DAN SNYDER DOES THIS when he feels cornered, say those who know him well. He paces in a hotel suite, or on his superyacht, or in River View, his $48 million estate in Virginia. Rocking a drink in his hand, he tells members of his inner circle about the grime he’s accumulated on co-owners, coaches, executives, even his own employees—all the things he’s learned from other sources, including private research firms. . He never says exactly what he knows, only that in his 23 years as the owner of the Washington Commanders, he knows a lot. And that in the zero-sum world of billionaires, this is how you survive. Snyder recently told a close associate that he’s been collecting enough secrets to blow up several NFL owners, the league office, and even Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“They can’t fuck with me,” he said privately.
Senior team managers and confidants have heard him say this since he was considered just one of the worst owners in the sport. Faced with investigations on multiple fronts and running out of powerful allies, he’s alluding to the dirty work more than ever. Snyder, now 57, has told his associates that he will not lose his beloved franchise without a fight that would end with multiple casualties.
“The NFL is a mafia,” he recently told an associate. “All owners hate each other.”
“That’s not true,” says an experienced owner. “All owners hate Dan.”
Something must be given, possibly as soon as the NFL league meetings in New York Tuesday. Many owners and top executives tell ESPN that they would like to see Snyder removed as owner. It would clean the slate for a legendary team and cherished fan base and reinvigorate the pursuit of a much-needed stadium.
Backed into a corner
WHY IS Snyder still an NFL team owner? And how has he managed to survive accusations of toxic clubbing culture, sexual harassment, accounting misdeeds and the tampering with a new stadium proposal that once seemed inevitable and now faces stiff opposition from the public and officials in Virginia, Maryland and Washington? DC? Those questions have baffled fans, league and team managers and some co-owners, and lawyers for former Commanders employees who say they have been victims of the team culture of sexual harassment and abuse. “Our clients and the general public deserve transparency,” said Lisa Banks, attorney for nearly a dozen former teammates and cheerleaders who publicly revealed the team’s toxic culture in 2020 and continues to call on the NFL to make its investigative report on Snyder public. Read also : 5 easy little ways to become your own cheerleader and overcome life’s challenges. . “If not,” Banks said in a statement last year, “the NFL and Roger Goodell need to explain why they want to protect the team and “Dan Snyder at all costs.”
According to more than 30 owners, league and team managers, attorneys, and current and former Commanders employees interviewed by ESPN, the fear of retaliation that Snyder has instilled in his franchise, poisoned on the field and off, has extended to some of his colleagues. owners. Multiple owners, league and team sources say they were told that Snyder instructed his law firms to hire private investigators to look into other owners and Goodell.
League sources say the NFL knows Snyder claimed to be tracking owners. But none of the owners or sources would reveal how they learned of Snyder’s alleged attempt to deploy private investigators. It’s also unclear how many owners would be targeted, though sources say they believe it’s at least six. One owner was told directly from Snyder that he has “dirt about Jerry Jones,” a team source told ESPN, though the nature of the information was unclear. Another source confirmed that Snyder told a confidant that he has “a file” on Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys who has served as Snyder’s friend, mentor and longtime firewall of support.
The commanders refused to make team officials, including Dan Snyder and his wife, Tanya, available for interviews but released a statement attributed to a group of team members and law firms. A spokesman for the commander and outside attorneys denied that Snyder hired or authorized private investigators to track down the owner of another team and the league office executives, including Goodell. “This is absolutely false,” say John Brownlee and Stuart Nash, partners at Holland & Knight. “He has not prepared ‘files’ on owners.”
A spokesperson for the team called it “just ridiculous and completely untrue” that Snyder once said he could blow up the league, or that the league “can’t fuck with him,” or that “the NFL is a mafia” or ” all owners hate each other.”
On the contrary, the spokesperson said: “Owners have a shared love of the game, mutual respect for each other and our organizations and a strong working relationship.”
ESPN’s reporting “cannot alter the team’s amazing transformation or the Snyders’ commitment to making this transformation permanent,” Brownlee and Nash said in the statement.
Most sources refused to disclose this story; Goodell has warned owners they could be fined millions of dollars for leaking to reporters. Snyder “thinks he’s had enough of it all,” says a former senior commanding officer. “He thinks he has things about Roger.” Another former Commanders commander routinely called Snyder “the most powerful owner in the NFL” because of what he knows, a source says.
Several owners say they view the threats of file corruption as a desperate tactic designed to scare owners into voting to remove Snyder. “He has his back in a corner,” says an experienced owner who says he knows that Snyder has collected dirt on some owners. “He acts like a mad dog that has been cornered.”
