- - Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Jimmy Haslam owned a company that for a period of time was a criminal enterprise — it was just three years ago that 17 former employees of his Pilot Flying J truck stops either pleaded guilty or were convicted in a fraud scheme.

Yet the NFL let Haslam keep his hapless Cleveland Browns.

Just trying to set some sort of standard of expectation for what the NFL might or might not do to beleaguered Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder.



Granted, Haslam’s baggage involved his string of truck stops, not his NFL franchise. Snyder is under fire for charges involving his football team.

Haslam denied any knowledge of wrongdoing and was never connected to the fraud in the federal criminal probe, so the NFL let him keep the team he purchased for $1 billion in 2012 — a team he has run, you could argue, worse than the Washington Football Team over that time.

Snyder also has denied any wrongdoing. But dozens of women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment in his organization.

For those holding out hope that somehow all the disgust and dysfunction at Ashburn will lead to the league forcing Snyder out, Haslam is probably a more apt comparison than Jerry Richardson and the Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers owner was directly implicated in sexual and racial misconduct in the franchise and, at the age of 81, reportedly agreed to sell the team two years ago after the league began its investigation.

Haslam, by comparison, wasn’t going to budge. If the NFL wanted him out, they were going to have to force him out.

That’s likely the scenario for Snyder, who reacted to the most recent charges of misconduct on his part and on the part of others in his organization by calling the newspaper report on the allegations a “hit job.”

That Washington Post article included an accusation that the owner humiliated a former cheerleader at a charity event at the Washington Hilton in 2004 by suggesting that she join one of his male friends in an upstairs room.

It was the closest Snyder came to being on the end of a smoking gun.

But Snyder can still claim that he, like Haslam, “knew nothing” about what was going on in the business he was responsible for. It boils down to his word against his accuser.

“The article is riddled with questionable and unnamed sources, decades-old allegations and is not a reflection of The Washington Football Team today,” Snyder stated.

He doesn’t sound like someone who will simply succumb to public pressure and shame. He doesn’t look like someone inclined to sell. And — Richardson aside —NFL owners rarely have the stomach for kicking out a member of their exclusive billionaire’s club.

The question is: How much do they consider Snyder one of their own?

According to a source, the Washington football owner has few friends or alliances among his wealthy colleagues. He has run what was once one of the premier NFL franchises into the ground, with all-time low attendance and television ratings.

Snyder has turned Washington football into an embarrassment for the league, right in the backyard of the place where the NFL spends millions to lobby for access and influence.

Finally — and this may be most important — Snyder doesn’t appear able to get a new stadium built, which in some circles of the league is the only reason for owners to exist. He was toxic before the sexual harassment stories surfaced, and now he is radioactive. No politician will stand at a podium with Snyder and welcome him with pocket change, let alone the grease necessary to build a new football palace.

So what’s the point of keeping Snyder around? How does it benefit the league to have him own the Washington Football Team?

Perhaps this so-called “independent” investigation by lawyer Beth Wilkinson into the charges raised by now at least 50 women will give NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell the leverage he needs to get rid of Snyder. It may be the whole point now.

Last week, Goodell revealed his office had “recommended” Wilkinson, who represented the league in its concussion litigation, to Snyder for the probe. I would suspect that was a strong recommendation.

Still, it wasn’t enough for the women who have called out the franchise. They demanded the NFL take ownership of the investigation. This week, the league agreed.

Reportedly, that was Snyder’s idea. Right. Sounds like a “Thank you sir, may I have another” situation.

The league can make life difficult for an owner who won’t slink away quietly, if it chooses to do so. If Goodell can’t force out a hated, weak, pathetic owner, he might as well be selling programs at Ghost Town Field.

Hear Thom Loverro Tuesdays and Thursdays on The Kevin Sheehan Podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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