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Congress Asks FTC To Investigate If Dan Snyder Acted Like Dan Snyder

Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The drip, drip, drip, of bad news for Dan Snyder continues. The latest drops came in a letter sent yesterday by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to the Federal Trade Commission, containing allegations of devious accounting practices and asking the agency to determine if Snyder’s bookkeeping “violated any provision of law.”  

I’m as entertained as the next guy by anything that might make Snyder squirm. But as bad and newsworthy as it surely is for Snyder that some folks in Congress want to end him, this latest batch of charges likely won't finish him off. It does, however, do a fine job of painting a picture of Dan Snyder that looks a whole lot like Dan Snyder, and solidifying his standing as the most consistent man on the planet.

The letter ostensibly includes the greatest hits from an assortment of Snyder malfeasances that longtime-WFT-employee-turned-whistleblower Jason Friedman brought to Capitol Hill. Among the most entertaining snippets: Friedman accused Snyder of diverting money from WFT ticket sales to make it appear like those dollars came from other non-football sources, so Snyder wouldn’t have to share with other NFL owners. 

A highlighted example alleged that the team hid “$88,000 in shareable revenue” from tickets to a football game by pretending the money came from a “2013 Kenny Chesney concert” at the stadium.

(The team has denied doing what Friedman described in his testimony, telling the Washington Post in a statement that it "categorically denies any suggestion of financial impropriety of any kind at any time.")

Even ignoring statute of limitations questions, it's dubious whether investigating this nearly decade-old matter is worthy of the agency's time. The NFL’s revenue-sharing plan calls for each team to put 40 percent of all ticket income into a pool that gets divided up among the other 31 teams. Take 40 percent of $88,000 and you get $35,200. Divide that by 32 teams, and that means Snyder stands accused of having withheld/stole $1,100 from each owner.  

So the feds are called to action because Snyder deprived, say, Stephen Ross of $1,100? As far as Snyder capers go, that’s peanuts! Come to think of it, Snyder surely made more than $1,100 from his peanut caper in 2006, when he sold airplane peanuts at FedExField in Independence Air bags, a year after the airline went bankrupt. (Snyder by rule was allowed to keep every dollar he made on this, since concession revenues are not shared with other owners.) Fans who shelled out for old nuts could rightly wonder: Where was Congress and the FTC then?

Besides, Snyder has never hidden that he hates sharing revenues with his peers, and practically flaunts that he won't play well with others. He realized early into his ownership tenure, for example, that under the NFL's plan money from “premium” tickets—meaning revenues from suites and club level seats—gets shared at a lower rate than standard ticket income.

So Snyder simply began designating more seating areas of FedExField as premium. For the 2000 season, during his first full year as owner, he ordained the field level seats would henceforth be premium. Historically, the lowest rows had the least desired seats in any football stadium because of lousy sight lines and players on the sideline blocking your view of the action on the field. But Snyder began calling them “Front Row Dream Seats'' and charged up to $3,000 for a single season ticket. A dearly departed D.C. radio legend named Boudreaux told me at the time: “Unless you dream of Bruce Smith’s ass, those ain’t dream seats.”

By 2004, according to a report in Forbes, Snyder had “2,300 club seats more than any other team.”

So I gotta admit, I was disappointed by yesterday's FTC memo. To anyone who has closely watched Snyder's tenure in D.C., Friedman's testimony is less revelation than affirmation. The difference between the petty scheme Friedman described and all the other ones that Snyder has previously executed out in the open is that this one has a congressional spotlight on it. It would be more than a little bit unsatisfying if it ends up being the Kenny Chesney Maneuver, and not the sprawling sexual harassment scandal that Congress initially began investigating, that costs Snyder his team.

I am, however, now very intrigued by this Friedman character. He’s described in the government documents as a 24-year employee of the team, who held the title “vice president of sales and customer service.” That means he was already there when Snyder came in, and stuck around to help implement every single one of the anti-fan schemes the boss put in place. Like the aforementioned peanut scam, and the pedestrian ban that prohibited fans from walking into the stadium and forced them to pay Snyder’s crazy parking fees, which also aren't subject to revenue sharing. Friedman also would have been there when Snyder became the first owner to charge fans to watch practice, and on and on and on. Hell, forget Snyder for now. We already know about him.

Disclosure: Dan Snyder once sued the author for writing mean things about him.

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