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NFL Owners Hate And Fear Dan Snyder

Dan Snyder looks gross.
Al Pereira/Getty Images

Everyone hates Dan Snyder. That is both a thing I believe and also the upshot of a big triple-bylined story published by ESPN Thursday morning. "All the owners hate Dan," says one unnamed veteran owner, explaining in part why Snyder may have gained from an overexposure to barely veiled hatred the misapprehension that all owners hate each other. NFL owners, an extraordinarily exclusive subset of capitalism's leechlike ownership class, together represent the subculture on the planet that is most primed to accept and endure Snyder's cartoonish villainy, to perhaps find in his ruthlessness and hostility to accountability some sort of warped and exploitable merit. And perhaps some of them still can find reasons to form temporary alliances with Snyder, even if only as a way to offload the burdensome contract of Carson Wentz. But they certainly hate him, because he is an entitled, aggrieved, vindictive, tyrannical little shit, and because he brings shame and embarrassment to their shared enterprise.

So why don't they get rid of him? The mechanism exists: If 24 NFL owners vote together, they can force Snyder to sell the Commanders. But there's a problem, or several. First of all, NFL owners will naturally feel that it is dangerous to affirm that ownership of NFL franchises is conditional. Secondly, no action to remove Snyder from the NFL is likely to pass without long and expensive legal challenges. Third, they fear the sensitive things Snyder knows about his fellow owners, and how he might decide to use them. "This is what happens when you get into business with bad people," an unnamed owner told ESPN. "They know he'll burn their houses down." According to ESPN's sources, it is widely believed at the NFL's ownership tier that Snyder has done the legwork to develop damaging dossiers on coaches, executives, fellow owners, and even on Commissioner Roger Goodell, which Snyder would gleefully weaponize in any situation where the league's power structure coalesced against him.

Now that he's facing investigations on multiple fronts and running out of high-powered allies, he alludes more than ever to the dirty work. Snyder, now 57 years old, has told associates he will not lose his beloved franchise without a fight that would end with multiple casualties.


According to more than 30 owners, league and team executives, lawyers and current and former Commanders employees interviewed by ESPN, the fear of reprisal that Snyder has instilled in his franchise, poisoning it on the field and off, has expanded to some of his fellow owners. Multiple owners and league and team sources say they've been told that Snyder instructed his law firms to hire private investigators to look into other owners—and Goodell.


You or I might hope that the owners' reason for wanting to be rid of Snyder is a moral rejection of his whole deal, but obviously that's not it. It's not even really a public relations problem. It's true that fan apathy is way up, attendance at Commanders home games is way down, and what used to be one of the NFL's marquee franchises is now the exemplar, across all of North American professional sports, of organizational dysfunction. Far more significant, though, is the fact that over the last few years Snyder has made a disastrous mess of his pursuit of a new stadium, such that important forces across all of Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia are now organized in opposition to hosting his football team. This is where shit gets serious for owners: When haplessness and personal odiousness achieve the rare feat of poisoning a top-10 media market.

It's not necessarily that owners aren't bothered by Snyder's alleged appreciation for, fostering of, and participation in sexual misconduct—according to this ESPN report, "some owners" found it "deeply troubling" that Snyder's organization was reportedly rife with various forms of misogyny and sexual harassment, all the way up to the executive level—it's just that they would be even more bothered if anyone went looking for such behavior in their own organizations. Working against whatever fleeting human impulse drives them to expel from their ranks someone roundly known to have the temperament of Caligula is how much it could suck for them personally.

It presents a conundrum for those who will decide Snyder's fate. Ownership sources said some in their ranks are worried that similar inquiries could be made about their own front offices—and that over the course of two decades, Snyder had possibly heard about many of them. "There are 31 guys who are petrified" of Snyder, says a sports executive and longtime friend of Goodell. "If you don't care about the fraternity, it's scary."


What a conundrum! To want to rid your organization of a toxic element but without having your own place in the organization threatened due to your own toxicity. For owners stuck in this catch-22, it must be very worrying indeed that Snyder seems to have the goods for Total War:

Snyder "thinks he has enough on all of them," says a former longtime senior Commanders executive. "He thinks he's got stuff on Roger." Another former Commanders executive routinely called Snyder "the most powerful owner in the NFL" because of what he knows, a source says.


It's clarifying, I think, to remember that the NFL is the billion-dollar enterprise and cultural juggernaut that it is not because it has so many smart and moral owners, but because the demand for professional football in North America is very nearly endless. The danger posed by Snyder's dossiers does not come close to touching the business of professional football. As a straightforward business matter, everyone in the NFL has to know that the best thing the league's owners could do for the Washington Commanders and for football in the D.C. metropolitan area is to forcefully jettison Snyder, and quite possibly to then flatten him with a steamroller somewhere between the team's far-flung hell-hole of a stadium and the Morgan Boulevard Metro stop, as the opportunity for Commanders fans to tread on his mortal remains would instantly double game-day attendance, and possibly homeownership in the town of Largo, Maryland.

The reason NFL owners are shy about taking this step—which, again, would produce an instant and measurable boost to the league's popularity and goodwill—is because doing so might potentially imperil their individual access to the firehose of wealth generated by demand for a product they play absolutely no essential role whatsoever in producing. Unfortunately, the only people empowered to take this step are owners, and even the "good" owners are parasites. Even with Snyder actively pooping in the punchbowl, it's better to stay at the party than to follow him out the door.

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