It’s been a really bad year for Daniel Snyder, the embattled owner of the Washington NFL franchise.
And it could get a lot worse.
First, Snyder came under intense pressure from Nike, FedEx and other corporate sponsors to finally change the team’s racist name and offensive logo after 87 years. Then he was roundly criticized for announcing the name change in a press release that used the word “Redskins” no less than seven times.
Now comes a powerful Washington Post article quoting 15 women employees and former employees saying that they were sexually harassed by team officials. Three employees accused in the piece - including pro personnel director Alex Santos and radio voice Larry Michael - abruptly left the team this week.
Although Snyder wasn’t directly accused of harassment, he does come across in the piece as complicit in creating a toxic culture and allowing a pattern of abuse within the organization that lasted for years.
Snyder issued an apology and announced that an outside law firm would investigate the claims. The NFL put out a statement calling the allegations “disturbing.”
But this all raises the question whether Snyder should be or will be forced to sell the franchise after more than two decades.
Certainly in Washington, sentiment seems to be in favor of it.
A local TV station, WUSA, ran a Twitter poll that showed 85 percent of people responding in favor of it. Numerous national and local columnists have called for Snyder to sell the team. A national women’s advocy group called UltraViolet issued a release Friday saying, “If the NFL is serious about cleaning up its act, they will force Snyder to sell the team.”
Two years ago, Jerry Richardson was forced to sell the Panthers after a Sports Illustrated article outlined alleged sexual harassment of team employees by Richardson.
This is different because Snyder isn’t being directly accused of the harassment, only tacitly allowing it.
But honestly, it’s almost as bad. There is no way the owner of a football franchise, an owner who is directly involved in the day-to-day operation of a team, didn’t know exactly what was going on.
A few years ago, Snyder would have gotten away with this. I’m not sure he will now since public and corporate sentiment is so strongly anti-Snyder.
We’re living in a different time now, a time with a renewed focus on racism, social justice, human rights.
And when enough people - and billion-dollar companies – refuse to be associated with entities that appear racist or abusive, that’s when change happens.
Snyder is already on thin ice with big-money sponsors because of his steadfast refusal to change the name of the team and the defiant way he finally did it.
How does all this affect the Eagles? From a purely football standpoint, the Redskins haven’t been a challenger for most of Snyder’s tenure.
Snyder, 55, bought the Washington football team and FedEx Field for $800 million in May of 1999 from the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, who died in 1997. At the time, it was the highest price ever paid for a professional sports team. The team is now worth $3.4 billion, according to Forbes.
Also according to Forbes, Snyder is worth $2.6 billion.
In the 21 years Snyder has owned the team, it has a 142-193-1 record for a .424 winning percentage, which ranks 28th of the 32 NFL teams during that span, ahead of only the Jaguars, Raiders, Lions and Browns.
The franchise has won only two playoff games during his ownership, and only the Bengals, Lions, Bills and Browns have won fewer (none) since 1999.
The team’s last postseason win came in 2005 with Mark Brunell at quarterback and it hasn’t won more than 10 games since 1991.
Washington has gone through eight head coaches under Snyder, and its last back-to-back winning seasons were in 1990 and 1991.
The Eagles have finished ahead of Washington in the NFC East 15 of the 21 years since Snyder bought the team.
What happens next?
The NFL commissioner does has the power to force an owner to sell a team for “conduct detrimental to the welfare of the league,” if his recommendation is approved by at least 24 of the 32 owners.
It’s hard to imagine that will happen here.
But if there isn’t substantive change in the team’s Ashburn, Va., offices, and the rest of the NFL agrees that Snyder is one embarrassment the league doesn’t need, it might not be far off.
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