Let the civil lawsuit by Karl Racine, the Washington, D.C., attorney general, against Washington Commanders team owner Dan Snyder on grounds that the franchise has been immersed in “a toxic culture of sexual harassment” be your reminder that Snyder’s history of bullying and mismanagement as franchise owner runs wide and it runs deep. Over 23 years, he has taken one of the most valuable brands in the National Football League and made it not only ordinary but embarrassing. I moved to D.C. the year Snyder bought the team, and I can tell you that following the franchise then was more like religion than fandom.
Snyder’s history of bullying and mismanagement as franchise owner runs wide and it runs deep.
Today, the team is better known for Snyder’s meddling, for play that is middling and for empty seats in FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, which is regarded as the worst stadium in football. Taylor Swift’s national stadium tour will not include FedEx Field — despite it being the only appropriate venue in the District, Maryland or Northern Virginia. Swift has her fans in the DMV, and they are not happy.
Yet after nearly a quarter century defined by poor play on the field and public embarrassments off it was never enough for the NFL owners to hear the district’s fervent prayers and force this man out. But a series of events that includes the attorney general’s lawsuit gives us reason to hope that Snyder is puffing on his last cigar. The other franchise owners did not care when Snyder was only the team’s fans’ problem. But now he has become a liability to them, 30 of the most powerful people in the sports world, and he will, I believe, not last long.
First, there were accusations and Washington Post investigations that accused Snyder of overseeing a deeply sexist, hostile and even sexually criminal workplace. Then an ESPN probe claimed Snyder — feeling besieged — hired private investigators to dig dirt on fellow owners and on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. That certainly did not help him make friends and actually alienated his best friend among the bosses, the man who has been described as his “firewall,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Then Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, a man with some past scandals of his own, did something that I can say with confidence is unprecedented in NFL history. He publicly called for Snyder’s removal from the ownership ranks. News quickly followed that Snyder had enlisted Bank of America in what may be an effort to pursue a sale. In other words, the blood is in the water. Fans are already imagining possible alternative franchise owners.
They are also fantasizing about a new stadium, perhaps one built in the district. If Snyder is not the face of such a deal, there may be opportunities for that to happen. The fans are not the only ones fantasizing about this. It is well known that the ownership fraternity is becoming impatient with Snyder’s inability to do what many of them have done with ease: get a publicly funded NFL stadium.
Commanders players are rightly upset that the team brought up their teammates’ trauma in an attempt to score a cheap political point.
Racine’s lawsuit against Snyder’s team argues that by hiding its allegedly boorish behavior toward female employees of the team, the Commanders have been selling a family-friendly product under false pretenses. A bizarre, written reply to Racine by the Commanders “external counsel,” whose wording is remarkably similar to Snyder’s, not only cited the August shooting of Commanders rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr. (for which two teenage suspects have reportedly been arrested on robbery charges) but added snarkily that the attorney general should be more concerned about "making the streets safe" than about the Commanders’ workplace culture.
Commanders players are rightly upset that the team brought up their teammate’s trauma in an attempt to score a cheap political point. Left tackle Charles Leno, Jr. told The Washington Post that “of course it’s upsetting,” that Robinson ”never should’ve been part of” the team’s response and that Robinson’s “feelings and what he’s gone through should be a completely separate deal.”
The next day Snyder’s team acknowledged that what had happened to Robinson should have been kept “separate and apart” from the team’s response to the lawsuit.
Having upset fans, his fellow franchise owners, the commissioner and the players on the team, Snyder is now running out of allies. Yes, if he gets the $7 billion he’s rumored to want if he sells the team, that will cushion his fall, but Snyder doesn’t appear to be long for the NFL.
Good. His leaving wouldn’t be the same as a Super Bowl win, but it could still inspire a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.