voluntarily and acknowledged that it was pending the results of the league-commissioned investigation by attorney Mary Jo White Attempts could be made to remove it.

This sentiment is not unanimous. A third owner recently said a move to oust Snyder would be surprising, adding that the franchise is currently more stable than at other points in Snyder’s ownership. A fourth owner said this week he didn’t know enough about “the process” and wasn’t sure other owners would persuade Snyder to sell or vote to sell. That owner added that he had insufficient information on the situation, in part because White’s investigation is ongoing.

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When asked about the developments, Commanders President Jason Wright responded by stating, “We are making important strides toward a culture shift to ensure our workplace is inclusive and safe for all. The League has publicly recognized our efforts, and independent experts who regularly examine our path to this agreement have confirmed this progress. We are relentlessly focused on continuous improvement at all levels of the organization so that we can be a gold standard company in every facet.”

The apparent shift in some team ownership could also be related to recent developments involving Robert Sarver, owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. The NBA suspended Sarver for a year and fined him $10 million after an investigation found that he used racial epithets in violation of that league’s policies and treated female employees to a different standard than their male counterparts, among other things. Sarver announced this week that it has begun seeking buyers for the two franchises.

Speaking about the Snyder situation, the NFL owner who spoke most forcefully said the league and its team owners “need to do it like the NBA just did,” stressing that the preferred outcome was that to convince Snyder to voluntarily sell.

Following Sarver’s announcement, attorneys representing more than 40 former Commanders employees said this week the NFL should force Snyder to sell.

“We now need the NFL community, including players, owners and corporate sponsors, to demonstrate the same outrage and moral strength as those in the NBA community and to enforce accountability for these egregious acts,” said attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks in a statement. “Like Robert Sarver, Dan Snyder must go.”

A sale would bring Snyder a financial stroke of luck. The Commanders are worth $5.6 billion, according to Forbes’ annual estimates of NFL team valuations released last month. Snyder and family members own the entire franchise following an $875 million buyout in March 2021 of the ownership interests of former partners Dwight Schar, Fred Smith and Robert Rothman, which accounted for approximately 40 percent of the franchise. At the time, the other owners of the NFL team gave Snyder $450 million in debt relief for the purchase. In 1999, Snyder led an investment group that the team originally bought from the Jack Kent Cooke estate for $800 million.

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Additionally, owners could try to convince Snyder that selling the team would have the added benefit of removing him from the public scrutiny he has endured amid investigations by the NFL, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and two attorneys general .

The next NFL owners meeting is scheduled for October 18-19 in New York. The owners also have regularly scheduled meetings in December and March.

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Tanya Snyder, Daniel’s wife and co-CEO of the franchise, has represented the Commanders at league meetings since the NFL announced in July 2021 that it had fined the team $10 million and that it oversaw the day-to-day operations of the franchise would monitor for an indefinite period. Those decisions were based on the findings of an earlier investigation into the team’s workplace, led by attorney Beth Wilkinson, and the league recently confirmed day-to-day oversight of the team remains unchanged.

The franchise’s efforts to secure public funding for a stadium in Virginia stalled in June. The Commanders ranked 31st out of the 32 NFL teams present at home last season, ahead of only the Detroit Lions, according to numbers compiled by ESPN.

Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team, said at a congressional roundtable in February that Snyder molested her at a team dinner, placed his hand on her thigh and pushed her toward his limousine. Snyder denied the allegations, calling them “blatant lies”.

In June, The Washington Post reported details of an employee’s allegation that Snyder sexually assaulted her during a flight on his private plane in April 2009. Later that year, the team agreed to pay the fired employee $1.6 million in a confidential settlement. In a 2020 court filing, Snyder called the woman’s claims “baseless.”

The committee detailed allegations of financial irregularities by Snyder and the team in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in April. DC Attorneys General Karl A. Racine (D) and Virginia Jason S. Miyares (R) announced they would investigate. The team has denied committing any financial irregularities.

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The committee’s final report is still pending. Snyder gave voluntary testimony under oath before the committee for more than 10 hours remotely in July. He had declined the committee’s invitation to testify during a June 22 public hearing on Capitol Hill, with his attorney citing Snyder’s trip out of the country and issues of fairness and due process. His attorney later refused to accept electronic service of a subpoena from the committee.

The document reveals details of the 2009 sexual assault allegation against Daniel Snyder

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified remotely before the committee during the June 22 hearing. Former team president Bruce Allen gave the committee approximately 10 hours of remote testimony under subpoena earlier this month.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.), the committee chair, wrote in a June memo to other committee members that the panel’s investigation found evidence that Snyder and members of his legal team conducted a “shadow investigation.” and had compiled a “dossier” targeting former team members, their lawyers and journalists in order to discredit his accusers and shift blame.

According to Maloney’s note, the committee’s investigation uncovered evidence that Snyder and his attorneys combed through more than 400,000 emails on Allen’s inactive team account to convince the NFL that Allen was “responsible for the team’s toxic work culture.” Attorneys representing Snyder provided Allen’s emails to Wilkinson and the NFL, according to evidence found during the committee’s investigation.

In some of those emails, Jon Gruden used racist, homophobic, and misogynistic language during his roughly seven-year correspondence with Allen and others while Gruden worked for ESPN. Gruden resigned as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders in October after media reports leaked the emails. He filed a lawsuit against the NFL in November, accusing the league and Goodell of using leaked emails to publicly sabotage his career and urge him to resign.

The NFL has said it would not leak Gruden’s emails. Tanya Snyder told other owners at a league meeting in New York in October that neither she nor her husband were responsible for the leaked emails, according to several people present at the meeting.

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