Washington, DC

With pending release of RG3 book, Snyder watch begins in earnest

Stuart Grant

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Washington Football Team Owner Dan SnyderKeith Allison on Wikimedia Commons

With the upcoming release of an exposé about his tenure in Washington by currently unemployed NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III, there is a sense of impending doom around the ownership of Dan Snyder. It is not as if this is the first or only scandal enveloping the team since his assuming controlling interest in 1999.

The sexual harassment allegations swirling around the team have been boiling in the background, out of sight but not out of mind. The release of the e-mail exchange between former Washington team executive Bruce Allen and then broadcaster, now ex-Raiders coach Jon Gruden were enough to torpedo Gruden's career.

The team settled a harassment suit by cheerleaders who were filmed without consent while preparing for photo shoots in 2008 and 2010. Seventeen year employee and former head of business operations, Dennis Greene was found to have sold access to the cheerleading crew. He has since resigned. Note that cheerleaders are unpaid in a league with multi-billion dollar revenues annually.

The controversy around the team's conflation of its season ticket waiting list seems quaint by compare. The suing of fans with multi-year ticket contracts exposed an ugly litigious side to fans that made them rethink committing to a team with callous disregard for fans falling on hard times. All this is to speak nothing of the team's dismal on field fortunes in the Snyder era.

Snyder's foot dragging on a team name change is telling in its aversion to progressive thinking. Still, it begs the question as to why he has kept control this long when the likes of former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson were expunged in a very public shaming. The league's move to the advancement of women into historically male roles as team executives, referees, athletic trainers and more runs counter intuitive to the frat boy club Snyder has presided over.

The pending disclosure of Griffin's sexual harassment may be Snyder's last stand. As we have learned from incidents with the Ottawa Senators and Chicago Black Hawks, male on male sexual harassment in sports is far from unlikely or unheard of, if seldom reported. If Griffin had similar experiences to the NHL victims and the team's response was found wanting, Snyder may suffer a forced divestiture like Jerry Richardson.

Billionaires, however, do not give up assets, money or status willingly. Make no mistake, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell works for the owners. Much of his tenure has been spent on image making around the damage caused by owner and player actions off the field. Robert Kraft has survived massage gate and all the other "gates" associated with the Patriots' run of success in the Belichick era.

Men like Snyder can afford the best legal advice on the planet. He states that he brought in head coach Ron Rivera to change the culture. But a head coach manages players, not organizations. If Goodell can save Snyder from himself, it will likely be done in a manner as discrete as the league's quietly stroking a cheque for 790 million to settle the Rams relocation lawsuit. The entertainment value of that spectacle will likely be more entertaining than the team's on field product.

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