Chronicling the 22 years that Dan Snyder has owned the Washington Football Team is like detailing the history of some banana republic dictator. Each year by itself stands as evidence of dysfunction and destruction.
But 2009, boy, that was Snyder at his worst.
This is the year in the spotlight now, the year that an unidentified woman and franchise employee traveling with Snyder on his private jet returning from the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas accused Snyder of sexual misconduct, according to the Washington Post. She later reached a confidential $1.6 million settlement.
The Post came out with another story this week charging that Snyder tried to interfere with an NFL investigation launched last year into charges by more than 40 women of sexual harassment and bullying within the Washington Football organization. They claimed he was intimidating witnesses and offered the unidentified woman in question more money to not cooperate with the league probe.
On Wednesday at the NFL owners’ meeting, Commissioner Roger Goodell said there was no interference with their investigation, conducted by hired league mouthpiece Beth Wilkinson. “We went through a very lengthy period of investigation and discussions,” Goodell said. “The one thing I can say with 100% assurance is that it didn’t interfere with the work that our investigator did. We were able to access all the people that she wanted to access, have multiple conversations with … those people. There’s always a little bit of a tug and a pull with particularly lawyers and law firms. That’s something that I think we were able to overcome and make sure we came to the right conclusion.”
In other words, there was attempted obstruction of justice, but like so many things Snyder does, it was unsuccessful.
The details on how the NFL arrived at its conclusion — that the organization under Snyder was a “toxic” work environment, which resulted in a fine of $10 million for the team and some murky self-suspension by the owner — has been hidden by the league, and now a congressional committee has demanded answers about the procedure and results of the Washington Football investigation.
Maybe the committee should consider the entirety of Snyder’s 2009 existence as circumstantial evidence of what this man is capable of — a pattern of behavior.
The year began with a big splash when Snyder introduced his new $100 million free-agent Albert Haynesworth in a Feb. 27 press conference in Ashburn. Snyder, basking in the glow of his prize, smugly said, “We’ve learned our lesson,” Snyder said. “This is not the old ways at all. This is what I should have done a long time ago. He’s a very young man. I’ve learned that you don’t do a seven-year contract with a player that’s 33. You do it when he’s 27. That’s the big difference.”
A few weeks later, the man who learned his lesson flew to the Las Vegas music awards dinner, which resulted in the return trip Snyder paid $1.6 million to keep quiet.
It takes money to have a $100 million wasteland on the payroll. Snyder sought to squeeze his fan base to pay for his sins. The Post reported in September that the Washington Football Team was suing 125 season ticket holders who had fallen on hard times with the economic depression and wanted out of their season-ticket contracts — including a 72-year-old grandmother who had been a lifelong fan.
Their loss. They missed out on the bingo caller.
When coach Jim Zorn struggled early in the 4-12 season, Snyder had his imaginary friend, general manager Vinny Cerrato, bring in former NFL assistant coach Sherm Lewis as an offensive “consultant.” He hadn’t been in the league since 2004 and was calling bingo games back at home in Michigan at the time.
A few weeks later, Zorn was called up to the owner’s box following another loss for a meeting with Snyder and Cerrato that lasted for hours and ended with Zorn being demoted as the offensive play-caller, with those duties handed over to the bingo caller.
Zorn said he “complied” with the change. “Sometimes we have to do things that are uncomfortable,” he said.
It used to be “uncomfortable” to be a Washington Football Team fan. Now it may be a character indictment.
The hiring of Lewis set off a deluge of jokes, many of which were spelled out in signs brought to the stadium. Snyder ordered a ban of all signs. A few weeks later after taking public hits, Snyder backed down.
“We’ve disappointed our fans so far this season, and I’m as disappointed as they are,” Snyder said a statement released by the team. “I understand that some fans want to express their feelings with signs and they should do so, as long as they stay within the boundaries of good taste and don’t block the view of other fans.”
What’s rich is Snyder and his football team being the arbiter of “good taste.”
The 2009 season of shame — a low point among low points — culminated with the firing of Cerrato and the hiring of the son of Washington legend George Allen — former Tampa and Oakland GM Bruce Allen.
“He has a great passion for the game, passion for winning,” Snyder said of Allen. “He’s a great communicator. He’s a man who absolutely has a tireless work ethic. He’s a man that works around the clock. Yes, you all recognize his name, the Allen family. He understands the great tradition. It’s an added bonus, that he understands the tradition and heritage of the Washington Redskins.”
This is the same Allen who traded homophobic and misogynistic emails with fired Raiders coach Jon Gruden. The same Allen fired by Snyder after the 2019 season. The same Allen who, in a bitter dispute with the owner over his final paycheck, was told that Snyder expected, as part of any settlement, a congratulatory text on his post-Allen hiring of coach Ron Rivera.
Maybe Allen wasn’t such a “great communicator” after all.
You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.