The controversies that prompted Dan Snyder to consider selling Commanders

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Wednesday’s announcement that Daniel Snyder would hire an investment bank to consider the potential sale of the Washington Commanders came after a dizzying sequence of events over the past two and a half years, a period in which change, controversy and scandal have engulfed Snyder and the franchise he owns. since 1999.

Snyder’s grip on the franchise, a once-beloved civic institution diminished by two decades of dysfunction, has loosened in recent weeks as calls from fans to sell the team have spread to corporate ownership circles. league, the most vocal of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. Even then, Snyder issued defiant statements about never selling the team – as he once said he would never change the team’s name, which he eventually did under pressure from the team. sponsors in 2020.

Since Snyder dropped the name, a move intended to bolster his standing in the league, a whirlwind of allegations and ensuing investigations have jeopardized his status. Snyder has long been the subject of scorn from fans and eye-rolling from other owners. But the tumult of the past two and a half years paved the way for Wednesday’s announcement.

Dan Snyder hires investment bank to consider ‘potential deals’

On July 13, 2020, days after team sponsor FedEx called on the franchise to drop the “Redskins” name on the grounds that it was an insult, the team announced that it would “remove ” the name without introducing an immediate replacement. In the weeks leading up to the announcement, three minority owners began the process of selling their shares, which totaled 40% of the franchise.

Three days later, The Washington Post published a report in which more than a dozen women alleged sexual harassment and verbal abuse by team employees. The allegations led to the firing or resignation of several front office officials, including longtime radio voice Larry Michael, and prompted Snyder to hire high-profile attorney Beth Wilkinson to investigate the whereabouts. team work.

In mid-August, Snyder hired Jason Wright to replace Bruce Allen, making Wright the NFL’s first black team president. The choice of Wright, a former NFL running back turned highly regarded business consultant, was widely praised. Good will will not last.

The Post published another story on August 26, 2020, in which former employees alleged more lewd behavior at work, including the production of a video with images of partially nude cheerleaders filmed without their knowledge during of a photo shoot. Five days later, the NFL assumed oversight of Wilkinson’s investigation. The Post would later report that Snyder, against his public statements, had interfered with the investigation.

As the investigation progressed, Snyder’s acrimony with his minority partners grew, which court documents released in December 2020 revealed. In March 2021, the owners of the NFL Finance Committee approved a debt waiver that allowed Snyder to borrow $450 million to buy out the partners, putting the entire franchise in his hands.

The fallout from Wilkinson’s investigation came months later, nearly a year after it began. On July 2, 2021, the NFL fined Snyder $10 million and, without formally suspending Snyder, said his wife, Tanya Snyder, would take control of the franchise. The league did not release Wilkinson’s report, instead offering a summary, a decision that drew widespread criticism and continues to reverberate.

“The club culture was very toxic and far from NFL values,” said Lisa Friel, the league’s special counsel for investigations.

In response to the league’s decision not to release the full findings of Wilkinson’s investigation, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform opened an investigation into the team’s work culture in October 2021. party to pressure the NFL to make the findings public.

That same month, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times published excerpts of emails from Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden sent to Allen in 2011 containing racist and homophobic language. The emails were part of the trove of documents reviewed by the NFL as part of its investigation. Many within the league suspected Snyder or someone in his employ of leaking them, which Tanya Snyder reportedly denied to the other owners at a league meeting.

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Washington finished the 2021 season unnamed, again by the Washington Football Team. On Feb. 2 — days after former quarterback Joe Theismann blurted out the new name during a radio interview — the franchise revealed it had opted to call itself the Commanders.

The next day, former cheerleader and chief marketing officer Tiffani Johnston accused Snyder of sexual harassment during testimony before Capitol Hill lawmakers, part of a slew of new claims presented to the House Committee on Oversight. and Reform.

In response to new allegations directly aimed at Snyder, the NFL hired former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White to investigate and produce a report for Commissioner Roger Goodell. The investigation is still ongoing.

The congressional committee met again in late June, days after The Post reported that Snyder paid a former employee a $1.6 million settlement in 2009 after she accused Snyder of sexual assault. Snyder denied the allegation. Goodell testified on Zoom to lawmakers for 2½ hours while a chair bearing Snyder’s name in front stood empty because he refused to attend. The committee would subpoena Snyder, and he gave a 10-hour deposition in July.

As the charges and investigations mounted, Snyder grappled with the dilemma of finding a new stadium to replace FedEx Field, an outdated facility the franchise wants out of by 2027. Snyder found reluctant partners in local municipalities across three states. In May, it was revealed that the Commanders had acquired the rights to purchase 200 acres in Woodbridge, Virginia as a possible site for the stadium. Several Virginia lawmakers raised vehement opposition to dealing with the team, opposition one of which doubled weeks later when defensive coordinator Jack del Rio downplayed the failed Jan. 6 insurgency as a “dust”.

As the league braced for White’s discoveries, sentiment among owners changed, multiple people told The Post. In September, many owners came to believe that the league should force Snyder to sell the franchise. Forcing a sale would require the approval of 24 of the 32 owners. A report from ESPN last month, in which unnamed people said Snyder had told associates he “got dirt on” other owners, raised the tension.

At a league meeting in New York on October 18, Irsay made those sentiments public when he told reporters, “I believe there’s merit in taking him out as an owner.”

Commanders responded forcefully, calling the comments inappropriate. In a statement, a spokesperson insisted that once all the evidence comes to light, “Mr. Irsay will conclude that there is no reason for the Snyders to consider selling the franchise. And they won’t.” will not.

About two weeks later, Snyder himself revealed that after a whirlwind 2.5 years, they could do it.

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