Last May, an implicit message was sent to Dan Snyder.
For months, the NFL’s property suites had been the subject of some sort of election investigation into the embattled leader of the Washington Commanders. Whirling overhead was a maelstrom of trouble and it got more and more intense. A messy workplace investigation into Snyder and his franchise had embarrassed the competition and seemingly put everyone under a microscope.
The NFL’s attorneys were neck-deep in a bid to win a layoff in a Snyder-fueled lawsuit against ousted Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden. And buzzing like a mosquito in the background: a Congressional oversight committee drafting subpoenas, including Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Right in the middle of it, the USA Today headline fell on May 21.
Daniel Snyder’s troubles force other NFL owners to consider drastic options: ‘We’re counting the votes.'”
For outsiders, it was an eyebrow-raising moment. The story suggested that the league’s power brokers were not only considering a foreclosure of Washington, but were actually doing a series of high-level polls to see if there was enough juice to make Snyder disappear.
“There is growing frustration about the situation in Washington and not about one issue, but about how much smoke there is,” an unnamed owner said in the report. “I think everyone is getting tired of it.”
Finally, it looked like Snyder might have worn out his welcome to the billionaire club. The disgust was such that property-level sources anonymously confirmed a sentiment that had been building for months, if not years: The group was ready and Snyder needed to be pushed. Difficult.
It doesn’t sound like Dan Snyder is going to quietly leave the NFL. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
For some of those entrenched in the NFL’s executive offices, it was an inevitable act of getting a message across. Something had to be done, but the red button option to destroy Snyder’s property remained unpalatable. But the threat? Why not? If there wasn’t enough courage to vote him out, there certainly was the audacity to give him a shove and see what happened.
A league source who was aware of some of the top-level NFL committee meetings saw the USA Today story in May and summed it up for Yahoo Sports: “I doubt there’s really a comfort level to him. to vote. Owners don’t like the implications of forcing each other to sell. It’s a red line. Even in Dan’s case. But they can certainly try to suffocate him. Leak him out, hoping he’ll give up and pay.”
In the months that followed, that was the quiet part that no one in the league or in the NFL headquarters in New York wanted to say out loud. A growing number of powerful owners, including some who have protected Snyder’s in the past, are pushing… pushing… leaking… and hoping for a white flag.
Everyone has known it for a while. But no one of importance in the NFL is willing to say it officially. That is, until Thursday’s lengthy ESPN report on Snyder, which described the commander’s owner as a knife-out and cornered menace ready to go to war if deposed. After that report, which claimed Snyder had even hired private detectives to collect dirt on Goodell and the group of owners, the commanders said the quiet part.
“It’s hard to imagine a piece that is more categorically untrue and clearly part of a well-funded, two-year campaign to sell the team, which will not continue to be successful,” a team spokesperson told The Athletic. .
That’s an important claim: someone (or many people) with deep pockets is trying to take Dan Snyder out of the competition.
That is apparently the team’s general one-sentence denial of an extremely detailed and striking ESPN story. It is up to the public to determine the most convincing explanation. Whatever the angle, it’s confirmation that this mess with Snyder and the commanders has passed to the next plateau. Something along the lines of “They’re coming for me and I’m not going.”
The red line remains. Nothing has changed in Snyder’s level of institutional knowledge when it comes to the competition. Think of all the grease and grime that has been sprayed down a drain in the NFL since 1999. Take a moment to recall all the top scandals from the past 23 years. Consider the backdoor deals we’ve never heard of. Or the litany of private trust created between Snyder and any number of franchisees and league leaders.
We didn’t need an ESPN report to know that Snyder poses a threat to the league’s underbelly. But now we have it in more defined accusations. Not to mention a response from the team that enters a new phase with this.
Snyder is pushed by his fellow club owners. Nothing more is implied. And it’s probably only a matter of time before he pushes back.