News & Politics

5 Takeaways From ESPN’s Bombshell Dan Snyder Report

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

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder has allegedly used private detectives to gather information on his fellow owners and on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as he struggles to maintain his hold on the team. That’s according to an explosive ESPN report Thursday that helpfully coincides with a must-win game for the 1-4 team, whose football operation has descended once again into chaos. There’s much, much more beyond that headline news, according to reporters Don Van Natta Jr., Seth Wickersham, and Tisha Thompson. The article is a veritable buffet for Snyder haters; here are a few takeaways.

1. Other owners hate Snyder

Snyder has long benefited from a form of détente unique to NFL owners—many of whom are “absolute pariahs in their markets,” as league anthropologist Mark Leibovich once told Washingtonian. The unloved bazillionaires on the league’s ship of the damned may not be likable, or even like each other very much, but they’re extremely reluctant to kick anyone out of their stateroom lest they be the next one overboard. Yet because of Snyder’s apparently bottomless pool of investigations, his cartoonish inability to get a new stadium built, and—perhaps most important—allegations that the Commanders withheld revenue from the league, many league owners and top executives told ESPN that they would like to see Snyder gone. (At least 24 of the NFL’s 32 owners would have to agree to force Snyder to sell the Commanders). Snyder has called the league a “mafia,” ESPN reports, along with a quote from another owner who says “All the owners hate Dan.”

2. Snyder allegedly tried to buy off a former team employee he’d already settled with over sex-pest allegations

Snyder’s lawyers reportedly offered a payday “in the seven figures” to a former employee he’d already paid $1.6 million to settle accusations that he’d harassed her on his private plane so that she wouldn’t speak to people conducting other and more recent investigations into the team, including Mary Jo White, a former US Attorney who’s looking into the team on behalf of the NFL. The morass presents “a conundrum for those who will decide Snyder’s fate,” ESPN reports:

Ownership sources said some in their ranks are worried that similar inquiries could be made about their own front offices — and that over the course of two decades, Snyder had possibly heard about many of them. “There are 31 guys who are petrified” of Snyder, says a sports executive and longtime friend of Goodell. “If you don’t care about the fraternity, it’s scary.”

3. The team utterly botched its chances of getting a new stadium

DC? Unlikely. Maryland? No thanks. Virginia? LOL. The commonwealth was poised to grant the team a $3 billion entertainment complex before the public revolted, and the bipartisan legislation “died an unusual death,” ESPN writes. “How toxic do you have to be to have the Senate majority leader and the House appropriations chair to sponsor your bill, and you can’t get a vote on it?” Delegate Marcus Simon said in the article.

4. Snyder is responsible for acquiring Carson Wentz

According to a Snyder associate who spoke to ESPN, the Commanders owner believed last winter that “all my problems will be solved if I can just get a marquee quarterback.” For some reason, Snyder also believed that quarterback would be Carson Wentz. The team then did a typically exorbitant deal that was “100% a Dan move” for a QB who has proved to be bad even by the standards of other Washington quarterbacks. (Can you identify some of the members of this large club? Take our quiz!)

5. Other NFL owners think he’s a drag on their wallets

In the NFL, the only truly unforgivable sin is fumbling the league’s bag. Under Snyder, the Commanders’ “gate is the lowest in the league, his revenues are significantly low and trending lower,” one “veteran owner” told ESPN. “He is costing his fellow owners significant money.” To put more pressure on Snyder to sell, some owners are inclined to actually enforce rules about how much debt he can hold, and could even vote to withhold a loan to Snyder if he somehow finds a place that wants his team to build a stadium. (West Virginia? Delaware? International waters, next to his yacht?) However, it’s far more likely that Snyder will skate—and all will be forgotten—if he can lobby, cajole, or otherwise finagle his way to that outcome. As ESPN reports:

When asked whether his fellow owners would forgive Snyder for the team’s financial woes and the toxic culture scandal if Snyder could build a new stadium, the owner quickly replied, “Yes.”

Asked if Snyder is aware of that, the owner said, “Yes.”


Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.