News & Politics

Report: Sexual Misconduct Allegation Against Dan Snyder Resulted in Confidential $1.6 Million Settlement in 2009

Two blockbuster news stories suggest the Washington Football Team's off-field chaos has reached a bonkers new level.

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

Just as the Washington Football Team was moving past the controversy over its nickname, and even as it is inching its way towards respectability on the field, the off-field drama that has characterized owner Dan Snyder’s tenure has reached a new crescendo.

An accusation of sexual misconduct against Snyder by a female ex-employee resulted in a 2009 confidential settlement that included a $1.6 million payment to alleged victim, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Citing a “person familiar with the matter,” the Post reported that the alleged incident took place on Snyder’s private jet during a flight from Las Vegas following the Academy of Country Music Awards.

“The female employee made ‘certain allegations’ in April 2009, according to a copy of the agreement, and was later fired,” According to The Post. “The agreement, which was signed on July 22 of that year by an attorney on behalf of Snyder and two other team executives, did not describe the nature of the allegations. In the agreement, neither Snyder nor the team acknowledged any wrongdoing.”

The allegation surfaces as the NFL is conducting an investigation into allegations of workplace sexual harassment at The Washington Football Team. Those allegations became public over the summer, when the Post ran two articles detailing them. Snyder has denied having any role in the incidents that The Post described in their articles over the summer.

At the same time, Snyder is feuding with three minority owners who are trying to sell their stakes in the team. Over the weekend, another blockbuster report—this one in the New York Times—chronicled the latest engagements in that feud, which according to court filings cited by the Times involves burner phones, furious texts, allegations of extortion, and accusations that one of the three, real estate developer Dwight Schar was behind leaks of unflattering information designed to damage Snyder.

According to court filings cited by the Times, a former executive assistant to Schar spoke 123 times with numbers associated with the Washington Post, allegedly at Schar’s behest. (In turn, according to filings cited in today’s Post story, the minority partners said Team Snyder was behind the Times story.) Snyder has also filed a libel lawsuit against an Indian website; discovery motions in that suit have enabled his attorneys access to things like the assistant’s phone records.

At any rate, according to the Times, the upshot is that the minority owners, who would fetch the most for their shares by forcing a sale of the whole team, are now in negotiations to sell them at a significantly lower price. NFL owners are also reportedly upset over the alleged anti-Snyder efforts. The result: Snyder would end the year in more secure control of his team than he was before the dramas of 2020 took place.

Now, news of the alleged confidential settlement could complicate that. And, if it does not, it gives a new life to the longtime fantasies some Washington fans have about finding a new owner.

During an interview with Washingtonian in September,  Mark Leibovich, the chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and the author of Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times, argued that Snyder was “in real danger” being replaced as team owner by the NFL. But his ultimate fate, Leibovich said, would probably depend on the facts that surfaced during the NFL’s investigation.

“I’ll tell you this about Snyder,” Leibovich said at the time. “The league would love an excuse to get rid of him. They have been looking for one for many, many years.”

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.