Counting friends and foes
THE POTENTIAL FOR mutually assured destruction could help explain why Snyder has survived years of scandal. Or it may just reveal that Snyder is running out of options. He comes under attack from multiple fronts: his team, his associates and his own behavior have been investigated twice by Congress, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the league office. At least 24 owners are needed to force Snyder to sell his team, a fate he has told multiple sources he will never accept. This may interest you : O-Zone: String music. An employee who has recently met Snyder several times says that Snyder has become “paranoid” about owners and executives of competition offices, and about former employees breaking their nondisclosure agreement and telling investigators and reporters what they know. Snyder sees “evil lurking in every shadow and around every corner,” the employee says. “There’s always someone out to get them.”
Snyder’s fears may not be entirely unfounded. Jerry Jones recently told confidants that he “may not be able” to protect Snyder any longer. Snyder has also “eviled” Jones, recently telling an owner, “He’s just out to get into your pocket. He’ll sell you. You can’t trust him,” said a senior executive close to the owner. “Snyder has already lost Jerry,” the source added.
In the commander’s statement, lawyers denied that Snyder’s relationship with Jones has deteriorated, saying he and Tanya have “a close and strong relationship with Jerry Jones and his entire family” and have “great respect and admiration for each other.” “We also understand that certain people believe their own interests will be served by persuading news outlets such as ESPN to publish false information about the Snyders and Joneses,” the Holland & Knight’s lawyers wrote.
Jones declined to comment on this story, said Jim Wilkinson, a Cowboys spokesperson who also declined to comment.
There is a growing consensus around the league that, despite press reports to the contrary, the commanders have struggled to establish a more inclusive culture. And sources told ESPN they question whether Jason Wright, the team’s president and the first black man in NFL history to hold that title, has the real authority to fix the team. Current and former team managers say Snyder is still far more involved in the running of the club than most realize, begging football decision-makers last March to trade for quarterback Carson Wentz — despite a deal he struck with Goodell in July 2021, when he was also fined $10 million, for relinquishing day-to-day management to his wife, Tanya.
With Snyder in a corner, some owners are now considering creative ways to sideline him, including refusing to lend him money for a new stadium.
In an effort to bolster support, Snyder has visited a handful of owners across the country, sources say, and has told employees he’s confident he won’t be voted out. “As a longtime owner, Dan has the support of many of his colleagues,” the team spokesperson said. If such a vote is taken on Snyder’s fate, it probably won’t be because the commissioner has insisted. Goodell has made it clear that Snyder’s permanent status is a property decision, and he has avoided mentioning Snyder in closed-door meetings. Sources say Goodell is clearly more comfortable challenging owners on issues related to game integrity than their company’s culture. Indeed, some owners, league leaders and team managers are annoyed that the NFL has aligned itself with Washington on many fronts in “supporting” the franchise, in the words of one owner, through attorney Beth Wilkinson’s report on the To bury the team’s toxic workplace. years, and by helping commanders avoid fines for repeated violations of the Rooney rule. Clearly, one owner says, Goodell “don’t want to touch this.”
“This is what happens when you do business with bad people,” the owner says of Snyder. “They know he’s going to burn down their houses.”
‘He got off on the wrong foot’
“DANIEL SNYDER IS the perfect person. Read also : Everything you need to know before the University of Alabama homecoming game.”
That’s what Paul Tagliabue said in May 1999, when the commissioner presided over the sale of the storied Washington franchise for $800 million, making 34-year-old Snyder the youngest person ever to buy an NFL franchise. It didn’t take long for some owners to disagree with Tagliabue’s sunny assessment. In the first series of owners’ meetings he attended, Snyder came across as brash and astute, impatient and disrespectful to owners twice his age. When asked about his early take on Snyder, an experienced owner now says, “Arrogant. Obnoxious. Aloof. Selfish.”
But it wasn’t until the fall 2003 league meetings, which were held in Chicago, that the first impression of some owners of Snyder would stick. Snyder delivered a passionate but unruly argument for the Super Bowl to be played in February 2008 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. His bid was a contender. His main competition was Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill and his son Michael, who built a $455 million stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Bidwill family, who have owned the Cardinals since 1932, are loved by owners and owners loved the new desert location.
In his pitch for a Super Bowl in Washington, Snyder spent as much time glorifying the virtues of FedEx Field as he did “personally taking down Arizona and the Bidwills,” one owner recalls. After the Bidwills and Arizona won a secret ballot, “Snyder started yelling at everyone,” angrily telling the owners they’d made “a big mistake,” one owner says. “Other owners were floored. … He got out on the wrong foot. And not much has changed since then.”
The nearly two decades since have exposed what critics see as Snyder’s vindictiveness and paranoia, known for most of his property within the Washington front office. Outside of the team, Snyder is better known for losing seasons and his penchant for micromanaging, despite publicly claiming in 2020 that the team’s culture problem was because he “admittedly was too hands-off as an owner”. He has always insisted on acquiring big names of the moment to save his team, from Deion Sanders to Bruce Smith to Robert Griffin III to Josh Norman to the late Dwayne Haskins, no matter what his football decision-makers advocated. “I’m the goddamn owner, and if you don’t do this, I’m going to kill you,” he sometimes half-joked to senior football staff, says a former team manager.
