Daniel Snyder has no business owning an NFL team. First: He stinks at it. Second: Rightfully, he inspires nothing but enmity among his fan base. Third: No one wants to work for him, or with him; it’s a miracle he found a very good man, Ron Rivera, to coach his team. (Though if you want to be an NFL head coach, sometimes you take what you can get.) Fourth, and perhaps most maddening to any principled person: He avoids accountability at every turn. Nothing’s ever his fault.
It was an awful football week in the nation’s capital.
Will Hobson and Liz Clarke of the Washington Post reported that 15 female employees of the team and two female media members who have covered the team alleged that club employees sexually harassed them. Not two or three women. Seventeen.
That story dropped three days after the team said it would no longer use the team name “Redskins.” It took the franchise years to drop the name, even though the most widely used dictionary in America, Merriam-Webster, says, “The word redskin is very offensive and should be avoided.” Snyder did not come to this conclusion of dropping the name on his own; he was browbeaten into it by corporations pulling their money from his franchise, and by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell telling him to wake up.
The franchise was once an NFL flagship, but in the reign of Snyder, the organization has become football’s New York Knicks—big name, shameful performance, totally irrelevant. Snyder’s team has finished third or fourth in the NFC East in 16 of his 21 seasons as owner, is 49 games under .500 in his tenure, and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005. None of his eight prior head coaches left the team with a winning record.
The biggest indictment of Snyder’s ownership might be none of those things. It might be that all three minority partners want nothing to do with him. Fred Smith, Dwight Schar and Robert Rothman, per Pro Football Talk, all are trying to sell their combined 35-percent stake in the NFL’s Titanic.
One veteran front-office man with another team who knows the franchise well told me that no one wants to work for Snyder (that’s pretty obvious), especially after widely respected NFL business authority Brian Lafemina lasted only eight months with the team before being fired in late 2018. And another former club employee told me the atmosphere around the team in his time there was like a frat house.
With his franchise a five-alarm blaze, Snyder did what he always does: He hid. An accountability press conference? No chance. Not his style, taking responsibility. He issued a four-sentence statement, saying he was committed to setting a new culture.
Blah blah blah. It’s a stretch to believe that Snyder didn’t know some of his employees were creeps.
The luckiest thing for Snyder this year is that fans won’t be able to come to games—at least at the start of the 2020 season—and chant what would be anti-Snyder chants, and unfurl anti-Snyder banners in the parking lots during tailgates. That’s assuming any fans would come. The stands at RFK Stadium pre-Snyder would be so raucous that the press box in the old barn would shake. FedEx Field in the Maryland ‘burbs is like the team: emotionless and dreary.
It’s every NFL owner’s inalienable right to print money, which is why I doubt this stubborn man would consider selling this franchise. Snyder can rake in $280 million a year from national TV and media deals (which should increase with new media contracts getting done in the next two years) by going 5-11, year after year. The NFL incentivizes mediocrity that way. But how many more slaps in the face does Snyder need to take to know he’s not wanted locally or nationally? He apparently avoided lots of the slings and arrows—as the Washington Post reported—by being out of town and touch during some of this recent crisis on his $100-million superyacht, the one with the IMAX theater.
The unfortunate thing if you root for this team is that nothing Snyder has done merits a Donald Sterling-type takeover by the league. You’re stuck with him. It’s a shame. I remember when this team mattered.