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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Daniel Snyder’s command performance: He finally went away

Daniel Snyder in 2022. He bought the Washington franchise in 1999 and announced Thursday that he is selling it.

By Jenny Vrentas

During Daniel Snyder’s 24 years as owner of the NFL’s Washington franchise, the team plummeted in popularity and became a textbook example of a toxic workplace. The announcement late last week that he had reached an agreement in principle to sell the Commanders came only after years of Snyder insisting that he would not part with the team.

Some will see injustice in Snyder walking away with a $6 billion parting gift — 7.5 times the $800 million he paid for the team in 1999 — despite the damage he inflicted on a franchise that was once beloved in the nation’s capital. But in a league where bad behavior is often excused by talent or money, it’s significant that Snyder is walking away at all.

We do not yet know why, exactly, Snyder finally decided to give in to the mounting pressures to sell. What is clear is that he hastened his departure by alienating his most powerful allies — his fellow team owners — and by seeking to discredit those who spoke up about workplace harassment rather than make changes in good faith.

Privately, several owners admitted they were tired of Snyder and ready for him to sell, but none would say so in public, either because of a lack of conviction or the fear of litigation. Finally, last October, the Indianapolis Colts’ Jim Irsay took the unusual step of telling reporters that there was “merit” to removing Snyder as a team owner, which would have required approval of 24 of the 32 owners.

Snyder’s response, through a team spokesperson, was characteristically obstinate: “We are confident that, when he has an opportunity to see the actual evidence in this case, Mr. Irsay will conclude that there is no reason for the Snyders to consider selling the franchise. And they won’t.”

Two weeks later, Daniel Snyder and his wife, Tanya, announced that they had hired bankers to explore selling the team. The new ownership group announced last Thursday is led by Josh Harris, an owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, for a record $6 billion.

For those who have been demanding change, the news of the sale was welcome, and rife with meaning.

“We expect that the NFL now understands that such an abusive workplace for women is unacceptable,” Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, lawyers for dozens of former Commanders employees who came forward with claims of workplace abuses, said in a statement.

Claims made by former Commanders employees dated back to at least 2006 and continued until 2019, almost the entire tenure of Snyder’s ownership.

Five former cheerleaders told The New York Times in 2018 that they were forced by the team to participate in a topless photo shoot and a night out with male sponsors during a 2013 trip to Costa Rica. In summer 2020, The Washington Post published two investigations in which a total of 40 women who worked for the team detailed sexual harassment and verbal abuse by male employees.

In addition to overseeing what a first NFL investigation concluded was a “highly unprofessional” workplace, Snyder also was accused directly of misconduct. A woman who had been a marketing and events coordinator said at a congressional round table last year that Snyder put his hand on her thigh during a work dinner in 2005 or 2006 and that she resisted his attempts to lead her to his limousine. (Snyder said she was lying.) Additionally, The Washington Post reported that a team employee accused Snyder of sexually harassing and assaulting her in 2009 before reaching a $1.6 million confidential settlement.

Instead of trying to drum Snyder out, the NFL showed him an escape hatch. It levied a $10 million fine against the team in 2021 but also allowed Snyder to borrow $450 million and buy out his limited partners, consolidating his control, and withheld the written report that detailed the findings of the first league-sponsored investigation into the Commanders’ workplace. But while the team repeatedly pointed to the steps it was taking to overhaul its workplace culture, Snyder kept fighting back, losing his grip on the franchise as he did.

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