Snyder cycled through football regimes, but kept certain lieutenants around as forced companions and trusted advisers, calling them to his estate at all times. According to several former Washington executives, he was a lonely man who apparently had no real friends. Snyder seemed to value former football operations manager Vinny Cerrato as a gofer, weightlifting partner and drinking buddy, but he often tore him in front of others and belittled his football intelligence. When Bruce Allen arrived as team manager in 2009, Snyder seemed envious of him to assistants and others in the league. Unlike Snyder, Allen was popular with owners, someone they would visit at competition meetings for dinner or drinks. In 2018, Snyder hired Brian Lafemina, a welcome director of the league office, to run the business. Lafemina testified in his congressional statement that he felt that Snyder was jealous of him, too. Lafemina was alarmed by the club’s cultural problems and says he was trying to fix them – and that only took six months before Snyder fired him.
For years, it seemed that Snyder’s biggest problem off the field was his stubborn refusal to rename his team. That changed in 2020, when a Washington Post report on the team’s culture contained numerous allegations of chronic sexual harassment and multiple incidents of misconduct, including some of former team cheerleaders accusing team managers of making videos of them partially naked, including they made disparaging sexual comments, asked for dates and told female employees to flirt with suite owners.
Snyder dismissed the report as “a hit job.” The team hired Beth Wilkinson, an experienced attorney from Washington, D.C., to investigate the claims in July 2020. But Snyder “actively interfered” with the Wilkinson investigation by using private investigators to “harass and intimidate witnesses,” congressional investigators found. Goodell and the league took over the investigation in August 2020.
The congressional investigation would later uncover internal documents showing how Snyder’s league and legal team secretly struck a deal, known as a “public interest agreement,” which meant that both had to sign before anything happened. information was released. This effectively gave Snyder veto power over the release of negative information, as well as “direct access” to influence the Wilkinson investigation, according to a June 2022 report from the commission. “This agreement … gave Mr. Snyder a back channel to block the disclosure of information and make confidential presentations intended to guide the course of the investigation,” the report said. “The commanders have informed the committee that Mr. Snyder continued to receive periodic updates during the Wilkinson investigation.”
Documents released by the congressional committee in February show that Wilkinson initially signed an advance pledging to deliver “a full written report,” but Goodell requested that she verbally inform him. Rather than deliver a written report, Wilkinson ended up reading notes detailing the findings of her research, according to those with first-hand knowledge.
The NFL has still not made Wilkinson’s findings public, despite repeated calls for their release by more than 40 former team members and a growing list of state and federal lawmakers. While most owners hate Snyder, many were relieved and hopeful that they had gotten past so many negative headlines, especially after Goodell and Snyder reached an agreement on day-to-day management and a fine, sources say. “It did what it was supposed to do,” says one owner of the Wilkinson study. “It was damage control.”
However, some owners saw the allegations of sexual misconduct by employees against senior executives — and one in particular directed at Snyder — as deeply disturbing. In 2009, Snyder settled an allegation with a former team employee for $1.6 million, according to a December 2020 report in The Washington Post. A former team member accused Snyder of groping her, asking her for sex and removing her clothes on his plane. Snyder has denied the woman’s claim as “undeserved.” His attorneys told ESPN that “as Snyder testified under oath before the House Oversight Committee, an investigation found the alleged incident never happened.” They added that Snyder had settled with her because it was cheaper than fighting her in court.
Last year, however, Snyder’s attorneys tried unsuccessfully to stop the woman from discussing the alleged incident with anyone, including Wilkinson, by offering her a second undisclosed amount, Brendan Sullivan Jr., the woman’s attorney, told reporters. to ESPN. The offer from Snyder’s lawyers was “flatly rejected,” Sullivan said. Snyder had offered the woman “a substantial amount” that was “in the seven figures,” said two sources with first-hand knowledge of the offer. Snyder’s lawyers denied Sullivan’s claim about a second offer.
Earlier this year, the woman was interviewed by former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who is conducting a new investigation into Snyder for the NFL, a source added. A former Washington team manager who was aware of the alleged incident said that if all the details of the alleged assault were ever made public, it could be “the tipping point” for Snyder’s removal as owner. It is a mystery to those who will decide Snyder’s fate. Proprietary sources said some in their ranks are concerned that similar investigations could be made about their own front offices — and that Snyder may have heard about many of them over the course of two decades. “There are 31 guys who are terrified” of Snyder, says a sports manager and longtime friend of Goodell. “If you don’t care about the brotherhood, it’s scary.”
