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How Does Dan Snyder Keep Getting Away With This?

Dan Snyder sticks out his disgusting tongue.
Al Pereira/Getty Images

Dan Snyder's search for a buyer for the endlessly distressed Washington Commanders, the NFL franchise he purchased in 1999 and has spent every minute of the past 24 years actively driving into the ground, is ongoing. There are hurdles. For one thing, Snyder wants $7 billion for the sale, more than $2 billion more than the Walton family paid for the Denver Broncos in 2022, to date the most ever paid for a North American sports franchise. For another, because most of what Snyder does, possibly but not definitely beyond breathing, is motivated by spite, he is being unusually particular about who he'll engage in this transaction: The Athletic reported Saturday that Bank of America, managing the sale for Snyder, has informed zillionaire freak and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos that he is barred from bidding on the Commanders. Bezos is one of a tiny handful of people on Earth who can comfortably scrounge up Snyder's asking price, but because he owns a newspaper that Snyder has long considered an antagonist and enemy, he's out.

But there is another, more pressing complication: Snyder and his attorneys have reportedly demanded that any sale would be contingent upon the NFL and its 31 other franchise owners agreeing to indemnify Snyder against future legal liability and associated costs, and agreeing to hide the findings of an ongoing misconduct investigation, per a Washington Post report. Roger Goodell and his bosses have put up with a lot from Snyder over the years, watching placidly for years as he systematically burned down what was once one of the NFL's marquee franchises and poisoned the league's eighth-largest media market, and recently dipping into the league's political capital to bury the results of a lengthy and heavily publicized investigation into Commanders workplace sexual misconduct. Owners have put up with all this out of class solidarity, but they very much do not like Dan Snyder. They know from experience that he's an aggrieved and vindictive little creep, and they resent having to cover and answer for his misdeeds. They are eager to be rid of him, and they find "ridiculous" and "absurd" the notion that they should be on the hook for any legal consequences of Snyder's flagrant misbehavior even after he is no longer formally associated with their shared enterprise.

Snyder, however, has good reason to dig in his heels on indemnification. Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN reported Tuesday that on top of the many publicized misdeeds for which Snyder is already being investigated, both by the league and by the feds, he is also dealing with a credible allegation of straight-up bank fraud, associated with a $55 million line of credit that Snyder secured with Bank of America in early 2019. According to Van Natta, a transaction of this size should've required the formal approval of the team's board of directors, as laid out by the team's shareholder agreement. Snyder's former partners, who he bought out in 2020 in an NFL-mediated transaction in order to quash a whole range of complaints, accused Snyder and team lawyers of circumventing the board's approval for this line of credit first via procrastination and later by possibly lying that approval had been given.

This seems like the most legally actionable discovery in Van Natta's report, but as with any closer look into Snyder's shit, the man's cartoonish sleaziness explodes out of every anecdote and detail. Snyder is accused of misallocating team funds to buy and staff his luxury yachts, mansions, and private jets, to throw grotesquely lavish parties with fellow billionaire owners, and to surround himself with bodyguards during international excursions. In a particularly hilarious bit of self-dealing, Snyder is accused of leasing his personal jets back to the team, and then billing the team outrageously to have its logo painted on his plane's tail:

The partners said they discovered Snyder had leased his personal jets back to the team. Besides Snyder paying himself a salary of $10 million a year, he also had arranged for the franchise to pay him a total of $4.5 million for having the team logo emblazoned on his personal jet. "An advertising fee," Snyder had called it, documents show.

But the partners said the logo on Snyder's private jet "provides little or no advertising value." And besides, they said, they never approved the millions per year Snyder paid himself.


To no one's great surprise, Roger Goodell apparently knew about all of this when he brokered the buying out of Snyder's discontented partners, and when he played human shield before Congress after the conclusion of Beth Wilkerson's league-led investigation into the nightmare workplace culture of Snyder's Commanders operation. For one thing, Goodell's signature is on the final paperwork that Snyder used to secure the disputed $55 million line of credit from Bank of America. For another, the particulars of the shady line of credit were reportedly brought in detail to Goodell and NFL counsel Jeff Pash as Snyder and his partners worked through the NFL's arbitration process. In fact, just four days after Snyder's partners asked the arbitrator to secure the loan documents from Bank of America, in order to show that Snyder had either proceeded without board approval or had lied about having received it, the league began pushing Snyder's partners to skip arbitration and move to mediation, directly overseen by Goodell. They accepted, stupidly, and that is where Goodell and Pash allegedly shut down any inquiry into Snyder's alleged bank fraud:

It didn't take long for the meditation to occur. On Jan. 13, 2021, the NFL-led session began, via Zoom, at the height of the pandemic.

During the two-day mediation, the partners' lawyers were primed to demand that the NFL investigate the secret credit line, according to a source with firsthand knowledge. Despite lawyers raising the issue several times, Goodell and Pash said they would not consider it. The source said Goodell told the partners they had only one option: Reach an agreement to sell their shares to Snyder.

"Goodell and Pash were not interested in talking about those allegations or any allegations between the parties," the source said. The partners were furious that Goodell and Pash had blocked their request that the arbitrator seek bank records from Bank of America, the source added.


The league and Goodell in particular have gone to genuinely extraordinary lengths to shield Snyder from the fair consequences of his own misbehavior, but ultimately the only people empowered to hold Snyder meaningfully accountable have a common interest in keeping owners' positions as close to bulletproof as possible. It's all there in Van Natta's report, which lays out just how aggressively NFL owners can soak even dysfunctional, wildly underperforming franchises to pad out their outrageous personal fortunes, and that's before you even get to the $7 billion asking price for a team that hasn't been relevant in entire decades. There are bylaws, shareholder agreements, banking regulations, and laws, but Snyder's example is another infuriating reminder that these don't necessarily apply to particularly shameless billionaires.

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