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Tanya Snyder is taking one for the team

The Snyder team

Washington Redskins Introduce Mike Shanahan - Press Conference Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“I’ve invested in some shoes that were so beautiful, but they’re not comfortable at all. I’ll endure anything for beautiful shoes.” - Tanya Snyder

In 2011, in an interview with Footwear News, Tanya Snyder, the Washington Football Team’s current co-CEO offered up the following quote. If it’s not the perfect metaphor for the entanglement that she finds herself in with the team’s loathsome owner, Dan Snyder, I’m not sure what would be. Endurance through difficult times in the service of the pair’s collective vanity has been a hallmark of Snyder-led ownership and management for the past 20 years, and Tanya’s willingness to “grin and bear it” has been essential to that enterprise.

The former Tanya Ivie was raised in a suburb of Atlanta, in a middle class household with three sisters. She was immersed in football culture from an earlier age, participating as a cheerleader in junior high and high school. “Cheerleading was everything,” she told The Washington Post in a 2011 article on her background. A short time after graduation and a brief run through “finishing school” classes to “soften her strong accent” and improve her acting chops, she married a local jewelry salesman, Art Foreman, at the the age of 20. The marriage wouldn’t last, however, and the couple divorced two years later.

After her divorce, Ivie would enjoy success as a model in Atlanta throughout much of the 1980s. She would eventually parlay that experience into a very solid career on the business side of the industry, serving as a regional sales representative for several high profile fashion companies. Another quote, this time from the Post article, seems to provide some potential context for Ms. Snyder’s current circumstances:

“People always thought of me as shy, too nice, and I guess I ended up putting myself in that mold where I wouldn’t speak up for myself.”

When Ivie met Dan Snyder - an introduction set up by mutual friends - in the early 1990s, she had a thriving fashion sales business, was collecting a six-figure salary, and was working furiously to expand its success. According to Ivie, the spark was instantaneous: “Dan and I met as two entrepreneurs. We became instant best friends. I ended up telling him more in a weekend than I told anybody in my whole life.”

That “union of entrepreneurs” wouldn’t survive long into the relationship, however. It turns out Dan’s dexterity at dream-crushing pre-dates his ownership tenure with the team:

She had intended to move her business to Washington, but an analysis by Snyder burst that bubble.

“He took me to the conference room in his office,” she remembers. “We broke down the numbers on my business and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ I had a rude awakening. He showed me I couldn’t sell my business or go public.”

Married Life

Leaving her business behind didn’t seem an undue stress on Ms. Snyder though, as she was able to quickly adapt to the role of loyal millionaire’s wife and nurturing mother, raising the pairs’ three children alongside nannies and staff in their $1.9M, 12,000 square foot Bethesda home.

“I’m definitely a mommy—and hopefully a great wife. That’s all that matters to me. I have no desire to be the babe of the town, but if someone means that as a compliment, thank you.”

Things would change fairly dramatically for both Snyders once they bought the Washington Redskins from the estate of Jack Kent Cooke in 1999. The couple’s privacy would become a thing of the past after becoming owners of, arguably, the most beloved business in the region, and - at that time - the most valuable franchise in the league.

And, while hope sprung eternal for a return to greatness with Snyder’s original purchase, a first decade of ownership that only produced three playoff appearances and two playoff wins - which seems “prolific” through the lens of the team’s second decade under Snyder - eventually took the shine off the man at the top of the faltering football empire. The animus towards Dan was catalogued by a Washington City Paper article that served as a compendium of his various sins against the franchise and the DMV so damning he sued the paper and the author to try to shut them up (the lawsuit was eventually dropped).

As Dan Snyder’s reputation tanked, his lovely bride was called in as a proxy to sell the public on his epiphany:

We’ve been told a New Dan Snyder walks among us. The line that’s been in heavy rotation out of Redskins Park (and Snyder’s wholly-owned media empire) all season holds that he’s letting football people run the football team. His wife, Tanya Snyder, is out selling the transformation, too. Last week she went on local TV to tell an interviewer that he is now surrounded by “better people,” and that he’s “grown and he’s evolved.”

It’s important to remember that, at this point, “better people” included Bruce Allen and Larry Michael, among a host of other creeps who have been subsequently purged for incompetence and/or toxic workplace behavior. Through the lens of a decade of subsequent experience, there was no growth or evolution.

On the field, the next several years would be brutal, with the only bright spot - RGIII’s rookie season in 2012 - bookended by three seasons in which the team would win 5, 4, and 3 games.

With the failure of the RGIII experiment evident to everyone in 2014, it would represent a new low spot in Snyder’s ownership tenure. Tanya was once again called upon to make the media rounds as the team name issue flared up:

Jay Gruden is introduced as the Redskins new coach Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Dan cares more than anybody. He’s the most passionate fan that there is. And we, um, you know care very much, and I think everything that’s he’s doing is taking us in the right direction. [Tanya Snyder, WJLA Interview, 2014]

Tanya’s contributions to the organization go well beyond getting trotted out for damage control however. She has led the team’s charitable foundation since 2000, and she was instrumental in helping create the NFL’s “Think Pink” campaign in the wake of her own breast cancer diagnosis in 2008. Her personal advocacy with breast cancer awareness through the team actually goes all the way back to 1999.

“A group of women from the sorority Zeta Tau Alpha from northern Virginia approached the Redskins about doing a breast cancer awareness event in October 1999,” says Snyder, who was moved by their enthusiasm. She joined them as they handed out 8,000 handmade pink ribbons to fans that first year.

She was named Mother of the Year by the American Cancer Society in 2013 for her charity work.

Tanya’s compassion and selflessness stand in stark contrast to her husband’s pervasive insecurity and arrogance, making it all the more frustrating when she debases herself to advance his ends. Take the recent quote below.

Tanya was aware that Dan needed to be surrounded by “better people” and to “grow and evolve” at least a decade ago. We have her own words to show it. But as anyone who has been watching the team over that period could tell, he didn’t surround himself with better people or “grow and evolve” until the last year or so, when he was absolutely forced into a corner.

“Mortification” is generally a feeling of deep shame one would experience at a cataclysmic shock, out of the blue. Given Dan’s track record managing the team, “I’m resigned” or “this is my shocked face,” would seem like more authentic responses. “Mortification” might have sold in 2011, but no longer.

In spite of her loyalty and her willingness to tolerate (and ultimately, enable), Dan’s poor behavior, her latest elevation seems like little more than a naked attempt to deflect heat from her diminutive spouse, coming just two days before the NFL made its official announcement about team sanctions.

Even that Potemkin elevation couldn’t be allowed to stand uncommented on for long, however, as her husband’s lawyers quickly acted to chide any media outlets who might be under the impression that “Mr. Snyder” was in anything less than full control of the team.

Tanya Snyder finds herself in the position that many husbands and wives do, pathologically loyal to a spouse who doesn’t deserve it, so a certain degree of sympathy is in order. However, her enabling of Dan has surely allowed him to persist in his role as owner longer than he might otherwise have. We can hope, against 20 years of experience, that this time is different. But let’s be real, not even the glamorous Tanya Snyder can turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse.


Do you believe Tanya Snyder will have any real power over how the WFT is run in her new role?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Yes, equal power with Dan.
    (89 votes)
  • 31%
    Yes, but not much.
    (325 votes)
  • 59%
    (612 votes)
1026 votes total Vote Now