I’m going to top the column today with news that’ll make sports fans in the Washington area weep tears of joy. They’re already weeping. Now, I know the Caps won the Stanley Cup in 2018, and that’s fantastic, and the Mystics won the WNBA a year later, and Nationals shocked the Astros to win the World Series in 2019. Yuge, all of them. But the pro football team in Washington being on the verge of NOT being owned by Daniel Snyder is cause for the biggest parade in the city this century.
On the verge being the operative wording. This thing’s not done.
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the leader of the prospective new-owner group, Josh Harris, spoke on Wednesday, no one knew exactly what the topic was. But as one ownership source told me over the weekend, “Calls like that would be Harris saying he had a tentative deal with Snyder.” I believe that’s likely, and word spread through ownership circles that, basically, Ding dong, the witch is dead. Snyder’s selling!
The terms, reportedly, were the Harris-Mitchell Rales group paying $6.05 billion for the team and Snyder, the most reviled owner in the NFL, disappearing. By the weekend, the NFL was no-commenting up a storm, refusing to acknowledge even whether Snyder had communicated to the league that he had a tentative deal or had forwarded the requisite paperwork so the league could begin to process the deal. Adam Schefter reported that it wasn’t a done deal, that Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos was still in the mix. And the strangest part: It was widely reported Snyder’s deal with the Harris-Rales group was “non-exclusive,” meaning he retained the ability to barter with other potential buyers.
The hang-ups could rest on maximizing the sales price, of course. Or it could rest on Snyder wanting to be indemnified from any legal liabilities associated with his ownership, or it could rest on his insistence that the league not release the glacially slow investigation of Mary Jo White into the sordid ownership of Snyder and the team. As one ownership source told me: “Dan’s got no chance of quashing the report. Roger’s releasing that report, I’ll tell you that.”
Either way, it figures that Snyder couldn’t do anything peaceful on his way out. The uncertainty, after a quarter-century of bad ownership with a once-proud franchise, is more logical than illogical.
“Seems like we’re at the two-yard-line going in,” said one source with knowledge of the prospective sale over the weekend, “but with Dan, it’s never over till it’s over.”
Four points to consider:
Snyder, feeling abandoned by the NFL, really doesn’t care about the league anymore. He’s always thought owning the NFL franchise in Washington was a lifetime get-out-of-jail-free card. Now that he knows it isn’t, why should he do the league any favors by bowing out gracefully?
Lots of speculation about why Jeff Bezos didn’t make a serious offer, but I’ll give you the best reasons. Snyder hates The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, but forget about that for a moment. Think about this. The next team likely on the market in the NFL is the Seattle Seahawks. Under the terms of the Seahawks’ current ownership agreement, if the team is sold before May 2, 2024, 10 percent of the sale price would go to the state of Washington. Current owner Jody Allen, sister of late owner Paul Allen, would face handing over, say, $700 million if the team was sold for $7 billion, which is in the ballpark of the next NFL team sale, if she sells in the next 13 months. Why would she do that? She wouldn’t. The NFL is lobbying Bezos quietly, but hard, to buy a franchise. The advantages of buying the Seahawks are many: Seattle has a consistent winner with a great GM/coach team in John Schneider/Pete Carroll, Seattle has an incredible fan base, Seattle has a state-of-the-art loud home venue in Lumen Field, and Seattle has one of the best training facilities in pro sports. All four of those are far, far better than what Washington has. Why would Bezos not want Seattle if he’s serious about buying into the league that prints money?
I know why the NFL won’t comment on the process or on Snyder. They’re shut up so tight because all they want is for Snyder to go away, and they don’t want to leak anything that would potentially interrupt the transition of ownership.
For the record, Snyder has been the worst owner in the NFL for the last quarter-century of NFL history. The scandals are one thing, and they matter. But it’s how the scandals were handled and the besmirching of the team legacy and the endless badness that have turned off a top-five fanbase in NFL history, so that now a Washington fan simply will not care about pro football in the nation’s capital again until Snyder goes away. Here is everything you need to know about the reign of Snyder in Washington versus the tenure of the previous owner, Jack Kent Cooke:
If you’re a reader of a certain age, or a history student, you may remember Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon after Nixon resigned as president in 1974, and Ford saying in a famous speech in Washington: “Our long national nightmare is over.” The NFL’s long nightmare in Washington is close to over, but it won’t be until the petulant Snyder takes his $6 billion and goes home.
Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column