News & Politics

Report: Dan Snyder Played Second Banana to Jerry Jones

Commanders owner Dan Snyder. Photograph by Flickr user Keith Allison.

A new article in ESPN the Magazine goes into great detail about meetings last week at NFL headquarters between owners and players’ union officials about the ongoing decision by many current players to kneel, sit, or raise a fist during the playing of the national anthem before games. According to Don Van Natta, Jr., and Seth Wickersham, the football honchos were shaken by reactions from corporate sponsors, declining television ratings, and President Trump‘s obsession over the protests.

And, yet, in those conference rooms full of worried billionaires, Dan Snyder somehow found a way to come off particularly boorish. ESPN reports that the owner of Washington’s NFL team was the first to speak at the session that included the bosses of the 31 other franchises. Snyder, one of seven NFL owners who gave at least $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, reportedly made claims that the players’ protests are taking financial tolls. Reports ESPN:

He said that there were real business issues at stake, and he mentioned that in his market, the defense industry and other sponsors were angry about the protests. He didn’t put any dollars on it. To many in the room, Snyder’s speech felt like an opening act for the headlining band.

That “headlining band” is none other than Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has threatened to bench players who kneel during the anthem and who says he has spoken to Trump about the protests. Jones, referring to himself as the “ranking owner,” pushed the other owners to adopt a league-wide version of his stand-or-else policy. Snyder, reportedly, was a big fan.

“As Jones spoke, Snyder mumbled out loud, ‘See, Jones gets it — 96 percent of Americans are for guys standing,’ a claim some dismissed as a grand overstatement,” Wickersham and Van Natta report. They go on to write that Jones and Snyder got angry with 49ers owner Jed York, one of the rare team owners to support the players’ protests, for not disciplining former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick when he started the movement last year.

Kaepernick started kneeling during the anthem in 2016 to protest police shootings of unarmed black people, though the gesture has been misinterpreted by many—including Trump—as a slight against the US flag and armed forces. (Nate Boyer, a former Army Green Beret, is credited with suggesting that Kaepernick kneel after the quarterback first sat during the anthem.) While Kaepernick was unsigned for the 2017 season, kneeling during the anthem spread throughout the rest of the league, in which about 70 percent of players on active rosters are black.

No Washington players took part until the team’s September 24 game against Oakland, two days after Trump gave a speech in Alabama in which he referred to players who kneel during the anthem as “son of a bitch.” Seven Washington players kneeled before the Oakland game, while the rest of the team—including Snyder—stood with their arms linked. Since then, the entire team has stood during the playing of the anthem.

But the owners’ meeting, ESPN reports, actually turned against Jones and Snyder. Instead of issuing a blanket ban on kneeling during the anthem, owners walked out of NFL headquarters making statements about turning “protests into progress.” Meanwhile, Trump has continued to tweet about players kneeling.

Snyder appears once again to be on the losing side of a racial issue. But perhaps even more embarrassing in this story, he seems to have no problem playing second banana to the owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.