As Jason Wright takes over as the NFL's first Black team president Monday, he inherits a difficult job leading the Washington Football Team.
The organization is undergoing a full rebrand while Ron Rivera begins his first season as head coach during a year significantly altered by the coronavirus pandemic. Then there's the independent investigation following a Washington Post story detailing 15 female employees claims of sexual harassment by former team executives.
Considering the circumstances, one might wonder why someone as successful as Wright would take such a challenging job. Well, he explained just that on NBC Sports' Peter King's podcast Friday.
"Once we met, the conversations we had I can only describe as surprising," Wright said. "I read stuff, I know external reputation. But when I sat down with Dan and Tonya [Snyder], the conversation was different than I would've expected. Yeah we were gonna talk about business and yeah we were gonna talk about the franchise, but we started in values. They started to talk in words that I heard coach Rivera say: A 'culture of inclusion, a culture of transparency, a culture of accountability.'
"That level of aspiration around those values combined with the vulnerability of our conversation, it built a bond that made us really excited to work together," he said. "That is what got me here."
Talk can be cheap though. We've all heard players, coaches and executives say the right things when they have to but then revert back to their old ways when it matters most. Wright knows of this trend and is certainly mindful of it, though he's seen Snyder's actions backing up his words over the last few months.
"Words and emotions are one thing, and I'm an emotive guy, but I'm not an irrational guy," Wright said. "There are clear steps that have been taken that make me think it's more than just words. Coach Rivera and Julie Donaldson are a part of that. The independent investigation is part of that, swift movement to take people out of the organization who were already revealed as bad apples, that's part of it too.
"All of those to me are signals that there is more than just talk, that there's action and that we're actually moving in a new direction," he said.
Washington football fans have long criticized Snyder for how he's run the franchise and the individuals he's chosen to help him, i.e. Bruce Allen. Those frustrations culminated in the team's minority owners reportedly requesting that he sell his stake in the team.
But as of now, Snyder is the owner of the Washington Football Team. He's hired qualified individuals to prominent roles in the organization and has, from the accounts of those individuals, taken the steps necessary to instill a healthy organizational culture. From the outside looking in, there's not much to take issue with.
"[It's] on us to prove it or not," Wright said. "Can you ever be 100% certain? Sure as hell no, but I'm incredibly confident today."