Longtime watchers of Dan Snyder, the most consistent man on the planet, know deep in their bones that he never does anything right. It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps. But the soft-serve sentence the NFL hit the Washington Football Team owner with for turning his workplace into a haven for sexual harassment sure makes it seem like Snyder came up with a ploy to save himself, and it worked wondrously.
The league basically let Snyder walk away from the mess with a $10 million fine. That’s real money in the real world, but not in Snyder’s, where the norm is shelling out about $400,000 every time he fuels up his boat. The rest of the alleged discipline—Snyder will take a self-imposed break from ownership duties for a non-specific period while his wife, Tanya Snyder, assumes responsibility for “day-to-day operations”—was crap. Such non-punishment seemed assured ever since late March, when fellow owners voted unanimously to let Snyder assume record debt to take complete control of the team by buying out his minority owners turned mortal enemies for $850 million. For all the hopes and dreams fans had that the NFL would pull a “Marge Schott” and finally take the once-glorious franchise from the guy who’s spent 22 years making it synonymous with shame, the bottom line is that Snyder exits the investigation with more power than he had when it started.
The NFL’s lengthy announcement said that D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson “interviewed more than 150” of Snyder’s current or former employees to suss out evil in Ashburn. Snyder himself sat twice for interrogation by Wilkinson, according to the NFL. But for all those discussions, the memo makes no mention of the 2009 incident on Snyder’s private jet involving him and a female employee of his team that led to what was described in the Washington Post as “a serious accusation of sexual misconduct” committed by Snyder; he paid the accuser a reported $1.6 million to make the matter go away.
The NFL enhanced the aura of seriouslessness later in the day when spokesperson Lisa Friel said that despite lots of pressure, no written report would be issued from the investigation. The reason? Because Wilkinson never wrote any report or turned over any notes she might have scribbled from all those interviews. No recordings were produced either. Instead, Friel said, any intelligence Wilkinson gained from talking to all the aggrieved parties was imparted to the deciders inside the NFL offices “in oral briefings.” That’s an amazing claim, whether it’s true or not. Unless Wilkinson’s recollection skills are even greater than those of that waitperson down at the diner who can take orders from a party of nine with no pad, the paperless and paper trail–less format seems useful only for those trying to make an investigation toothless and useless.
The NFL’s memo devotes lots of space, however, to go over recent hirings in WFT’s front offices and how they show an “impressive commitment to diversity.” The league’s statement uses “diverse” four times and “diversity” another three. It cites the roster of non-white and/or non-male employees Snyder hired to top jobs in the organization, in some cases replacing white males who’d been accused of various creepy behaviors. All fine. And all hired after Wilkinson began her investigation.
Wilkinson, however, wasn’t brought in to rate Snyder’s workplace as diverse or not. Her allegedly independent inquiry was launched to counter all the horrendous public relations brought to Snyder, his team and the whole league by years of reports about the sexual harassment and humiliation of female employees by WFT officials. The lowlights came in multiple New York Times investigative stories detailing the serial abuse of cheerleaders and the Washington Post’s aforementioned disclosure of Snyder personally being accused of sexual misconduct. (And the victims of those abuses predictably feel failed today.) The disgust generated by the tales of suffering from so many women on Snyder’s payroll doesn’t come through in the word-pile released yesterday by the league. By design or not, Snyder’s hirings of the last year, whether a Hail Mary attempt on his part to prevent his team from being taken away or an actual pivot toward decency from a guy known to have none, gave the NFL enough cover to at least attempt to change the conversation, and thereby water down the case for not giving him any more chances. And, the ploy worked, at least in the short term.
Snyder released his own post-mortem on Wilkinson’s investigation, in which he didn’t admit having ever done anything wrong other than not noticing that some unnamed wrongdoers on his payroll did unnamed wrongs. He didn’t even mention Wilkinson or cheerleaders or “harassment” even once. He did assert that he plans to “bring a Super Bowl championship back to our nation’s capital.”
In conclusion: It’s over. Play ball!
Disclosure: Dan Snyder once sued the author for writing mean things about him.