A congressional committee, labeled an unfair partisan attack by Snyder’s attorney last week, has been looking deeply at Snyder and the team for nearly a year. One of the committee’s main concerns is the use of nondisclosure agreements to cover up bad behavior. The commission’s damning 29-page report states that Snyder “abused the subpoena power of federal courts to obtain private emails, call logs, and communications in an attempt to determine the sources of the Washington Post disclosures, their credibility.” undermine and question their motives.”
According to multiple legal and team sources, Snyder used the Wilkinson investigation as “a tip sheet” for his law firms. “The list of people who opposed him became his list of enemies,” said a former Washington executive.
‘No way out’
SNYDER’S AFFECTION FOR using private investigators was demonstrated during the congressional investigation, when it was found that one of his law firms, Reed Smith, had “hired private investigators to harass and intimidate dozens of former team members” during the Wilkinson investigation. Former team members told the investigators that “Mr. Snyder’s use of private investigators intimidated and discouraged them from participating in the Wilkinson investigation.” The resulting product was a 100-slide presentation to Wilkinson and the competition, dated Nov. 23, 2020, according to the report. The presentation “appears to be based on private text messages, emails, phone logs and call transcripts, and social media posts from nearly 50 individuals.”
Reed Smith has been known to deploy any legal weapon on behalf of clients. Multiple sources with first-hand knowledge say that when Reed Smith represented Alex Rodriguez in his lawsuit against Major League Baseball, a private investigator was hired to track down Commissioner Rob Manfred. Jordan Siev, Reed Smith’s partner, told ESPN in a statement that the company “is not aware of an investigator engaged to investigate” Manfred, and he said he had “no knowledge of any attempts to investigate information or collect” on NFL owners, executives, or Goodell. Siev did not respond to questions about whether Reed Smith had investigated former Commanders employees.
In recent months, Snyder has told his closest confidants that his private investigators have unearthed incriminating information about Goodell, other unnamed league staffers and an unknown number of owners. League and property sources say there’s a lot of gossip and speculation about what researchers might have uncovered, but some wonder if Snyder actually has anything and is bluffing as a scare tactic.
Anything that came out would likely be in the form of a leak to The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal because, say sources from multiple leagues and teams, Snyder hates The Washington Post.
Jon Gruden’s emails containing racist, misogynistic and anti-gay language were leaked to The Wall Street Journal in early October 2021. A few days later, Bruce Allen’s emails leaked to The New York Times and Gruden resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas robbers.
There is no evidence that a person linked to Snyder was behind those leaks. The Congressional report found that, in an effort to blame Allen, Snyder’s attorneys gave the NFL 400,000 emails from an account used by Allen, who fired Snyder in December 2019. During the Wilkinson investigation, Snyder and his attorneys identified specific “inappropriate” emails within the 400,000 series that “supposedly showed that Mr. Allen should have been the primary target of the Wilkinson investigation,” the congressional report added. that the NFL also confirmed that Snyder’s attorneys claimed that Allen had “a toxic environment with the Washington Commanders.” Allen declined to comment through an associate, while Gruden declined to comment through his attorney.
Half a dozen owners and league leaders say they believe the leaks were ordered by Snyder or with his blessing. Last fall, some of Reed Smith’s attorneys told colleagues how they had sorted Allen’s emails into categories, including one for possible public relations use, the colleagues said. Reed Smith’s Siev denied that the company had sorted the emails or played a role in a leak, “to our knowledge, no representative of the Commanders or the Snyder family has.” Gruden has filed a lawsuit against Goodell and the league in Nevada, alleging Goodell ordered the leak that ended his coaching career – although the commissioner denied in a owners session last year that the league had leaked them.
Sources say the idea of Snyder claiming to possess malicious information — and the threats he might use — has enraged some owners, but only to a degree. Prior to league meetings in Atlanta in May, owners were “counting votes” to evict Snyder, USA Today reported. An owner now says a meeting was scheduled at the time to discuss Snyder’s fate. But when the spring sessions began, no Snyder meeting was called and there was no voting, let alone voting. Some sources blamed the passivity on Tanya Snyder missing May’s league meeting and felt it would be inappropriate to debate Washington’s property without someone from the club present. Other owners say her presence at subsequent meetings made it impossible to have an honest conversation.
Still, owners and team managers say they’re impressed with her for “taking a bullet” twice for her husband in closed doors, apologizing for the team’s toxic culture—while playing the role of her husband’s main defender in the game. publicly and privately. In a statement, Snyder’s attorneys said: “Tanya, a breast cancer survivor, is one of the most capable business leaders in America, and she and Dan will continue to work to improve all aspects of the team — in the front office and on the field.”
In recent weeks, Snyder has personally and repeatedly asked Jones to support his back and convince co-owners not to throw him out. But a source says Jones has told Snyder he may not be able to help, indicating support for Snyder has waned. (When discussing Jones’ lack of support, Snyder snapped at a confidant: “Jerry has his own problems.”) The source says, “Dan has to make his own defense with owners.” When asked if Snyder had contacted Jones about this story, Cowboys spokesman Jim Wilkinson declined to comment.
