Dan Snyder’s disastrous tenure as Washington owner ends in multi-billion dollar sale

Calvin Lymper '25, Staff Writer

Picture from Hogs Haven

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder sold the franchise for $6.05 billion–the largest NFL sale price in the league’s history– on April 13, 2023. The franchise was sold to a buying group composed of Wall Street businessman Josh Harris, philanthropist Mitchell Rales, and NBA legend and former Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson. Other bidders that were in the race for ownership of the Commanders includedAmazon CEO Jeff Bezos as well as Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, according to the New York Post.


The inevitable sale of the Commanders ended the tenure of, undoubtedly, the worst owner in the NFL. After two decades of questionable decisions and the downfall of a historically great franchise, in July 2020, the Washington Post released a breakthrough report detailing the franchise’s true workplace culture. In the report, 15 women alleged they were sexually harassed by former employees of the franchise. In a very shady fashion, ESPN stated, “Two scouts named in the piece are fired shortly before the story runs. A third employee named in the article, play-by-play broadcaster Larry Michael, announces his retirement prior to publication. Snyder is not accused of harassment. However, he is cited for setting up a toxic culture.” Another August report from the Washington Post revealed more details, with the total allegation count reaching around 25 women. The NFL begana long-winded investigation into the team as a result.


Minority owners of the Commanders, Fred Smith, Dwight Schar, and Robert Rothman, also sued Snyder in federal court for interfering with pending sales of their shares to investors willing to pay “$900 million for their 40%,” as reported by ESPN. By July 2021, the NFL’s investigation concluded, fining the Washington franchise $10 million, and forcing Snyder to hand his “day-to-day duties” to Snyder’s wife and the Commanders’ co-CEO Tanya Snyder. At that point, things seemed to be crashing down quickly for Snyder.


Picture from AP News

In October 2021, investigations into the Commanders went federal again, as Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, began an investigation into the Commanders and the NFL’s true handling of their investigation. In April 2022, the committee found “potentially unlawful patterns of financial misconduct,” and sent a 20-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission. The Virginia and Washington DC attorney general’s offices both told the Commanders in late April that they would investigate the Commanders organization themselves. 


A 29-page report was released by the House oversight committee on June 22, 2022, after Snyder’s refusal to testify, and it reported new allegations against the franchise. ESPN wrote, “The report concludes Snyder conducted a “shadow investigation” to try to discredit media and others who they thought played a role in making accusations against him and the organization.” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell testified before the committee later that day, and a subpoena was issued to get Snyder to testify. Despite allegations ramping up against Snyder, the Commanders headed into the 2022 season with Snyder remaining their owner. A new 79-page report was released on December 8, arguing Snyder’s later private testimony was “misleading,” and that he couldn’t properly answer basic questions about the franchise.


The issue that prompted the Commanders to enter the final stages of its departure from Snyder was the NFLPA’s team report cards for the 2022 season, which they released to the public on March 1, 2023. The Commanders were ranked 32nd of 32 teams, granted overly negative ratings in almost every category besides strength coaches. Important information from the findings include that Snyder was not willing to “invest to upgrade the facilities, as player responses rank him 31st in this category.” Around 22% of players on the team believe there is enough space on team flights, and the NFLPA states, “[The Commanders are] one of seven teams in the NFL that do not offer their players first class seats.” The franchise got F rankings in “treatment of families,” “training room,” “locker room,” and “team travel.” 


Aside from workplace allegations and financial disputes, the Commanders also have faced controversy over their team name. Infamously known as the Washington Redskins since 1933, the team’s name was retired in July 2020 in the wake of various civil rights protests and other controversies within the country. Around 87 investment firms and shareholders even sent letters to “Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo threatening to terminate relationships with the team unless it dropped the racially insensitive name…FedEx, the company with naming rights to the team’s stadium, formally requested the franchise take action.” After playing the 2020 and 2021 seasons as the Washington Football Team, an organization now donning basic burgundy and gold jerseys with simply a yellow “W” as their logo, the Washington team rebranded themselves as the Commanders in 2022. 


Stemming right to the fans, Washington’s home field of FedEx Field in Summerfield, Maryland has been ranked as the worst stadium in the NFL. On January 2, 2022, as Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was walking out of FedEx Field after a 20-16 win against the Commanders, Eagles fans almost fell onto the QB as a railing broke. Hurts helped the fans up, as seen in the viral video.


Pictured above: Eagles fans within FedEx Field falling onto Eagles QB Jalen Hurts after a railing had collapsed (picture from AL.com)

Even before the Jalen Hurts incident, in September 2021, Fox 5 DC reported, “A fan, Tommy O’Brien, captured a mysterious liquid spewing on seats during Sunday’s home opener. Fans believe the liquid was sewage, but that has not been confirmed.” The liquid was later identified as rainwater caught in the stadium.


The team’s morality was further tested when they were tasked to create a memorial for former Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor, who died in 2007 during his career with Washington. This memorial was believed by many to be a statue, like most franchises would do with a fantastic player who contributed significantly to the team. However, the Commanders decided to put out essentially a mannequin wearing Taylor’s #21 and a Redskins helmet. Jason Owens of Yahoo! Sports writes, “It features a wire frame in the shape of a person holding up a Taylor uniform. A headless helmet sits on top. And that’s pretty much it.” The insensitivity of the “tribute” was pointed out by ESPN reporter Courtney Cronin, who tweeted, “The way this organization repeatedly misses the mark is remarkable. Truly astonishing.”


Ever since Snyder’s $800 million purchase of the Washington team in May 1999, the team has only made the playoffs 6 times, only making it out of the Wild Card Round twice in the 1999 and 2005 seasons. The recent sale of the Commanders is a new beginning for the troubled franchise. With poor team grades, performances, an awful stadium, and various sexual harassment and financial misconduct allegations, the terrible tenure Snyder had as owner can be put in the past, and the Josh Harris-owned Commanders look to make new strides internally.