If the NFL ever forces Dan Snyder to sell the Washington Commanders, article 8.13 (B) of the NFL’s constitution and bylaws would help facilitate the move. That’s the legal clause that gives the league’s executive committee the power to expel one of its owners as long as the measure earns a three-fourths majority vote.
Such action has never been taken in the NFL — and it may be too premature to realistically entertain such a notion.
But at the very least, tension appears to exist between the NFL and Snyder — a tension that led Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio to report on NBC’s Super Bowl pregame show Sunday that the league’s owners have a sense that the “time may have come for Dan Snyder to move on” after a new wave of allegations.
The NBC report was just one of the latest ways that Snyder and the NFL have been pitted against each other in the last week. On Wednesday, the league was reportedly blindsided by the fact that Snyder planned to start an investigation into new claims against him made by former team employee Tiffani Johnston — an investigation the league quickly looked to undercut, with Commissioner Roger Goodell saying that the team couldn’t investigate itself.
That same day, the NFL sent a letter to the House Oversight and Reform Committee that blamed the Commanders for impeding Congress’ investigation of the NFL’s probe. The league wrote that the Commanders were blocking the release of more than 100,000 documents on a third-party server, documents that the committee has requested.
Where does this go? The answer is unknown, but what is clear: There’s been a notable shift in how the league has acted. And it doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.
Monday was another important date for the committee’s probe into the NFL. The league had until 11:59 p.m. to turn over the rest of the requested documents from the league’s first probe into Washington’s workplace.
It was not immediately clear whether the NFL obliged with the demand, but in last week’s letter, the league paved the way to blame Washington for the delay in materials. Beyond the 109,000 documents on the third-party server, the league also implied that the Commanders had been misleading the committee in terms of how many documents the team has labeled as privileged in a letter dated Jan. 28.
“The team states in that letter, which had not previously been shared with the NFL, that it had asserted privilege over just four documents,” the league wrote. “The Committee should be aware that on the same day the team sent that letter to the Committee, the team asserted privilege over several dozen additional documents, bringing the total number of documents the team specifically asserted privilege over to 92.
“It also does not appear that the team made clear to the Committee that, as the team well knows, the NFL has identified many documents that were preliminarily determined by the NFL to be subject to a team privilege during its rolling review and production of the team’s documents.”
Still, over the six-page letter, the NFL’s main message to the House committee appears to be: “Don’t blame us.” The league not only pushed back by pointing the finger at the Commanders, but also tried to give explanations for entering into a common interest agreement with Washington and not releasing a written report from lead investigator Beth Wilkinson last summer.
“In no way is the NFL obstructing or seeking to obstruct the Committee’s investigation, and valid assertions of applicable privileges by the NFL should not be characterized as doing anything of the sort,” the league writes.
By shifting the blame to Snyder, one has to wonder how the embattled billionaire will respond. Will the investigation from Pallas Global Group LLC — the law firm that Snyder hired to look into Johnston’s claims — carry on despite the NFL’s insistence? Ever since the team’s workplace misconduct surfaced, Snyder has been aggressive in how he has approached defending himself.
Remember, Snyder went to court against former business partners and accused them of launching a “misinformation campaign” to try to get him to sell the team. The Washington Post also detailed ways Snyder tried to impede Wilkinson’s investigation, though he denied those claims. And earlier this month, Snyder called Johnston’s accusations “outright lies.”
If history is any indication, more conflict lies ahead for a story that won’t stop anytime soon.
“I do believe that clubs do have the authority to remove an owner from the league,” Goodell said last week.
• Matthew Paras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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