Close to owners, Jones has been careful not to defend Snyder’s character, but praised how hard Snyder is working to “set the ship right” and attempt to build a new stadium. “It’s the best he can say – he’s trying,” said a director who attended the meetings about Jones’ defense. The executive added that team owners are willing to look the other way on Jones’ own issues, including a Cowboys cheerleader voyeurism scandal involving a senior executive earlier this year, reported by ESPN, and a lawsuit by a 25 -year-old woman who says Jones is her father because his ingenuity and vision for growing the NFL pie has made rich men richer.
The opposite is true with Snyder. Owners and league leaders have repeatedly complained about business problems in Washington, which was once one of the league’s best markets. Some owners seem to be more bothered by Snyder’s poor financial results than by the allegations of sexual misconduct, while acknowledging, as one owner said, the toxic problems in the workplace are “not good for the competition”.
“His gate is the lowest in the league, his earnings are significantly low and trending lower,” says an experienced owner. “He costs his co-owners a lot of money.” Under Snyder’s supervision, FedEx Field has reduced capacity from more than 90,000 seats to approximately 64,000 this year. While the team spokesperson said the team’s business prospects have changed, including a doubling in the number of season ticket holders and a 30% increase in sponsorship, owners said they have seen no signs of improvement.
Multiple ownership and team sources complain that ticket sales for about half of the remaining seats are managed by ticket brokers, the highest ratio in the NFL. “He’s a partner — and he’s not pulling out of the partnership,” said a senior executive from a rival team.
“Some owners are not liked in their city because their team is losing,” explains the experienced owner. “That’s part of the area. Snyder isn’t loved because of what he’s done with that franchise, with all of its history. The stadium is falling apart. The team is underperforming. He can’t get a new stadium. … Maybe it’s he passed the point of no return.”
When asked if his co-owners would forgive Snyder for the team’s financial woes and the toxic culture scandal if Snyder could build a new stadium, the owner quickly replied, “Yes.”
When asked if Snyder is aware of this, the owner replied, “Yes.”
‘A gang that can’t shoot straight’
“THAT STADIUM IS a disaster,” a senior team manager said of FedEx Field, the home of the commanders. “That’s by far the worst stadium in the NFL.” Last season, a railing broke and Eagles fans collapsed onto the field, nearly hitting Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts. Some of those fans have sued the Commanders.
For owners, Snyder’s failure to get a new stadium has become a major vulnerability – and with no easy fix in sight, some owners are quietly preparing to operate it.
It wasn’t long ago that Snyder had such influence that the governments of Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. vie to spend public funds on a new stadium. More than three years ago, Maryland’s governor offered to help Snyder negotiate the purchase of federal land near the MGM casino and Gaylord hotel complex along the Potomac River, but Snyder was uninterested — a decision which now annoys some current owners and league leaders.
Last winter, Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin received an invitation from Snyder to visit his mansion, which sits on a 16½-acre property once owned by George Washington and has been called the “most expensive home ever sold in Virginia.” Ebbin, who represents Snyder’s district, arrived one afternoon about two months before the start of the legislative session. Snyder showed Ebbin photos of other state-of-the-art new stadiums across the country, making it clear that he wanted one of his own. Snyder’s goal was a bill that would create a stadium authority that would use taxpayers’ money to establish a massive commercial development project with a stadium in the middle. But when Ebbin Snyder pushed for details like how much tax revenue a new stadium would bring and what it would ultimately cost taxpayers, Snyder had no answers. Snyder’s chief of staff or two lobbyists were also not at his home that day. “It was a weird encounter,” says Ebbin.
In February, after the commanders increased their spending on lobbyists in Richmond from $10,000 at the previous legislative session to $100,000 in this year’s session, Snyder’s proposal seemed to have enough bipartisan support. The plan called for a $3 billion complex, including a 55,000-seat domed stadium, an outdoor amphitheater, luxury shops and apartments, and an exercise facility. Two of Virginia’s most powerful lawmakers — one a Democrat, the other a Republican — had agreed to co-sponsor the stadium bill, and the governor backed the deal. “They presented it as a fait accompli,” Virginia Del says. Marcus Simon. The rapid bipartisan support, despite all of Snyder’s negative headlines, was a naked representation of professional football’s hold on America.
By March, both the state house and the senate had passed the bill. The stadium law only had to deal with a conference committee to smooth out the differences. But lawmakers are underestimating the public outcry following the Feb. 3 congressional roundtable at the United States Capitol, where five female former employees detailed numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, both against the team’s former senior executives and against Snyder himself.
Lawmakers’ inboxes were flooded with Virginians, many citing the survey. “Using taxpayers’ money to pay for anything related to this stadium is morally reprehensible,” one resident wrote in an email. Another wrote: “Not a cent. … The owner is the sleazy of the sleazy.”
