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Washington Commanders fans believe that Dan Snyder will survive as the team’s owner despite Congressional pressure

Poll results!

NFL-Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Each week we ask questions of the most plugged-in Washington Commanders fans and fans across the country.

Question and comments

A few days ago, Hogs Haven posted a poll question about everyone’s favorite footall-related topic — Dan Snyder and his ongoing battle with a congressional oversight committee that is investigating the issues of toxic workplace and sexual harassment alleged to have taken place on Dan’s watch for most or all of this millennium.

The question asked for a simple yes-or-no response to a complex question: Do you think that any substantive change in the ownership of the Washington Commanders will come about as a result of the Congressional Oversight Committee’s decision to subpoena Dan Snyder?

The question itself invites many sub-questions. For example, there was the question of whether Snyder would be able to avoid service on the subpoena, or if he would appear in front of the committee at all — or at least without an extended legal battle to prevent it — if the subpoena was served.

We got at least a partial answer to that question this week when it was reported that Snyder’s lawyer (or one of them, anyway) refused to accept service.


Dan Snyder and his lawyers are not accepting service on the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena

But there are other sub-questions as well, and many of these were raised by commenters in the article in which the poll question was published. Mostly, they fell into two categories related to time and the direct or indirect effect of the committee’s actions.

Here are two comments posted on that article that may exemplify what I’m talking about:

comment 1

Will the subpoena, alone, move the needle? Impossible to say. Dan is a disgusting cockroach infestation. Usually takes a lot of different tactics to finally get rid of this kind of infestation.

Is the congressional hearings, as a whole, part of shedding light on the roach and exterminating him? Yes.

So answered “Yes” to the question. The subpoena is one small tactic in the fight to get rid of the diseased pest.

This whole thing (the hearings, the investigative journalism, the lawsuits) is all for and about putting pressure on just 31 people and justice for Dan’s victims.

comment 2

Will the subpoena directly lead to an immediate change of ownership? Of course not. Will it add more news cycles where Dan Snyder’s toxic ownership is the top NFL story? Particularly if Snyder resists and makes it a three ring circus. Most certainly. Will it make a stadium deal under current ownership less likely? Yes. Will that help to nurture growing sentiment amongst NFL owners that Dan Snyder is bad for their business? We can only hope.

Thoughts from readers about the issues of time and directness of impact seem to indicate that, while the subpoena itself will not lead to substantive change, forcing Dan Snyder to appear before the committee would add to the cumulative pressure and negative exposure, hopefully leading to his fellow owners someday saying that they’ve had enough and ejecting him from the club.

For some, the expected exposure from congress seemed to be enough to sway them into believing that “someday” would eventually come, and Dan Snyder would be put out on his ass by at least 24 other owners who were done with his shenanigans.

That was, however, not a universal belief.

comment 3

No. If Snyder did show up (in whatever format) to testify, the most important decision regarding his tenure as owner falls on the other NFL owners.

And I can’t see any of them deciding to force Snyder to sell his team as not a one of them would want such a move forced on them.

More than likely, at the end of all of this pretend outrage, the most we’ll see is the team fined and stripped of draft picks.

Book it...Dan Snyder will outlast this and whatever other cockroaches that might be around at the end of time.

The issue is how the other owners perceive Dan Snyder and how his ineptitude affects them. Many people point out that other owners have their own skeletons in their own closets. Robert Kraft’s rub & tug issue was widely reported. The allegations by Brian Flores against the Dolphin’s owner, Stephen Ross are wending their way through the judicial/arbitration system at the moment. Recent allegations against the Raiders organization that are eerily familiar are raising calls for yet another NFL investigation in Vegas.

Some people feel that so many owners living in their own glass houses will be reluctant to throw any stones for fear that they could be next. Others point to Snyder and his penchant for litigation and mud-throwing and say that his fellow owners would fear his retaliation. He is, after all, the type to build dossiers against his enemies.

All in all, the feeling seems to be that Snyder is willing to take the public hits — something that he’s had to deal with increasingly over the past two decades — and that his 31 business partners will be loathe to get rid of him in the only way possible — a vote by at least 24 owners to push him out the door.

