For more than two decades, Dan Snyder has been bringing misery and bad times to Washington football fans. Last year, thanks to investigative reports from the Washington Post, it became clear that the misery extended to people working for the team, and that the workplace was especially toxic for women who had to endure a 'boys club' atmosphere of harassment and degrading treatment.
A year ago, following the very damning and embarrassing Washington Post news stories that shined the light on these practices that had been pervasive in the organization for many years, Dan Snyder engaged attorney Beth Wilkinson to investigate and report to him on what had been going on and how the situation could be improved. When, eventually, concerns were raised that the issues in the franchise could include Snyder himself, the NFL league office took over the investigation. For months now, the results of the investigation have been eagerly anticipated; in January, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell promised that they'd be coming soon.
Through much of 2020, there were hopes in some quarters that the findings of wrongdoing would be damning enough that Snyder would be forced to sell the team, but those hopes faded in recent months as the league approved a debt waiver that made it possible for Snyder to buy out three minority shareholders who had been engaged in legal battles with him for some time. With the buyout, the Snyder family consolidated full ownership of the Washington Football Team franchise, and it became increasingly obvious that the workplace practices that had come to light last year would not be sufficient for the league to force Snyder to relinquish ownership.
Per ESPN, in February, the team reached a settlement with its former cheerleaders, who appeared in lewd videos made without their knowledge during swimsuit calendar photo shoots in 2008 and 2010. The franchise also announced that it had paused its cheerleader program amid its rebranding.
On Tuesday this week, the team announced that Dan Snyder's wife, Tanya Snyder, would be named co-CEO. With the results of the Wilkinson report expected to be released this week, some saw this as a sign that Dan Snyder would be suspended from his role with the team for perhaps a year. Cynics also saw this as part of a strategy by the owners to "stay ahead" of the bad news by pointing to a series of organizational changes that have been made in an attempt to claim that the issues raised by the Wilkinson report have already been dealt with, and that the franchise has already taken positive steps forward. With Tanya Snyder in the CEO's chair, how could the toxic workplace for women continue?
It is a tradition of long standing for the NFL to make unpopular announcements just ahead of holiday weekends, when people are distracted and not paying close attention to the news. With the long July 4th weekend on the horizon, everyone in the media was confident that the results of the Wilkinson report and announcement of any penalties imposed on the Washington franchise would be announced, and that the timing hinted that the news would not be well-received.
The hopes of fans who want to be rid of Dan Snyder were dashed; the fears of journalists who anticipated that the NFL would take no meaningful action against the owner were realized.
On Thursday, the league office and the Snyders made a series of coordinated announcements. First was the fact that the Wilkinson investigation had found that Washington's workplace "highly unprofessional" and that "bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear."
Oddly, though, the league office said that there had been no written report made by Beth Wilkinson, and that the league had instead relied on a series of verbal reports. One reason given for this was to keep issues confidential in order to protect the people victimized by the toxic workplace over the past decade and a half, but it seems more likely that this was done to minimize the opportunity for close scrutiny of the team and the NFL.
The league imposed a $10m fine on the franchise, which amounts to pocket change for an NFL owner. To put the $10m fine into perspective, in 2019, Sports Illustrated reported on the yacht that Dan Snyder bought: the Lady S cost Dan Snyder more than $100 million.
The announcement from the league also offered ten recommendations resulting from Wilkinson's investigation that focus on improving practices and protective mechanisms in the organization.
Dan Snyder released a written statement in which he said that he "agreed with the Commissioner's decisions" and added that he is "committed to implementing the investigation's important recommendations."
In the same announcement, Dan Snyder said that he will voluntarily step back from the day-to-day operation of the franchise, which will be handled by Tanya Snyder. League sources stressed that Dan Snyder had not been suspended, and that the decision to focus instead on securing a new stadium site and looking after other matters was one taken by Snyder himself.
For Washington fans who have had to live through more than two decades of Snyder's reign of error, this result has to be disheartening. A year ago, Snyder and his family owned roughly 60% of the team. Now the family owns 100%. Furthermore, Dan Snyder will be able to write a check and put 15 years of sexually exploitive practices behind him.
Perhaps most distressing this week was the proclamation from Dan Snyder in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he hadn't been involved enough in the management of the franchise over the years, promising that he and Tanya would take on a more active role going forward.
Somehow, more Dan Snyder doesn't seem like a good thing.
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