Snyder’s grip on the franchise, a once-loved civic establishment due to two decades of dysfunction, has waned in recent weeks as calls from fans to sell the team to league ownership circles have spread, mostly outspoken from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsai. Until then, Snyder made defiant statements about never selling the team – once declaring he would never change the team’s name, which he finally did under pressure from sponsors in 2020.
Since Snyder dropped the name, a move aimed at bolstering his standing within the league, a whirlwind of allegations and subsequent investigation has put his status in jeopardy. Snyder has always been the subject of scorn from fans and the eye of fellow owners. But the turmoil of the past two and a half years paved the way for Wednesday’s announcement.
Dan Snyder hires an investment bank to look into ‘potential transactions’
On July 13, 2020, days after the team’s sponsor FedEx called for the franchise to drop the “Redskins” name on the grounds that it was slander, the team announced that it would “retire” the name without offering an immediate replacement. In the weeks leading up to the announcement, three minority owners had begun the process of selling their shares, which amounted to 40 percent 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 staff. The allegations led to the firing or resignations of several front-office officials, including longtime radio voice assistant Larry Michael, and prompted Snyder to hire high-ranking attorney Beth Wilkinson to investigate the team’s workplace.
In mid-August, Snyder appointed Jason Wright to replace Bruce Allen, making Wright the first Black NFL captain. The selection of Wright, a former NFL player who became a respected business consultant, was widely praised. Good intentions will not last.
The Post published another story on August 26, 2020, in which former employees allege more lewd behavior in the workplace, including producing a video with footage of partially topless female cheerleaders filmed without their knowledge at the shoot. Five days later, the NFL took over the Wilkinson investigation. The Post later reported that Snyder, against his public statements, had intervened in the investigation.
As the investigation continued, Sneijder’s acrimony with his minority partners grew, revealed by court documents released in December 2020. In March 2021, owners at the NFL Finance Committee agreed to a debt waiver that enabled Snyder to borrow $450 million to purchase the partners, This put the entire franchise in his hands.
The fallout from the Wilkinson investigation arrived months later, nearly a year after it began. On July 2, 2021, the NFL imposed a $10 million fine on Snyder, and while he did not formally suspend Snyder, he said his wife, Tanya Snyder, would take control of the franchise. The league did not release the Wilkinson report, instead providing a summary, a decision that drew widespread criticism and continues to resonate.
“The club’s culture was very toxic and did not live up to the values of the NFL,” said Lisa Friel, the league’s special counsel for investigations.
In response to the league’s decision not to release the full results of the Wilkinson investigation, in October 2021 the House Committee on Oversight and Reform opened an investigation into the team’s workplace culture in part to pressure the NFL to announce the results publicly.
That same month, the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times published excerpts from emails that then-Las Vegas Raiders coach John Gruden sent to Allen in 2011 that contained racist, anti-gay language. The emails were part of the set of documents the NFL reviewed as part of its investigation. Many within the league suspected that Snyder or someone who works for him had leaked them, which Tanya Snyder reportedly rejected for her other owners at a league meeting.
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Washington ended the 2021 season without a name, and it is still continued by the Washington Football Club. On February 2 – days after former quarterback Joe Thiesman let the new name slip away during a radio interview – the franchise revealed that it had chosen the Captains title.
The next day, former cheerleader and marketing director Tiffany Johnston accused Snyder of sexual harassment in testimony before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, part of a raft of new allegations submitted to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
In response to the new allegations directed directly at Snyder, the NFL has appointed former US attorney Mary Jo White to investigate and issue a report to Commissioner Roger Goodell. The investigation is still ongoing.
The congressional committee met again in late June, days after The Post reported that Snyder had paid a former employee a $1.6 million settlement in 2009 after she accused Snyder of sexual assault. Snyder denied this claim. Goodell testified via Zoom in front of lawmakers for two and a half hours while a chair in front of him with Snyder’s name sat empty because he refused to attend. The committee will subpoena Snyder, and he gave a 10-hour affidavit in July.
As accusations and investigations mounted, Snyder tackled the dilemma of finding a new stadium to replace FedEx Field, an aging facility that the franchise wants out of by 2027. Snyder has found unwilling partners in local municipalities across three states. In May, it was revealed that the Leaders had secured the rights to purchase 200 acres in Woodbridge, Virginia, as a potential stadium site. Several Virginia lawmakers raised staunch opposition to the team’s handling, and one’s opposition doubled weeks later when defensive coordinator Jacques Del Rio downplayed the January 6 failed insurgency as “dust.”
As the league prepared for White’s results, sentiment among the owners changed, several people told The Post. By September, several owners thought the league should force Snyder to sell the franchise. Forcing the sale would require the approval of 24 of the 32 owners. An ESPN report last month, in which anonymous people said Snyder told aides he “had the dirt” of his fellow owners, added to the tension.
At a league meeting in New York on October 18, Irsay voiced those sentiments when he told reporters, “I think there’s an advantage to removing him as an owner.”
Leaders responded forcefully, calling the comments inappropriate. In a statement, the spokesperson insisted that once all the evidence emerged, “Mr. Irsay will conclude that there is no reason for Snyders to consider selling the franchise. Nor will they.”
About two weeks later, the revelation came from Snyder himself that, after a whirlwind of two and a half years, they might.
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