Jim Irsay on why he spoke out against Daniel Snyder: “The shield is taking some damage”
Jim Irsay became the one to say on Tuesday what many have been thinking.
Daniel Snyder needs to go.
I’ll pause right there to pose a very simple question. Does anyone disagree with me on this? At a time when there are two sides to every single question imaginable, including but not limited to the geometric shape of the planet, is there a pro-Snyder cabal out there of which I’m not aware? Other than Snyder, his family, and his paid representatives, does anyone think he should continue to enjoy the privilege of holding the pink slip to the Washington Commanders franchise?
As a practical matter, owners become owners by having the most cash to offer when a team is for sale. The litmus test should extend beyond paper money, however. Is the potential buyer a good person, a desirable partner, a respectable steward of the game? Wherever those lines may be, Snyder seems to be (in my opinion) on the wrong side of each of them. Again, if someone believes otherwise, speak now or forever hold your piece.
Irsay spoke loudly on Tuesday, telling reporters that the time has come for Snyder to go. After his public diatribe, Irsay shared some details with Albert Breer of SI.com regarding the impetus for Irsay’s comments.
“Knowing Wellington [Mara] and Dan Rooney and Lamar [Hunt] and the owners through the years, I know what we’re about as owners,” Irsay told Breer. “Even in the last day, I had a chance to talk to [former 49ers owner] Eddie DeBartolo [Jr.] and [former Commissioner] Paul Tagliabue and just kind of reminisce about the context of decades that have passed and things that have happened. All those things give you certain direction and vision.”
DeBartolo isn’t necessarily an ideal example of responsible ownership. He was forced out more than 20 years ago after some unsavory involvement in the corrupt dissemination of gambling licenses in Louisiana.
“I don’t like the fact that sometimes the way owners are viewed, people think we can do whatever we want, with all the sorts of issues that are out there,” Irsay said. “Because that’s not true. This is not what we stand for, this sort of thing. I mean, it’s absolutely not. So the league’s very important to me. I’ve been taught by founders of the league and, like I said, Lamar and Wellington and Dan Rooney that you do what’s best for the Colts but what’s best for the league, too.
“You have to protect the shield to protect the league, and I don’t like to see the shield damaged. And right now, the shield is taking some damage from all this.”
Indeed it is. While I’ll respectfully disagree with Irsay’s contention that the other 31 owners have squeaky-clean hands (for more, see Playmakers), none has done as much damage to the shield as Snyder has done, in my opinion.
And while other owners have from time to time done things that resulted in discipline, or that didn’t but should have, the toxic workplace in Washington compelled Irsay to speak out.
“Just having three daughters and seven granddaughters, I can relate to that sort of thing,” Irsay told Breer. “My seven granddaughters, as they venture off in different forms of working for organizations. I know the culture that we have in Indianapolis. I know the special culture that we have and the family atmosphere that we have developed there. That’s important to me, and I believe it’s important to many owners in this league, because that’s what we’re about.”
Yes, it’s gotten better in Washington. In part because it apparently couldn’t have gotten much worse, and in part because if it didn’t improve Snyder would already be long gone. The question becomes whether full and proper accountability has occurred for the things that have happened.
In July 2021, the league protected Snyder. It happened not because he’s popular among his peers (he’s not), but because: (1) the league didn’t want a precedent that could be applied to other owners; (2) the league doesn’t want to fight with Snyder; and/or (3) the league fears that, eventually, questions will be asked about what the league office knew about the situation in Washington, when it knew it, and what it did or failed to do to put an end to it.
Even though Snyder got a pass in the aftermath of the Beth Wilkinson investigation, he may not be getting a break as a result of the Mary Jo White follow-up. Whatever the final tally of votes, Irsay has made it clear where he stands. At the appropriate time, the other owners will have an opportunity to do the same.
It will be interesting to see how many choose to protect Snyder at a time when no one seems to be saying that he deserves any further protection.