Prince William County Supervisor Kenny Boddye, who represents the main site the commanders wanted to build, sent out a poll in June that found that 85% of the 850 residents surveyed opposed the construction of Snyder’s stadium, according to documents obtained by ESPN.
Within weeks, Snyder’s bill died an unusual death, unable to escape the conference committee because the sponsors couldn’t win the votes to send it to the governor. “I think lawmakers didn’t realize this was going to be such a loser,” Ebbin says.
“How toxic do you have to be to have the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House Appropriations to sponsor your bill, and you can’t vote on it?” Simon says.
Snyder was now incarcerated. FedEx Field is located in Maryland, where Governor Larry Hogan said in March he would refuse to participate in a bidding war for a new stadium. And just as the Virginia deal exploded, D.C. Council president Phil Mendelson and a majority of the council announced they would oppose the construction of a stadium, which the team has been lobbying for the past year, unless the NFL allows Wilkinson. report release. “If we just ignore that,” Mendelson says, “we’re helping the abuse in a way. I don’t want to be a part of that. Release the report.’
In late May, the commanders tried to force Virginia’s hand with a maneuver that some lawmakers felt was a coordinated leak to reveal that the team had purchased 200 acres in Boddye’s district for $100 million. It turned out that Snyder had only bought an option to buy the land, an apparent hedge if Virginia’s support collapsed.
Rather than encouraging lawmakers to push through the stadium bill, news of the land deal rattled Virginia lawmakers who assumed they were being used as leverage. “It backfired,” Simon says. “It gave the feeling of a gang that can’t shoot straight. … They don’t know or they don’t tell the truth – neither is right.”
Fellow owners, many of whom have built stadiums with far less influence over local governments, were surprised and dismayed that Snyder had succeeded in blowing up a bill once championed by Virginia’s most powerful politicians. Now a growing number of league finance committee owners are planning to use the debacle against him.
Owners know that Snyder probably won’t be able to build a stadium without significant financial assistance. Even if he sold ownership stakes in the team, essentially calling on a team rated by Forbes as the sixth-highest team in the NFL at $5.6 billion, Snyder would likely still fall short. There are league rules that limit how much debt owners can bear, but owners have approved debt limit exemptions for new stadiums, often making up rules.
A few owners and executives have discussed a rarely-executed option: refusing to let Snyder circumvent league rules about how much debt an owner can have, and possibly withholding the $200 million loan normally available to teams for new stadiums. They say their hopes would be to force Snyder to sell the team or, more likely, transfer ownership permanently to Tanya. They point out that after his racist comments in 2014, Donald Sterling was forced out of the LA Clippers property, not by Commissioner Adam Silver or by his co-owners, but because his wife removed him from the family trust.
“The only real tool of the competition is starving him of the funds to build a stadium,” said a team president. If owners want to trip Snyder over his debt, a vote they held in March 2021 could provide them with cover, multiple executive and property sources say. Owners allowed Snyder to borrow $450 million to buy out his limited partners — whom he argued with in court. “I was surprised they let him do that,” said a senior executive with deep ties to both the league and property.
That vote, sources say, could be used to deny Snyder another waiver — and as a back door to force a vote that could get 24 votes more easily and quickly than an eviction. It’s easier for owners to voice concerns about Snyder’s finances than other issues, sources say.
“It all comes down to a vote,” the executive says. “And there are no rules they have to follow.”
The problem is, there are also no rules Snyder has to follow.
The rules are different
ON JUNE 22, Goodell testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Goodell later told his associates in colorful language that he couldn’t believe he had to testify while Snyder was on his yacht, dodging Congress. Snyder’s 305-foot yacht Lady S, which rents for $1.4 million a week with a 33-person crew, was docked off the French coast near Cannes that day, according to navigation data. During the hearing, Deputy Rashida Tlaib Goodell asked directly about Snyder’s fate: “Do you want to remove him?”
“I don’t have the authority to remove him, Congressman,” Goodell replied irritably.
But under the NFL Constitution, Goodell has the power to recommend the removal of one owner to the other 31 owners. He later testified that he was “unaware” of a Snyder removal option being discussed among owners.
Goodell has shown little initiative to play a role in evicting Snyder, despite the sentiment of the league staff, many of whom are outraged by accusations of the commanders’ toxic environment and Snyder’s own behavior, both alleged and confirmed. . They are disgusted that they have to work on behalf of Snyder and the likes of Jimmy and Dee Haslam, who rewarded Deshaun Watson with a fully guaranteed $230 million contract a year after he was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by more than two dozen massage therapists. But as another executive familiar with Goodell’s thinking says, “If it’s an owner in the crosshairs, the rules are different.”
Goodell always takes the temperature of owners and his main job is to protect them. He won’t vote on Snyder’s fate unless he knows the desired outcome from three-quarters of the owners, says a team manager close to Goodell: “But I know Roger wants this off his plate — he wants Snyder out tomorrow.”
