Controversy that made Dan Snyder consider selling the Commanders
Snyder’s franchise, a once-beloved Civic institution dwindled by two decades of unemployment, has spread in league ownership circles in recent weeks as fan calls to sell the team, most vocally from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. Even then, Snyder issued statements of protest that he would never sell the team — at one point announcing he would never change the team’s name, which he finally did in 2020 under pressure from sponsors.
Since Snyder left his name, the move, which was intended to strengthen his position in the league, the allegations and subsequent investigations put his position in jeopardy. Snyder has long been scorned by fans and eye-rolling by owners. But the turmoil of the past 2½ years paved the way for Wednesday’s announcement.
Dan Snyder hired an investment banker to consider “potential transactions.”
In the year On July 13, 2020, days after team sponsor FedEx called for the franchise to drop the name “Redskins” on the grounds that it was offensive, the team announced it would be “retiring” without immediately announcing a replacement. In the weeks leading up to the announcement, three minority owners began the process of selling their shares, which account for 40 percent of the company.
Three days later, the Washington Post published a report in which more than a dozen women alleged sexual harassment and verbal abuse by team members. The lawsuit led to the firing or dismissal of several front office executives, including longtime radio voice Larry Michaels, and prompted Snyder to hire high-powered attorney Beth Wilkinson to investigate the team’s workplace.
In mid-August, Snyder hired Jason Wright to replace Bruce Allen, making Wright the first black NFL team president. The choice of Wright, a former NFL running back who is a highly respected business consultant, was widely praised. Goodwill does not last.
The Post published another story on August 26, 2020, in which former employees allege even more lewd workplace behavior, including a video with footage of partially nude cheerleaders unwittingly filmed at a photo shoot. Five days later, the NFL took over Wilkinson’s investigation. The Post would later report that Snyder had interfered with the investigation by denying the official statement.
Court documents released in December 2020 showed Snyder’s rift with his minority partners escalated as the investigation continued. In the year In March 2021, owners on the NFL’s finance committee approved a debt waiver that would allow Snyder to borrow $450 million to buy out the partners, putting the entire franchise in his hands.
The failure of Wilkinson’s investigation came months later, nearly a year after it began. In the year On July 2, 2021, the NFL fined Snyder $10 million and while not officially suspending Snyder, owner Tanya Snyder said she would continue to control the franchise. The league did not release Wilkinson’s report, but instead issued a summary, a decision that drew widespread criticism and is still reverberating.
“The culture of the club was very toxic and fell far short of the NFL’s values,” said Lisa Friel, the league’s special counsel for the investigation.
In response to the league’s decision not to release the full findings of Wilkinson’s investigation, in October 2021 the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s investigation into the team’s workplace culture prompted the NFL to release its findings in part.
That same month, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times published excerpts of racist, homophobic language from then-Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s 2011 emails to Allen. The emails were part of a trove of documents the NFL reviewed as part of its investigation. Many in the league suspected Snyder or his hires of having snitched, something Tanya Snyder reportedly denied to owners at a league meeting.
The arrest is in connection with the shooting of Brian Robinson.
Washington finished the 2021 season without a name, still continuing with the Washington football team. In the year
The next day, former cheerleader and marketing manager Tiffany Johnston testified before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, accusing Snyder of sexual harassment.
In response to the new allegations aimed directly at Snyder, the NFL hired former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to investigate and prepare a report for Commissioner Roger Goodell. The investigation is ongoing.
The congressional committee reconvened in late June, The Post reported, after Snyder disclosed that he paid a former female staffer $1.6 million in 2009 after she accused Snyder of sexual harassment. Snyder has denied the allegations. Goodale testified to lawmakers on Zoom for 2½ hours, the chair in front of him bearing Snyder’s name sitting empty as he declined to participate. The committee invited Snyder, and he gave a 10-hour confirmation hearing in July.
As lawsuits and investigations mounted, Snyder tackled the problem of finding a new stadium to replace FedEx Field, an outdated facility the franchise wants to vacate in 2027. Snyder found reluctant allies in local municipalities in three states. In May, it was revealed that the Chiefs had acquired the right to purchase 200 acres in Woodbridge, Va., as a possible stadium site. Several Virginia lawmakers expressed strong opposition to working with the group, and one of them doubled down on opposition weeks after defense coordinator Jack Del Rio dismissed the failed Jan. 6 rally as a “duster.”
While the league backed White’s findings, the mood among owners is changing, multiple people told The Post. By September, many owners believed the league should force Snyder to sell the franchise. Forcing a sale requires the approval of 24 of the 32 owners. An ESPN report last month in which Snyder told teammates he had “dirt on their teammates” eased the tension.
Speaking to reporters at a league meeting in New York on Oct. 18, Irsay made his feelings public, saying, “I believe it’s worth bringing him on as an owner.”
The commander responded forcefully to the comments as inappropriate. A spokesperson said in a statement that after all the evidence came to light, “Mr. Irsay Snyders concludes that there is no reason to consider selling the franchise. They won’t do it,” he said.
About two weeks later, Snyder announced that they could do it 2½ years after the storm itself.