Dan Snyder “needs to be removed,” says one NFL owner

As Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder faced two NFL investigations and a congressional probe into allegations of rampant sexual harassment of female employees, including by Snyder, his peers have remained silent about his future in the league.

That changed Tuesday when Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters it made sense to force Snyder to sell his team amid reports of a toxic workplace and tax improprieties at his ailing franchise.

During a day-long league meeting in Manhattan, Irsay became the first team owner to say publicly that Snyder should be removed. For the past year, team owners have grumbled privately about Snyder’s tenure as owner of the Commanders and in media reports the background to his reputation, but none have gone so far as to say he should be ousted from the league.

Such a move would require at least 24 of the league’s 32 owners to make the extraordinary move. But Irsay said that for the sake of the league, Snyder should sell the team he has owned since 1999.

“We must act,” Irsay said. “It must be removed.”

Snyder did not appear at the meeting on Tuesday. His wife Tanya represented the team.

The owners’ meeting was still ongoing when Irsay spoke to reporters. At the end of the meeting, the team owners met each other without employees present. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said afterwards he told owners the league’s second investigation into Snyder was ongoing and warned them not to speculate on the team’s future.

Irsay said he doesn’t know if 24 owners are currently willing to vote to oust Snyder.

“I think there might be, but we’ll see,” he said.

When asked about the possibility of removing Snyder but allowing Tanya, a co-owner and co-CEO of the team, to continue it, Irsay said the Snyders should sell the franchise. Tanya Snyder has managed the day-to-day running of the team since July 2021, when her husband resigned from his role following the conclusion of the league’s first investigation.

In a statement, a Commanders spokesman said Snyder has no intention of selling the team.

“It is unfortunate that Mr Irsay decided to make his statement public today while an investigation is ongoing and the team has not had an opportunity to formally respond to the allegations,” the statement said.

It added: “We are confident that if Mr Irsay has an opportunity to see the actual evidence in this case, he will conclude that there is no reason for the Snyders to consider selling the franchise. And they won’t.”

Goodell said he didn’t give Mary Jo White, the former federal prosecutor who led the league’s second investigation into Snyder and the Commanders, a timeline and didn’t know when it would be completed.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, one of Snyder’s closest allies, declined to speak specifically about Snyder, saying the owners agreed not to publicly discuss his reputation. But he downplayed the crisis surrounding Snyder and his team.

“This is more of a media issue than a property issue,” he said.

Several owners, speaking behind the scenes, told the New York Times that they were reluctant to force another team owner to sell their team because it sets a precedent that could be used against them. Owners have looked the other way to poor behavior by owners and their teams’ front offices when problems are perceived as contained and the team is financially prosperous.

In 2018, a league investigation found that Carolina Panthers Jerry Richardson had molested women on the team and was fined $2.75 million. But owners didn’t have to vote to remove Richardson as he was already in the process of selling the team.

San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. was suspended for the 1999 season and fined $1 million after DeBartolo pleaded guilty to unreported felonies involving gambling fraud and racketeering in Louisiana to have. He passed control of the team to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York.

Snyder has been involved in several scandals that have ravaged the league in recent years. Two years ago, Snyder fought with three of his limited partners in dueling suits over Snyder’s decision to withhold their dividend payments. That fight ended with Snyder buying out the partners and retaining sole ownership of the Commanders franchise after owners from across the NFL voted to allow Snyder to raise his debt ceiling and borrow hundreds of millions of dollars in 2021.

In the midst of this struggle, allegations of widespread harassment of women who had worked on the team for many years surfaced in a July 2020 Washington Post report. Those allegations, made by more than a dozen women, accused several Commanders executives and football staff of abusive behavior spanning more than a dozen years. Male executives, the women said, repeatedly commented on their appearance, texted them inappropriately, and pursued unwanted relationships.

Snyder initially launched an investigation into her claims before the NFL took over in September 2020. In July 2021, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the inquiry found that “bullying and intimidation was common and many described the culture as one of fear and numerous female employees reported experiencing sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace ‘ but did not disclose the findings of the report (he said they were only transmitted orally).

Goodell fined the team $10 million and Snyder agreed to step down from the team for a year while working on just a handful of business issues, including raising funds to replace the team’s stadium, one of the worst in the league.

The House Oversight Committee launched its own investigation into the allegations at the behest of former female employees, who were upset that the NFL’s investigation was not made public. At a committee roundtable, a woman alleged that Snyder molested her, allegations he denied. Another former team official said the team withheld ticket revenue from the other 31 teams.

In June, a congressional panel said it had found evidence that Snyder was leading a “shadow investigation” of accusers, disrupting the league’s initial investigation into the harassment allegations.

The following month, the committee questioned Snyder in a day-long testimony conducted privately.

This prompted the NFL to launch its second investigation. The House Oversight Committee appears to have ended calls for witnesses – including Goodell, Snyder and former team president Bruce Allen, who was fired in late 2019 and whom Snyder blamed for the team’s toxic work culture. It is unclear when the committee will publish its report.

Irsay said owners should review all evidence before making any final decisions. But by Tuesday, Irsay appeared to have already made up his mind. Troubles at the Commanders over the past 20 years with Snyder’s team have tarnished the league. Removing Snyder, he said, would help rebuild confidence.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” he said. “But I believe it’s in the best interest of the National Football League that we look him straight in the eye and deal with it. I think America, the world expects that of us as leaders.”

Irsay said a vote to remove Snyder might not come for many months.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Irsay said. “It hurts me to see that. The founders of this league taught me that you have to protect and protect the game, which is what we are about. That’s not what we’re about.”

Emmanuel Morgan and Tripp Mickel contributed coverage.