This has been a been week for fans(and writers) of the Washington NFL football franchise. On Wednesday a report came out that Dan and Tanya Snyder had hired Bank of America Securities to pursue their options for the potential sale of the team. There was confusion at first about whether this was for a minority stake so the Snyders could raise desperately-needed capital to pay loans and potentially build a new stadium, or if they had finally changed their minds about getting out the spotlight and selling the entire franchise.
That same day a report came out that a criminal investigation was being opened over allegations of financial improprieties. This is on top of the NFL’s investigation led by Mary Jo White that was started after more allegations of sexual harassment that directly implicated Dan Snyder came out during the House Committee for Oversight and Reform’s investigation into the franchise’s toxic workplace. There are also investigations from the Attorneys General from DC and Virginia into the financial allegations.
Did I forget to mention the ESPN article that reported Snyder had hired investigators to dig up dirt on other NFL owners, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and other league executives as he prepared for war over his ownership? And there was also Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay very publicly calling for the league’s owners to look into removing Snyder as the owner of the Washington Commanders if MJW report turns out to be as bad as expected. That would have required 24 owners to vote him out; it would involve multiple hearings both from the league, and then in the courts if Snyder decided to blow the whole thing up on his way out the door. Nobody wanted to open the league up to that kind of scrutiny, and a prolonged fight that would leave the team in limbo.
A report from Ben Fischer via Sports Business Journal sheds some light on what might have led the Snyders to open up that door on getting out of the football business. We’ve heard reports about the opinions of other owners shifting against Snyder’s continued stewardship of an historic franchise that sits in a big market that has continued to shed fans at an alarming rate since he took over in 1999. Fischer reports recent events had provided the tipping point other owners needed to confront Snyder and also tell Goodell that a change needed to happen.
Jim Irsay was the only one who said his piece in public, but other NFL owners have confronted Dan Snyder privately in recent weeks — and more have told Commissioner Roger Goodell that something must give, sources tell me. Wednesday’s shock announcement from the Snyders that they’d entertain offers for the team, those same sources said, came in light of that growing consensus that the end must come, one way or another.
Owners didn’t know if they had the 24 votes needed to force an unprecedented ousting of an NFL owner. When Jerry Richardson was accused of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct, he chose to sell before the heat really started. The feeling was that he was older, and didn’t want every detail of his alleged behavior dragged through the media as you see with Dan Snyder now. Many owners wouldn’t want that exposure, but they wanted Snyder out, and this was the time.
Fischer’s sources said this was a business decision, and they felt the scandals that are constantly surrounding Snyder aren’t going away any time soon. Washington’s mismanagement, and possible financial malfeasance, is hurting the league’s bottom line, and other owners’ bank accounts. Implications that Snyder lost Jerry Jones as a backer also emboldened other owners to make more aggressive moves against Snyder. Another thing that bothered the other owners was the idea that if Snyder was able to secure public funding to help build a new stadium, the heat from the league would go away. That’s a bad look for the NFL, even if it was true.
Now we wait to see when the Snyders officially announce they are selling the entire team. Potential buyers are lining up to get their offers in. The latest on the proposed joint venture between Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and rap mogul Jay-Z is they will put in a formal bid in January. NFL owners have a shorter meeting in December, then meet for the Annual NFL Owners meeting March 26-29th.
Nevertheless, Wednesday’s news came as a surprise. Most of the league woke up believing Snyder still intended to go to war. “The reason it’s so shocking is that it’s so practical,” one insider said.