And even if 24+ owners could be convinced to vote him out of the club, with his history of litigation, Snyder (with apologies to Dylan Thomas) seems unlikely to go gentle into that good night, but rather to figuratively rage and rage against the dying of the light, using every available option in litigation and public mud-slinging to maintain his seat at the table as long as possible.

In short, while Dan Snyder is undoubtedly a terrible owner, in the business calculus that needs to take place among the league’s owners, it may be more trouble for them to try to eject him than to simply shunt him into a corner and live with his antics.

There are even some who think that the rest of the NFL is happy to have Dan Snyder around.

For example, the other owners in the NFC East should see Dan Snyder’s ownership of the Washington franchise as a competitive advantage. Playing a weak team twice a year means more opportunities to reach the playoffs. Even among non-division opponents, having an owner like Snyder running a franchise that perennially underperforms means reduced competition in a league where competition is everything.

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Ultimately, the response to the poll was that the Committee’s subpoena was unlikely to result in any change in ownership — that Dan Snyder would survive this like he has survived everything else in his reign of error. 71% of those surveyed believe that Dan Snyder will continue as owner of the Commanders regardless (irregardless, even) of the actions of Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The stadium issue

There is a wildcard in play that could change the algebra in the power equation, however. The Commanders play football in one of the worst stadiums in the league, and the lease for FedEx Field runs only to 2027 — a mere 5 years hence. Now is the time that the team needs to be finalizing a deal for the stadium’s replacement. A construction project of the complexity and magnitude of a professional sports stadium takes time.

comment 4

Chances that the hearing will directly impact a change in ownership? Very small. I imagine that it must have some small bearing on the owner’s collective thought process, though. These “little” things keep adding up (if you can call witness intimidation, alleged fraud, etc. small) to the point where Snyder is so toxic, both as a human being and as a business entity, that no one will come anywhere near a new stadium deal with the organization. That is something, I imagine, NFL ownership categorically does not want —a continuation of FedEx or FedEx 2.0, and a continuously shrinking fanbase that will no longer attend games or purchase merchandise to avoid directly giving money to this man. Dan Snyder better hope that his team starts winning games fast. A winning franchise on the field gives him some leverage but personally, I’m hoping that new stadium deals being DOA with all DMV decision-makers means that the NFL will have strong enough financial incentive (new ownership = lucrative new stadium deal) to use these continuous embarrassments and scandals as pretext for ejecting the fucker

As every Hogs Haven reader is probably aware, Dan Snyder has been running into roadblock after roadblock in his attempts to find a suitable site and secure public funding to help finance a new stadium.

The old RFK site in Washington DC has been all but ruled out due to both practicalities and politics. The Virginia State government, which until recently had seemed to be the most welcoming and supportive of a stadium initiative, turned sharply against any stadium deal in recent weeks, just before a vote to approve public funding, forcing the vote to be delayed at the very least. Maryland has approved a package of $400m to develop the area around FedEx Field in an effort to keep the team in Maryland, but this package does not earmark any money to directly support stadium construction.

At a time when the national mood is increasingly opposed to public funding of professional sports stadiums in general, local politicians are increasingly isolating Dan Snyder in particular. It’s simply not good politics to be seen as supporting a multi-billionaire who is accused of harassing employees and cheating his business partners while openly defying Congress.

Dan Snyder may soon be faced with limited choices. He has the option of continuing to have his team play in an unrenovated FedEx Field since the Commanders actually own the stadium, but that path is strewn with land mines. Faced with little or no public funding, he could try to fund the stadium construction himself, but Dan already seems stretched financially after reportedly having had to borrow $450m to buy out his minority partners last year. It seems unlikely that he has the financial wherewithal to finance a quality stadium alone. He could, of course, seek a minority partner with deep pockets who might, for example, privately finance the construction of a quality stadium in return for part or full ownership of that stadium and partial ownership of the Commanders. This would seem to be an unappealing deal for Snyder, but could prove necessary. As a final desperate move, he could seek to relocate the team to a city that has an NFL-ready stadium, though it’s hard to imagine a city in America where the citizens or local government would welcome Dan Snyder.

