Sale or cash-grab? What Dan Snyder’s Bank of America deal means

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

During the mid-October owner’s meetings, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay spoke as clearly as possible about the fact that the league would be better off if Snyder sold the team.

“Some of the things I’ve heard doesn’t represent us at all,” Irsay said. “I want the American public to know what we’re about as owners…You can’t shy away from the fact that, I believe it’s in the best interest of the National Football League that we look at this squarely in the eyes and deal with it.”

There was a swift response from a Commanders spokesperson:

A 24-vote majority is required for a removal or a forced sale, but Snyder has not done anything to make friends among his fellow owners. Just a few days before those meetings, ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr., Seth Wickersham and Tisha Thompson released a bombshell report in which it was indicated that Snyder was trying to hold onto his stake by gathering dirt on other owners.

The ESPN report, written after interviews with more than 30 sources, indicates that “the fear of reprisal that Snyder has instilled in his franchise, poisoning it on the field and off, has expanded to some of his fellow owners. Multiple owners and league and team sources say they’ve been told that Snyder instructed his law firms to hire private investigators to look into other owners — and Goodell.”

The sources asked for anonymity due to fear of reprisal on multiple fronts.

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.

Several owners say that they see the threats about damaging dossiers as a desperate tactic intended to scare owners from voting to remove Snyder. “He’s backed into a corner,” says a veteran owner who says he’s aware Snyder has gathered dirt on some owners. “He’s behaving like a mad dog cornered.”

Also from the report:

Indeed, it galls some owners and league and team executives that the NFL has been in lockstep with Washington on many fronts, “propping up” the franchise, in the words of one owner, by burying attorney Beth Wilkinson’s report about the team’s toxic workplace last year, and by helping the Commanders avoid penalties for repeated violations of the Rooney Rule. It’s clear, one owner says, that Goodell “doesn’t want to touch this.”

“This is what happens when you get into business with bad people,” the owner says about Snyder. “They know he’ll burn their houses down.”

The most repugnant aspect of Snyder’s tenure as owner is the wide-ranging culture of intimidation and sexual harassment that has gone on for years, and caught the interest of the House Committee for Oversight and Reform. Goodell has steadfastly refused to release the findings from investigative reports due to a “common interest agreement” between Snyder and the NFL.

So, with the heat increasing for Snyder, the threats of compromise.

In recent months, Snyder has told close confidants that his private investigators dug up incriminating information about Goodell, other unnamed league office executives and an unknown number of owners. League and ownership sources say there’s lots of gossip and speculation about what investigators could have unearthed, but some wonder whether Snyder actually has anything at all and is bluffing as a scare tactic.

More than the fear of leaked information — like the leaked information that essentially ended Jon Gruden’s career — could be the fact that the Commanders aren’t making enough money to allow the other owners to overlook Snyder’s actions anymore.

“His gate is the lowest in the league, his revenues are significantly low and trending lower,” a veteran owner says. “He is costing his fellow owners significant money.” Under Snyder’s watch, FedEx Field has reduced capacity from more than 90,000 seats to around 64,000 this year. Although the team spokesperson said the team’s business prospects have turned around, including a doubling of season-ticket holders and a 30% increase in sponsorships, owners said they haven’t seen evidence of improvement.

Multiple ownership and team sources complain that ticket sales for about half those remaining seats are controlled by ticket brokers, the highest ratio in the NFL. “He’s a partner — and he’s not pulling his end of the partnership,” a senior executive of a rival team says.

One owner said in the ESPN report that if Snyder could get a new stadium built, this might all go away, but even that is under serious danger. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s comments about the January 6, 2021 riots at the Capitol Building as a mere “dust-up” — comments for which Del Rio had to apologize and was fined — had local lawmakers insisting that such a stadium wasn’t going to happen until the kind of culture re-boot promised by the team and the league actually took place.

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