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With Commanders ownership news expected before the draft, confidence, expectations and excitement on the rise among fans

Poll results!!

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

When news of the Snyders’ plans to put the Commanders up for sale broke in early November 2022, fans immediately circled two owner’s meetings scheduled for March and May as the most likely times for such a sale to be finalized if it moved along without delays.

While news about the sale has been more in the form of rumors and leaks than confirmed reports, it has become obvious that the sale is indeed taking place, with the Snyders having pretty much fled the country at this point, reportedly having taken up residence in London.

No solid news emerged ahead of the late-March owner’s meeting, despite a spike in expectations and rumors, but the spate of rumors, reports and leaks that surfaced in the week prior to that meeting seem to have gone a long way in re-shaping fan expectations.

In a Reacts survey taken in the week following the initial announcement by the Snyders that they had engaged Bank of America to begin the sale process, 52% of fans surveyed expected Jeff Bezos to be the guy who eventually bought the team.

Interestingly, the next 4 names on that list were Matthew McConaughy, Byron Allen, Michael Dell, and Todd Boehey — names that have all but disappeared from the discussion in the intervening months as the names of actual and potential bidders have been reported.

Bezos had faded to the background as fan focus shifted and reports had consistently indicated that Bezos has not (yet) placed a bid, but he hasn’t disappeared entirely from fan consciousness or expectations, and reports today have given fresh life to the Bezos speculation.

The names that have replaced Jeff Bezos at the top of fan expectations are Josh Harris and Mitchell Rales, two local billionaires who have reportedly teamed up to put in a competitive bid for the franchise, with the Snyders’ “asking price” reportedly being around $6 billion.

Josh Harris is deeply involved in sports ownership, with the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Devils, a minority stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers, and strong ties to Premier League all featuring in his portfoio. Clearly, he would not be the type of day-to-day presence as an owner that Dan Snyder was.

Mitchell Rales is the billionaire that Hogs Haven fans have seemed to latch onto in this group, though there’s little to suggest that he would be the face of the ownership group ahead of Harris. Rales co-founded the Danaher Corporation in 1983 and is one of 11 billionaires currently in the DC region. He grew up in Bethesda, and is a graduate of Walt Whitman High School. He and his wife are widely recognized for their development and financing of the unique Glenstone Museum in Potomac, and the couple’s love of art and commitment to the details required to achieve the highest quality seem to have immediately endeared them to a fan base hoping for new owners who embody the antithesis of the Dan Snyder experience.

Still, the realistic expectation, should the Harris/Rales group be successful in their bid to purchase the team, is that Josh Harris will be the identified primary owner, with the relatively reclusive Rales remaining in the background, but hopefully exerting influence over the direction and quality of the team’s future development — especially with respect to its next stadium.

Of course, Magic Johnson is the other identified member of the Josh Harris group, and he had a few things to say about the possibility of winning the bid on air yesterday:

Clearly, Jeff Bezos maintains a position in fan expectations, with 27% of those surveyed clinging to their view that Jeff is playing the ‘wait until the dust has settled’ strategy of the guy with more resources than anyone else. These fans expect that, once the other bids are clearly known, Bezos will simply put in a bid that is more lucrative, leaving Dan Snyder no choice but to accept it. As mentioned above, reports made public today lend credence to these continuing expectations.

If that is in fact the Bezos strategy, the clock is clearly ticking, and he will need to act soon, though “how soon” seems to still be an open question at this point. Dan and Tanya Snyder are not under any particular deadline to sell, and they can continue to have Bank of America work the deal to extract the most attractive offer they can get, which could continue to protract the process.

What may keep that process from stretching out indefinitely are the market realities — billionaires won’t keep their billions sitting around waiting for very long before they lose interest and move on — and the NFL’s Mary Jo White report, the ‘stick’ that the other league owners could be using behind the scenes to push Dan and Tanya out the door and on their way to London. The Commanders organization in general, and Dan Snyder in particular, are the subjects of multiple investigations by governmental agencies, and by the NFL itself in the form of Mary Jo White. The feeling is that her report provides the league with sufficient leverage to ensure that Dan and Tanya will be on their yacht on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean by the time training camp opens in late July.

There’s little mystery about how Washington fans feel about Dan Snyder and what he has done to the franchise since purchasing it in 1999, but we gave fans the opportunity to express themselves in this week’s poll questions.