In short, the shitstorm being stirred up by the current congressional investigation (and by the current NFL investigation being run by Mary Jo White) may not create enough pressure for the other NFL owners to dump Dan Snyder, but the effect may be to make it politically impossible for Snyder to get a stadium deal done in the immediate vicinity of Washington DC. That could have many results, ranging from a suboptimal location funded by Dan, to a new business partner, to relocation or even the sale of the team. The stadium question is a huge wildcard that will probably take several years to fully play out.

Of course, any proposed stadium is closely linked to home attendance. It has been widely reported that the Commanders have fallen to 31st in the league in attendance. Financially, this is a drop in the bucket for other owners as far as revenue is concerned, but it is a bad look. TV broadcasts showing empty seats at games are not good, and Washington DC should be a premier market for the league.

Recent reports have been that Snyder is contemplating building a 55,000 seat stadium, which would be the smallest in the NFL. This is a drastic change in direction from that taken by the previous owner, Jack Kent Cooke, who built the Redskins into one of the most successful sports franchises in the world in the late 20th century. Cooke’s Redskins played in RFK stadium and had an incredible waiting list for season tickets, prompting the then-owner of the team to build the biggest stadium in the NFL.

  • The Washington Redskins played their first game at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium on September 14, 1997. With 80,116 seats, it was the largest stadium in the NFL.
  • In 1999, Daniel Snyder bought the Redskins and decided to sell the naming rights to Federal Express, and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium was renamed FedEx Field.
  • Before the 2000 season, nearly 3,000 seats were added, including a new owners club suite level and escalators to the upper deck.
  • FedEx Field was expanded again before the 2004 season. The seating capacity was increased from 86,000 to over 91,000. Ten rows of seats were added to the back of the lower bowl section that rings the north half of the stadium. The number of luxury suites also increased from 199 to 243.

The Washington Redskins fan base was so large and so rabid that the largest stadium in the NFL was expanded twice, and could hold more than 91,000 fans just 18 years ago.

Of course, the stadium seating has been going the other direction ever since. Seats have been removed or covered. The current reported capacity of the once-giant stadium is 67,717, and it is often largely empty or filled with fans of the opposing team on game day.

Because of the NFL’s revenue sharing system, the damage that Snyder has inflicted on his own fan base does not cut as deeply as it should financially. Fees paid for broadcast rights are the financial backbone of the NFL and insulate owners like Dan Snyder from the type of dramatic fall in attendance that the Washington franchise has suffered under his watch.

That said, a team’s stadium is increasingly a part of the team’s identity. The Cowboys are linked with AT&T Stadium, the Rams with SoFi Stadium, and the Raiders with Allegiant Stadium, each of which is a palace or an architectural work of art in its own right. Dan Snyder has already been responsible for a botched re-branding to start this decade; should he be trusted to oversee the construction of a stadium that will be integral to the team’s identity for the next 30 years or more? Does the NFL want the league’s smallest venue to be in the nation’s capital, once the home of its largest?

It’s just possible that the financial and political pressures of stadium location and construction could be enough to force a change in the team’s ownership, but not many people seem to be willing to bet that this will be the case.

New legislation

One set of outcomes from the congressional committee hearing does seem likely, however. In mid-June, two bills were introduced to Congress as a result of the committee’s findings to date.

The Accountability for Workplace Misconduct Act would safeguard against the abuse of NDAs by prohibiting employers from using agreements to limit, prevent, or interfere with an employee’s ability to disclose harassment, discrimination, or retaliation to govt agencies or Congress. The NFL, according to some reports, already has similar rules in place for the league and its 32 teams, though it may be fair to question whether or not those rules have been effectively enforced.

The Professional Images Protection Act would ensure that employees have a say in how and when their images are used. This bill was introduced in response to the allegations that images of Redskins cheerleaders were used in appropriately and without their knowledge or consent.

It’s good to see some specific legislation aimed at improving all workplaces introduced as a result of this investigation. Even so, I suspect that the outcome most Washington football fans really want — that Dan Snyder be exorcised once and for all — seems to remain a distant and unlikely outcome.

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Each week we ask questions of the most plugged-in Washington Commanders fans and fans across the country.