Owner Dan Snyder investigation results released as Commanders sale is approved
Jul 20, 2023, 2:25 PM
NFL owners on Thursday unanimously approved the sale of the Washington Commanders from Dan Snyder to a group led by Josh Harris and including Magic Johnson for a record $6.05 billion.
All 32 team owners voted for the sale, which is the highest price paid for a North American professional sports team. After the finance committee approved the agreement with the new ownership group, Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, a special league meeting was called to consider and vote on it before the 2023 season begins.
Snyder was also ordered to pay $60 million to the NFL as the league released results of an independent investigation into Snyder that involved allegations of sexual harassment and financial wrongdoings. One specific account of sexual harassment of former Washington cheerleader and marketing employee Tiffani Johnston was sustained, as were allegations of the team shielding some shared revenues.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones beamed as he walked off an escalator and headed toward the meeting room, granting a brief interview with reporters about the impending sale of his team’s division rival.
“It’s a hallmark day,” Jones said. “I’m excited about the prospects of going into Washington and giving them some capital punishment.”
Snyder had owned his favorite boyhood team since 1999, when he bought it for $800 million. Success was fleeting, both on and off the field. With Snyder in charge, the team made the playoffs just six times in 24 years, only twice won a postseason game and went 166-226-2 overall. The franchise has lost a significant amount of luster from the glory days under coach Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls in his 12-year run from 1981-92.
Then there were the problems outside of football, from a feud with minority owners that led Snyder to buy out their shares of the team to allegations of sexual harassment by former employees, which prompted a series of investigations into workplace misconduct. Over and over again, Snyder said he would never sell the team.
The tide began to shift on that front last October when Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said there was “merit to remove” Snyder, an ouster that would have required votes from at least 24 of the other 31 clubs. Two weeks later, Snyder and his wife Tanya hired a firm to begin exploring a sale of part or all of one of the NFL’s oldest franchises — one that has called the nation’s capital home since 1937.
Ultimately, that process led to a group chaired by Harris. His investment crew also includes David Blitzer, with whom he co-owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, Washington-area businessman Mitchell Rales and more than a dozen others. The unusually large ownership group needed and received league finance approval for a deal that shattered the $4.35 billion Walmart heir Rob Walton paid last year for the Denver Broncos.
The special meeting for the Commanders sale was conducted at the same hotel adjacent to the Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis where Walton’s group gained formal control of the Broncos.
Their biggest immediate challenge for the long-term future of the organization is a new stadium to replace FedEx Field, the rushed-to-completion home of the team since 1997 in Landover, Maryland, that has not aged well. Virginia abandoned a stadium bill more than a year ago, a consequence of the number of off-field controversies swirling around the team.
Bringing the fans back is a major priority after Washington ranked last in the league in attendance in 2022 and second-to-last in 2021. The team rebranded last year as the Commanders after dropping the name Redskins in 2020 and generically going by the Washington Football Team for two seasons.
Snyder’s attorneys attended the meeting. He did not.
Owners also received an in-person update at the meeting from former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White on her investigation for the NFL into the Commanders that began 1½ years ago. That was launched in light of the congressional review into workplace misconduct that also included a referral to the Federal Trade Commission for potential business improprieties by Snyder.
“The conduct substantiated in Ms. White’s findings has no place in the NFL,” Goodell said. “We strive for workplaces that are safe, respectful and professional. What Ms. Johnston experienced is inappropriate and contrary to the NFL’s values.”