The only real surprise in these results is that the number of fans giving Dan the lowest score possible wasn’t greater. Dan Snyder has achieved something that is very hard to do — he appears to have secured the mantle of the most reviled man in Washington, DC, which is really saying something in a town filled with national politicians, lobbyists, lawyers and liars.

Ill will towards Dan Snyder has been building for nearly all of the 23 or 24 years that he has owned the team. His sins against the team and the fan base have been many and varied, and it has been a long-standing joke of sorts that, when the day finally came that Snyder was ousted from the city, fans would have a parade in DC, a city with a long tradition of parades.

A week ago, when the owners were meeting in Phoenix and the air was crackling with expectation that the identity of the new owner would be known any minute, we asked people whether they would attend that parade.

From the comments that followed that article, it became immediately clear that the poll needed to have had an option for people (like me) who would gladly attend the parade, but who live too far away to do so. Still, the enthusiasm for the celebration is impressive, with only 12% of those surveyed indicating that they aren’t interested.

Of course, a few questions pop up immediately. The first is whether the parade is just a joke, or whether it might become a reality. Comments following the survey article, and more general discussion on social media have me convinced that there is a genuine interest in a real parade (or at least some sort of rally), and that DC residents might just pull it off when the time comes, hopefully this summer.

Another question that arises is who, exactly, would organize such a venture. Again, gauging by what I’ve seen on social media, Rick Snider, a semi-retired former beat reporter who always seems to want 2 minutes of your time, seems to be the popular choice for the parade’s organizer and Grand Marshall. I have to say, Snider seems to have the time, inclination and connections to make such an event happen, if he is inclined to do so.

Where would such a celebration be held? Probably not on Constitution Avenue. I’ve seen suggestions on social media of a rally to be organized at the site of the old RFK Stadium, though I don’t know how safe it would be to gather a bunch of celebratory (drunk) Redskins fans in the parking lot of that decrepit and abandoned stadium. I trust that, if it is to actually happen, Rick Snider (or whoever is in charge of the planning) will figure it all out.

All the news of the impending sale seems to have lifted the spirits and confidence of most Washington fans. With the season ending as it did, with only a single win in the final 5 games (Week 18 vs the Cowboys) and out of the playoffs, fan confidence in the direction of the team plummeted. But this week’s Reacts poll indicates that it is rebounding.

Ahead of that Week 18 Cowboys game, fan confidence had fallen to just 35%. By contrast, in this week’s survey, that confidence level had nearly doubled to 68%. Those who remain pessimistic tend to point to the fact that Dan Snyder isn’t gone yet, and they aren’t voting ‘yes’ until he is, or they point to the leadership duo of Ron Rivera and Jason Wright, expressing a lack of belief in one or both key franchise leaders.

Ron Rivera is on the verge of making NFL history as the only modern head coach to have had two franchises sold out from underneath him. You will remember that Rivera was the HC in Carolina when Jerry Richardson sold the Panthers to David Tepper in circumstances that were not completely dissimilar to the ones that surround the Commanders now, with Richardson selling under pressure amid claims of racism and sexual harassment.

There is little to no chance that an incoming owner would replace Ron Rivera or any other coaches or top executives immediately, so the team direction is probably set in drying concrete at the moment. It seems as if the RivEra will continue at least through the 2023 season.

As the March owner’s meeting progressed without any “new” news on the sale of the Commanders, speculation turned to a revised timeline, and there was wide speculation that the winning bid could be announced before the draft, which begins on April 27th, with an owners’ vote to confirm the sale taking place at the May meeting, and a transfer of ownership likely around the beginning of June.

Fresh reporting from AJ Perez suggests that the process may take even longer to unfold, with the announcement of the successful bidder coming in May, and final approval at the July owner’s meeting, just prior to the start of training camp.

This would appear to the the latest that the sale would be completed, with the NFL unlikely to want the process to spill over into the 2023 NFL season.

What became clear during that week in Phoenix was that there was little appetite from owners at the March meeting to say or do anything to antagonize Snyder or upset the sale process. As CBS Sports wrote last week:

[E]veryone just wants this done. Snyder wants to sell. His fellow owners want him to sell. The league office wants him to sell. Commanders fans want new ownership. There’s little reason to poke the bear at this point, weeks from a resolution.

The light at the end of the tunnel is visible. The end of the long road has been reached. Very soon, the munchkins will be singing in celebration. The parade is a palpable potential reality now. The finish line is right in front of us. The end of the long nightmare is near.

All we have to do is wait.

And, likely, not for long.

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