Snyder’s fate is in the hands of the owners, and despite their anger towards him, they are afraid to remove a co-owner. They tend to act slowly on any initiative that is not intended to make an instant profit.
Owners and executives tell ESPN they are annoyed that Snyder has shown off how little he cares about his league penalties. Goodell has not used the word “suspended” when publicly discussing Snyder’s departure, but usually says he is “leaving.” Snyder’s attorneys told ESPN that his mutually agreed separation from the team has ended, adding that the decision to have Tanya attend recent league meetings was made by Snyder “and is not the result of any requirement imposed by the NFL.” is imposed.” In fact, she added, Snyder is no longer under any NFL restriction regarding his involvement with the team. Snyder has attended every game in Washington this season.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined to answer questions about whether Snyder’s suspension has ended, saying in a statement Goodell’s decisions were “based on a comprehensive workplace assessment conducted by Beth Wilkinson and the reasons identified in the public statements made at the time the discipline and corrective action were announced.” But a competition source says Goodell is operating on the assumption that Snyder is still under active investigation and that the limits imposed on him will remain. Snyder recently requested permission to attend league meetings again and resumed his old position at the table alongside Jones. But Goodell said no.
The league has quietly done its best to help Snyder through this period of turmoil, much to the chagrin of some owners and executives. In 2020, the NFL marked two Snyder employees — Julie Donaldson to vice president of media and the elevation of Snyder aide Terry Bateman to executive vice president and chief marketing officer — as violations of the Rooney rule. Both Donaldson and Bateman are white. At the time, the rule required that both a minority and a woman be interviewed for leadership positions. If an investigation into the Rooney Rule had uncovered violations, it could have cost Snyder money and draft picks. But neither happened.
Snyder’s strategy is to “run the clock” on congressional and league investigations, betting that the Democrats will lose control of the House in January, ending the committee’s interest in his franchise. , says a person close to Snyder. During October’s competition meetings in New York, Snyder told an employee that he is cautiously optimistic that he will survive Mary Jo White’s ongoing competition investigation, now entering its ninth month. It is not clear when she will complete her investigation. A looming factor is what White will find around Snyder’s alleged sexual assault on the woman on his plane in April 2009.
What everybody else sees
THINGS ARE DIFFERENT NOW. That’s the refrain of team managers when faced with nagging questions about the commanders’ controversies. New people, diverse in background, race, gender and experience, now lead the team. The Snyders have promised that the toxic culture that Dan Snyder would help foster is over and replaced by a new regime that values transparency, diversity and respect for women.
In August 2020, Jason Wright, a former player and executive at McKinsey & Co. — was announced as team president, a historic appointment that, sources say, came on the recommendation of the league office just weeks before the NFL took over the Wilkinson investigation. “They placed it,” says an executive with knowledge of the rent. Executives and owners who spoke to ESPN were happy for Wright, who they say is loved and well-qualified for the job. But they were furious that the league had tacitly aided a team that should have been punished for suspected Rooney rule violations. The team statement to ESPN is quoted as saying that Wright knew the Snyders from previous consulting work and “was hired as a result.”
In his 1,400-word statement to ESPN, the new team spokesperson praised Wright’s leadership in making the team’s front office more diverse and inclusive and improving the team’s culture. “This organization changed years ago and is a model for what committed leadership can do to transform a workplace when issues are brought to their attention,” Wright said in the team’s statement, adding that he feels “fully empowered.” feels and quoted a positive report from a consultant hired by the team. Tanya has said Wright has full authority to change staff so that Washington can become the “gold standard,” in Wright’s words. Snyder’s attorneys say Wright did such a good job that “it took Dan little to get involved in the team’s operations.”
But owner, league and commander sources told ESPN they don’t believe the team can really be any different as long as Snyder owns and still controls it by giving instructions on a landline from the team at his Virginia mansion. They wonder if Wright was actually given the authority to make change.
Wright would be in charge of the stadium initiative. But after Snyder was punished by Goodell, he announced he would lead all stadium efforts, confusing local lawmakers who didn’t know who to talk to. Before leaving the team last month for a private equity executive position, Greg Resh, the former COO of the Commanders and a vital member of Snyder’s inner circle, told executives at league meetings that he was in charge and turned down Wright as a figurehead. In the team’s statement, Resh denied making “such comments”.
Wright’s influence was also under discussion during the DEA investigation into whether Washington head coach Ryan Vermillion was illegally dispensing narcotics – known in the team as the “forgotten investigation.” Sources say Wright and Chief People Officer Andre Chambers wanted to remove Vermillion in early 2021 — months before the DEA raided Vermillion’s home and commander’s facility — when then-team doctor Robin West claimed he verbally insulted her and other staff. But when they raised Vermillion’s behavior with head coach Ron Rivera, he refused to fire the trainer, making it clear it was his only decision. Desperate for stability, Snyder had given Rivera power over all football operations when he was hired in 2020. “Our hands are tied,” Wright told people in the organization. (A spokesperson for the team denied that Wright made that statement.) In August, Vermillion, who had no comment to ESPN through his attorney, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement after he was accused of unlawfully obtaining and dispensing oxycodone. Only then did Rivera end Vermillion, calling the situation “unfortunate.”
