What began as a value report that the Washington Commanders had secured Bank of America (BofA) Securities to explore “potential transactions” morphed into jubilee as the implication became clear. The hints that Dan and Tanya Snyder are “exploring” selling the franchise have been all but confirmed. Although nothing is set in stone yet — and Snyder denies he intends to sell the team — the events of Wednesday signal that the Snyder era could be near the end.
If Snyder is departing voluntarily, rather than through an ugly league vote of removal, he’ll leave behind a much more distressed asset than the one he bought in 1999. The Commanders were once one of the NFL’s most prestigious franchises. Their brand — back when the team name began with an R — ranked alongside the Steelers, Packers, and Cowboys in the NFL hierarchy. These days, the Washington Snyders haven’t won a playoff game in 17 years and are associated with bottom-dwelling franchises like the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns.
Snyder’s reportedly misogynistic workplace culture, his retention of incompetent personnel like Bruce Allen, meddling in an attempt to mimic Jerry Jones, and his pettiness permeated into every pore of the Commies. When all is said and done, Snyder’s fingerprints on the organization, including the Commanders’ name, should be excised. But if he is memorialized in any way, it should be as the most ruinous owner in the post-merger NFL.
Additional context for the Snyders (potential) sale was provided Wednesday evening, when ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. reported that the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia was launching a criminal investigation into allegations of financial improprieties within the Commanders’ organization. This investigation stems from secret testimony given by Washington’s former Vice President of Sales and Customer Service, Jason Friedman.
According to Friedman, Snyder and team executives have been concealing sharable revenue derived through home game ticket sales from the NFL for more than a decade. In April, the House committee laid out its findings in a letter to the Fair Trade Committee, which outlined the specific means through which Snyder would have ticket revenue diverted from NFL to Kenny Chesney concerts and Navy-Notre Dame football games. The documentation Friedman delivered to the House Oversight Committee shifted the original investigation from an examination of the abusive workplace culture into a financial misconduct one as well. Snyder and the team have denied any wrongdoing, and team spokeswoman Jen Medina released the following statement:
“...We are confident that, after these agencies have had a chance to review the documents and complete their work, they will come to the same conclusion as the team’s internal review — that these allegations are simply untrue.”
It also can’t be a coincidence that the announcement of a potential sale came on the heels of the DOJ putting its weight into a criminal investigation. The feds don’t miss and even Snyder is sane enough to know that. Maybe he hopes the DOJ is stacked with Commanders fans and selling the team will prompt them to ease up — and he might have a point. Either way, things are about to get ugly and there are only so many fronts Snyder can battle on.
A lesser organization would have collapsed or relocated from the strain the Snyders have placed. Snyder ran the team less like a successful business and more like an outlet for him to act out his id’s darkest desires. It’s ironic that a criminal investigation spurred by a former henchman in the ticket and sales department is what may eventually bring him down. After the market crashed in 2008, Snyder sued season ticket holders and over the course of the next decade, decimated FedEx Field’s previously impeccable attendance numbers to the point that thousands of seats were removed from the stadium. Snyder nearly moved the franchise into a hard-to-reach nook in Woodbridge, Virginia. The organization also released plans to construct the league’s smallest stadium and following a two-year run as John Does, rebranded the Redskins as the Commanders, which became widely criticized and mocked by Washington fans. The vibes around the organization have grown so toxic that Washington’s home attendance has dwindled to the point that the Commanders annually have one of the worst attendance rates in the entire league. (Also, don’t forget this gem).
In May, the vote within the Virginia state legislature over a stadium bill was thankfully nixed at the 11th hour after public financing was significantly cut, and due to one of the stadium’s leading proponents backing out and delivering a withering rebuke of the Commanders. That initial withdrawal of support was followed by an avalanche of previously supportive state legislators flipping their yes votes.
Every step of the way, Snyder has been defiant. He fought the requests to change the team name for years before ultimately caving and has been adamant that he would never sell. At the owner’s meetings two weeks ago, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay finally became the first team owner to call Snyder out as unfit for the position. The Commanders’ tone in their response was more akin to a vow for revenge through a supervillainy threat at legal action towards Irsay than a humbled organization reeling from years of awful headlines.
Snyder appeared to prefer the option of going kicking and screaming rather than quietly, which is why Wednesday’s news came as such a surprise. However, with federal authorities breathing down his neck, fellow owners organizing to boot him, and the team mired in scandal, Snyder appears to have finally acknowledged defeat. He’s taken a slew of those lately, but he won’t leave empty-handed. The Commanders are expected to fetch him and his minority owners upwards of $6 billion. For the first time, Snyder’s loss is Washington’s gain.
If I ever see the gates of heaven, it will be a close second to the day Snyder is permanently removed from his team’s masthead. For 20 years, he’s poisoned the Commanders from the inside out. Snyder has been a pox upon the team since he assumed ownership nearly a quarter-century ago. Think Michael Meyers haunting Laurie and the town of Haddonfield. Eventually, “Halloween Ends,” but not before Snyder’s snuffed out more hopes and dreams than any slasher series could ever depict.