CHICAGO — Over the years, as Dan Snyder’s troubles mounted over sex and workplace scandals, one big question seemed to go oddly unanswered: If the Washington Commanders boss was such a problem for the NFL, then why hadn’t his fellow owners just voted him out already?
Maybe because they’re afraid of him, according to ESPN.
The network reported Thursday that associates of Snyder say the Washington billionaire has claimed on several occasions to have uncovered “dirt” and that he knows enough secrets to “blow up” several NFL team owners, the league office and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Multiple owners, league and team sources, all cited anonymously, told the network that Snyder instructed his law firms to hire private investigators to look into at least six owners and Goodell. And according to the report, Snyder has said privately that he believes he has enough information that the NFL “can’t’ f—” with him.
“Many” owners and league executives would like to see Snyder removed as an owner, ESPN reported. Such a process would require at least 24 of 32 votes from the league’s owners — a measure that has never been used in league history. But if an attempt were made, Snyder has “told associates that he will not lose his beloved franchise without a fight that would end with multiple casualties,” ESPN wrote. The network said they interviewed more than 30 owners, league and team executives, lawyers and current and former employees for the piece.
Snyder claimed to an associate that the NFL is a “mafia” in which all owners hate each owner. But one veteran owner disputed the remark, telling the outlet: “That’s not true. All the owners hate Dan.”
The news came hours before a prime-time Soldier Field matchup between the Chicago Bears and the Commanders and is just the latest off-the-field distraction for a franchise that has consistently disappointed on the field over Snyder’s 23 years as owner.
More notably, the ESPN expose dropped days before Tuesday’s NFL owners meetings. The NFL declined to comment on the report, but a league source said the NFL has no plans to vote on Snyder’s status at next week’s meeting.
The report also drew sharp pushback from the Commanders as a team spokesperson denied the claims and allegations raised in the story.
“It’s hard to imagine a piece that is more categorically untrue,” a team spokesperson said, “and is clearly part of a well-funded, two-year misinformation campaign to coerce the sale of the team, which will continue to be unsuccessful.”
John Brownlee, a Holland & Knight attorney who serves as legal counsel for the Commanders, told The Washington Times that “We’ll consider all our options” when asked if Snyder plans to take legal action against ESPN in light of the story. The owner previously filed a defamation lawsuit in August 2020 after an India-based media company baselessly linked Snyder to pedophile Jeffrey Epstein in lead up to the team’s workplace misconduct scandal.
“It’s so obviously fabricated that I’m not so sure you even need to do that,” Brownlee said.
Asked what the Commanders meant by a “well-funded, two-year misinformation campaign,” Brownlee pointed to the involvement of attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz — the lawyers who represent more than 40 former Washington employees who say they witnessed or experience sexual harassment while working for the team.
Brownlee said their law firm was “clearly the genesis” of the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s investigation into the team, adding the pair serve as “pseudo spokesperson and counsel” for the panel. He noted that his law firm received a letter back from Banks and Katz instead of Congress after last week’s letter to the congressional panel.
Reached in response, Banks laughed off Brownlee’s “ridiculous” comments. She said most of the work defending former Washington employees has come pro bono, adding her law firm only received a “limited” amount of funding from the activist group Time’s Up at the beginning of their firm’s representation. Banks said her firm “didn’t coordinate” with the committee on their response to Brownlee’s firm and did not advocate for Congress to launch a probe into the Commanders.
“Ninety-five percent of this case has been done pro bono,” Banks said. “We’ve done this because we care about the issues. It’s not the first time we’ve done a case pro bono because we care about the issues. And it won’t be the last.”
ESPN reported that Snyder has told associates he has a file on Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Earlier this month, the two men posed for a picture before Washington’s loss to Dallas at AT&T Stadium — with the Commanders’ social media team noting the two had been “friends and rivals for 24 years.”
But ESPN, citing a source, reported that Snyder has lost Jones’ support, something the team disputed.
Snyder may need all the supporters he can get. The owner is under at least four investigations between Congress, the NFL and the attorney’s general in the District and Virginia in wake of allegations of sexual misconduct and financial improprieties.
Last February, the NFL launched another investigation into the team and Snyder after former Washington employee Tiffani Johnston told members of Congress that the owner made an unwanted advance by touching her thigh underneath a table at a work dinner and by later trying to coax her into his limo. Snyder denied the allegations, but the claims launched another probe after the league fined the team $10 million in July 2021 for its workplace misconduct scandal.
ESPN reported NFL owners, however, are concerned with more than just the investigations. Owners and league executives have “repeatedly bemoaned the business woes in Washington” as attendance and interest have cratered over Snyder’s tenure, with the unnamed veteran owner complaining that Snyder is “costing his fellow owners significant money.”
In July 2021, the league announced that Snyder was giving up day-to-day control of the franchise for “several months” to his wife, Tanya. But ESPN reported Snyder is “far more involved running the club than most realize.”
The Washington Times, citing a high-ranking source, reported in March that Snyder was back overseeing the day-to-day operations. The person said Snyder was “heavily involved” in the team’s acquisition of Carson Wentz — something ESPN also reported Thursday. The network added that the owner “pushed” for the quarterback. Coach Ron Rivera disputed that in a statement, saying “the Snyders were supportive of our vision for building this roster.”
Snyder has no plans to attend next week’s NFL owners meetings in New York, Brownlee said. The Commanders will be represented by co-owner and co-CEO Tanya Snyder instead as has been the case since last year.
“There’s nothing that prohibits him from going,” Brownlee said of Dan Snyder. “He could go if he were so inclined. There’s no prohibition, nobody told him he can’t go. And if he wanted to go he would.
“But this team is so well represented with Tanya Snyder that I anticipate she will go and represent the team and do a great job.”