Washington football fans are rejoicing this week as two bids for the Commanders have reportedly come in that would shoot Dan Snyder into the strata of the atmosphere occupied by Donald Sterling, Robert Sarver, and other discarded ex-owners of professional sports franchises. Let’s call it Irrelevancy.
Don’t worry, Snyder won’t take up so much room that there won’t be a chair waiting for James Dolan.
But this last scene in our nation’s capital should in no way let Snyder off the hook for all the damage wrought in Washington during his time as owner of the variously-named football team there.
Or the NFL for that matter.
Snyder oversaw a toxic workplace
This is an ownership group that let small and large disasters pile up and then only took action when they realized it affected the bottom line. Pervasive culture of harassment? No problem! Oh wait is that culture of harassment part of the reason Maryland and Virginia won’t engage with Snyder on building a new stadium around Washington D.C.? And that’s affecting the revenue that the Washington franchise is contributing to the socialist revenue pool that benefits all owners?
Now that’s a problem.
When Snyder was just heading up an organization that was allegedly mass-producing non-disclosure agreements to buy a little peace and quiet, all was well. Heck, maybe that even gave the Houston Texans a few ideas when the whole issue of DeShaun Watson’s massage problem surfaced. (Watson has denied allegations.) But when ESPN broke the news that Snyder took out a $55 million loan without telling the partners in the team ownership group, sparking a federal inquiry, well that couldn’t be abided.
NFL should make its investigation public
The NFL must make the investigation into the Washington football team public not so much for Snyder, but for the organization itself. This is a group of owners willing to defend the indefensible, ignore the unignorable and stand by the most toxic figure in sports ownership since the NBA ran Sterling out of Los Angeles.
Protecting the shield doesn’t mean protecting men who use NFL ownership as a platform for abuse and mismanagement. Letting Snyder leave after a $6 billion payday isn’t a happy ending to this disaster. With all that cash, he can buy an even bigger yacht than the $100 million “Lady S” to spend the summers on the Mediterranean allegedly avoiding subpoenas.
When will this ownership group learn that owners who might abuse power when it comes to cheerleaders, women in the office and other employees might not be great business partners, either? The NFL has a pretty bad track record when it comes to picking owners. Maybe there aren’t a lot of Nobel Prize winners running around with the kind of cash it would take to buy an NFL franchise – “would you like to pay in crypto, Sir?” – but the NFL might want to vet these guys a little better.
Among this crop of NFL owners are people who have been arrested, sued and investigated and this Seattle Times story does a good job of getting through some of those incidents here. The NFL doesn’t need to look for perfection in prospective owners, maybe just find a few candidates who are a little less fraud-adjacent.
Of course, obscene wealth is the most important requirement, but surely that doesn’t preclude some decency as well. I’ve heard tell that some wealthy people are even able to foster non-hostile work environments on a regular basis. Might we add that to the search criteria as well?
The problem with owners like Snyder is that they are a problem for the NFL, and the league needs a better way of handling the metric tons of damage they can do to their own team and the larger sports universe. Being the owner of an NFL team is a platform. I think we can all agree that knowing anything about who Dan Snyder is has been an intrusion on our collective sports consciousness. A place he would have apparently been happy to keep camping out on if the NFL hadn’t slowly forced him into selling the team.
Because some people don’t mind the booing when they have that kind of power.