Wright has personally told his employees that he doesn’t think he can make any serious cultural change until the ownership situation is resolved. Executives across the league believe Wright hired good people in Washington, only to see them leave for the same reasons they always seem to leave: the culture. Vice President of Corporate Communications Ashley Whitlock and Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Communications Julie Andreeff Jensen, two of the team’s most visible female employees, have left the team in the past year.
When people close to Snyder are asked why he doesn’t just move on with the multi-billion dollar fortune he would make from a sale, the answer is elementary: “It’s his identity,” says a source. He’s in an elite club, full of glass houses. And Snyder not only has no shame, the source says, he just doesn’t care that he’s hated. In fact, he’s into it. A senior executive who knows Snyder says: “I keep wondering, why is he still doing this? Why isn’t he selling the team? There’s no way out. There’s no endgame. … That’s his character flaw — he can don’t look in the mirror and see what everyone else sees.”
Snyder has been telling people close to him for years that both a new stadium and a true franchise quarterback are silver bullets. “All my problems will be solved if I can get a great quarterback,” he told an employee last winter. Last March, Washington traded the second, third, and conditional third-round rosters to the Colts for Carson Wentz, a quarterback who was on the cusp of becoming a superstar in 2017 but whose fortunes have since sunk. It was a hefty price for a soft-market quarterback—all well-known hallmarks of Snyder’s penchant for overpaying and negotiating only against himself. Sources familiar with the deal say it was Snyder who pushed for Wentz — and the Commanders football staff have told people across the league the same. “It was 100% a Dan move,” said a source knowledgeable about the inner workings of the deal. But in the team’s statement to ESPN, Rivera insisted that he brought the idea of taking over Wentz to Dan and Tanya, who supported it. “They love this game and this team,” Rivera said.
Hearing that Snyder hopes a marquee quarterback will dispel all his troubles, one owner laughed, “Carson Wentz?”
Friends and rivals
TWO GAMES, ONE home and one away, in late September and early October, gave the clearest glimpses of where the Commanders are and where they are going.
When the commanders hosted the Eagles on September 25, many of the seats at FedEx Field were filled with green and white. It felt like an Eagles home game. In protest at the dilapidated state of FedEx Field, Eagles fans wrapped themselves in yellow warning tape, which the commanders sent security officials to seize. The Eagles also sent their chief of security to hold on to the railing as Hurts chased into the tunnel. After the loss, in which Wentz was sacked nine times, Washington players complained that the opponent’s noise was affecting the game. But in retrospect, some on the business side of the commanders seemed curiously at peace. All they want is a full stadium, and they got close to it, even if it felt like a match on a neutral ground.
A week later, Washington visited Dallas. The game itself, which Washington lost again and in which Wentz played badly, was almost an afterthought of what preceded it. During the pre-game warm-ups, Snyder, Tanya and Wright stood in midfield, laughing and listening to Jerry Jones, who stood stiff. Snyder stood to Jones’ left, smiling, looking tanned and relaxed. There were no signs of conflict or unresolved issues during the visit which lasted only a few minutes. The group posed for a photo and Jones smiled. Washington’s social media team posted it, saying, “Friends and rivals for 24 years.”
The post was as much a statement about the team’s future as it was about its past. As Snyder pulled off in a huge motorcade after the race, it was clear that the photo will also serve as a statement about Snyder’s standing in the competition until co-owners decide his fate — or, until they recognize the decision has likely already been made.
ESPN researcher John Mastroberardino and reporter John Keim contributed to this report.
Seth Wickersham, Don Van Natta Jr. and Tisha Thompson are senior writers for ESPN. Reach them at Seth.Wickersham@espn.com, Don.VanNatta@espn.com and Tisha.Thompson@espn.com. On Twitter, find them at @sethwickersham, @DVNJr and @TishaESPN.
How much would it cost to buy Washington Football team?
Franchise Value of the Washington Commanders (NFL) 2002-2022 In 2022, the franchise was reportedly worth about $5.6 billion.
How much does a football team cost to buy?
How much is the Commanders worth?
The commanders are estimated to be worth $5.6 billion, according to Forbes, which was the first to report that the Snyders wanted to sell. It places them sixth among the NFL’s 32 teams by estimated value.
How much is the Redskins worth? In Washington’s case, team value increased $700,000,000 from 2020 to 2021, a 20% year-over-year increase. The Washington Football Team is now valued at $4.2 billion, according to Forbes’ latest NFL valuations.