ESPN published a massive, detailed article on Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and his fight to keep the team that everyone wants him to sell this morning, and it is absolutely a must read for everyone, not just Washington fans, or even NFL fans.
This story highlights the paranoia of a billionaire that no one likes, and the lengths he has allegedly gone to over the last two decades-plus to both become part of the exclusive owners club, and to use threats and intimidation to stay there. I just finished reading it after work, and you will need a decent amount of time to get through it, and process some of the new information and accusations that ESPN presents. I’ll be highlighting them here for easy access.
Starting with the title of the article, ‘Sources: Commanders boss Snyder claims ‘dirt’ on NFL owners, Goodell’ ESPN gives credence to one of the biggest theories for why the NFL has been so hesitant to punish, and finally vote out Dan Snyder. They claim that Snyder has hired private investigators to dig up dirt on other owners, NFL, executives, and league office employees including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
This is on top of the accusations of investigators being used during the Beth Wilkinson investigation to build dossiers on not only the accusers, but reporters as well. Snyder is also accused of using his access to the investigation though the “common interest agreement” between Snyder and Goodell to create an enemies list.
But back to the other NFL owners, and the hook that brought us into this novel of depravity and desperation.
“They can’t f--- with me,” he has said privately.
“The NFL is a mafia,” he recently told an associate. “All the owners hate each other.”
“That’s not true,” one veteran owner says. “All the owners hate Dan.”
No owner is apparently safe from Snyder’s paranoia, including the owner he has been closest with over the years, and who most people thought had his back. Snyder made a very public reemergence two weeks ago before his team played the Dallas Cowboys, posing with Jerry Jones on the star at midfield, and having his social media employees blasting the image out to the world. That relationship is in danger of crumbling according to ESPN’s reporting.
League sources say the NFL is aware that Snyder has claimed to be tracking owners. But none of the owners or sources would reveal how they learned of Snyder’s alleged effort to use private investigators. It’s also unclear how many owners are said to have been targeted, though sources say they believe it’s at least six. One owner was told by Snyder directly that he “has dirt on Jerry Jones,” a team source told ESPN, though the nature of the information was unclear. Another source confirmed that Snyder has told a confidant that he has “a file” on Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner who has served as Snyder’s friend, mentor and longtime firewall of support.
No one knows if Snyder’s threats are true, or what exactly he has on everyone, but it has been enough to hold them off for a while if true.
Most sources declined to go on the record for this story; Goodell has warned owners that they could be fined millions of dollars for leaking to reporters. Snyder “thinks he has enough on all of them,” says a former longtime senior Commanders executive. “He thinks he’s got stuff on Roger.” Another former Commanders executive routinely called Snyder “the most powerful owner in the NFL” because of what he knows, a source says.
ESPN also reports that the fracture in Jerry Jones’ relationship with Dan Snyder could be legit, and that is a big problem considering the power that Jones wields in the league. Jones has been called the shadow commissioner, and has made other owners even richer through his business savvy and innovation.
Snyder’s fears might not be totally unfounded. Jerry Jones recently told confidants that he “might not be able” to protect Snyder any longer. Snyder has also “badmouthed” Jones, telling an owner recently, “he’s only out to get in your pocket. He’ll sell you down the river. You can’t trust him,” a senior executive close to the owner said. “Snyder’s already lost Jerry,” the source added.
Here are some bullet point reports/accusations ESPN is reporting through various sources for this report on the team, and representatives for Dan Snyder have denied most of the reporting in ESPN’s article:
- Dan Snyder was behind the Carson Wentz trade despite Ron Rivera saying he brought the idea up to the Snyders
- Team President Jason Wright was suggested/installed by the NFL to clean up the culture
- Wright has no real power in the organization, and despite glowing reports about progress, a lot of the old power structure problems remain. He has told associates he can’t enact real, cultural change until ownership is resolved.
- Wright was supposed to lead the stadium search, but that was taken over by Dan Snyder and former COO Greg Resh, who called Wright a figurehead.
- Wright wanted to fired head trainer Ryan Vermillion in early 2021, before the DEA raided his home and the team facility, but Rivera blocked him from doing so.
- Other owners are frustrated with Snyder’s inability to land stadium funding after having a bill at the finish line in Virginia. They could use his need for help with funding from the league, along with the $450 million debt-limit waiver, to cripple another avenue to get stadium money if public outrage keeps lawmakers from helping him with public funds and tax waivers.
- The former employee who got a $1.6 million payment for her silence after an alleged assault from Snyder on a team plane was offered a second, substantial payment to not share her story last year. This payment was turned down, and this is denied by Snyder’s lawyers. The woman has spoken with Mary Jo White for the newest league-run investigation that was started after new allegations against Snyder and the team came out during a Congressional roundtable in front of the House Oversight Committee with five former employees of the organization.
- “A former Washington team executive with knowledge of the alleged incident said if all the details of the alleged sexual assault were ever made public, it could be ‘the tipping point’ to Snyder’s removal as owner.”
- Snyder has met with owners to gauge their level of interest in voting him out.
- Snyder was jealous of Bruce Allen’s likability around the league, Snyder would eventually try to cast the toxic culture problems on Allen after he was fired, and Snyder lost a bid to only pay half of the money owed to him.
- Snyder’s law firm, Reed Smith, sorted, categorized, and weaponized over 400,000 emails from Bruce Allen in lawsuits, and presented those emails to investigators. Some owners and executives believe Snyder, or someone associated with him, was behind the leaks that forced Jon Gruden to resign as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.
- Roger Goodell has threatened owners with millions of dollars in fines if they speak publicly, or on the record with reporters, about Dan Snyder
- Owners have not discussed voting Snyder out at any owner meetings
- Some owners are more worried about Snyder tanking the market value of his team, low ticket sales, and the rundown FedEx Field not being replaced than the accusations/investigations. One told ESPN that a new stadium would fix their issue with him.
- Snyder is no longer away from the team, as evidenced by his photo shoot in Dallas. But Tanya Snyder still represents the team at owners’ meetings, and Dan’s request to resume attending them was denied by Roger Goodell.
- Two hires, Julie Donaldson to vice president of media and the elevation of longtime Snyder aide Terry Bateman to executive vice president and chief marketing officer, were flagged as violations of the Rooney Rule, but the team wasn’t punished
The team issued a statement condemning the entire ESPN article as false
From a Commanders spokesperson on the new report:— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) October 13, 2022
"It’s hard to imagine a piece that is more categorically untrue, and is clearly part of a well-funded, two-year misinformation campaign to coerce the sale of the team, which will continue to be unsuccessful."