Daniel Snyder has long made a convincing case for worst owner in professional sports. During his 23-year reign atop the Washington Commanders, the former marketing magnate has presided over a consistently terrible team, thanks in large part to his mismanagement. He has also created one PR debacle after another, from charging fans admission to training camp to filing a dead-end lawsuit against a Washington City Paper reporter for defamation. More importantly, as a wide-ranging Washington Post report revealed in 2020, the Commanders were home to a pervasive culture of sexual harassment and discrimination, which resulted in Snyder stepping down from running the team’s day-to-day operations.
An intriguing new ESPN story attempts to answer a simple yet pressing question: “Why is Daniel Snyder still an NFL team owner?” Don Van Natta reports that many other league owners are eager to see Snyder booted from their exclusive club — it would take 24 out of 30 of them to do so — but that Snyder may have a secret weapon: a stockpile of damaging information on several of his colleagues, including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Snyder reportedly told one associate that he had enough material to “blow up” the NFL and confided in another owner that he “has dirt on Jerry Jones.” More alarmingly, Snyder has reportedly employed private investigators to dig up incriminating details on Goodell and at least six other owners. (Goodell has shown little enthusiasm for taking steps to remove Snyder.) It’s not hard to imagine that Jerry Jones’s personal life isn’t all roses and sunshine, but nobody actually knows whether Snyder possesses any damaging revelations or is just trying to scare his antagonists with a threat of mutually assured destruction.
Lawyers representing Snyder denied that he had files on anyone, or that he had made the comments Van Natta attributed to him. Snyder, who faced a sexual-harassment allegation in 2009, has unconvincingly tried to sidestep responsibility for the Commanders’ culture problems, firing executives whom he pinned the blame on. He hired the first Black team president in the NFL, and some say the team has turned a management corner.
But with owner meetings coming up and various investigations still hanging over him, Snyder may be about to face the music. If they have the votes, his colleagues could force him to sell the team, perhaps by forbidding him to borrow money for a new stadium whose future is already in doubt. Owners may not have the stomach to do so, or perhaps Snyder’s purported blackmail campaign will work. But per Van Natta, Snyder might be underestimating the enmity he inspires:
“The NFL is a mafia,” he recently told an associate. “All the owners hate each other.”
“That’s not true,” one veteran owner says. “All the owners hate Dan.”
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