- The Washington Times
Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said he believes there is “merit” to removing Dan Snyder as the owner of the Washington Commanders — the first time another NFL owner has said publicly that years of allegations of misconduct and improprieties could result in the league forcing a sale of the team.

Irsay, talking to reporters Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting in New York, said Snyder’s removal should be given “serious consideration” by his fellow owners. Under the league’s bylaws, it would take 24 of 32 votes to oust Snyder, but that would be an unprecedented step, as the NFL has never formally enacted the measure. 

Irsay said he thinks there are “potentially” 24 votes to remove the Washington billionaire.

But he added that the league would have to wait for conclusions from the league’s second investigation into Snyder and the Commanders before any vote would take place. The league hired former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White to launch a new probe earlier this year following misconduct allegations against Snyder in February. 

“Once owners talk amongst each other, they’ll arrive to the right decision,” Irsay said. “My belief is — unfortunately, I believe that’s the road we probably need to go down and we just need to finish the investigation. 

“But it’s gravely concerning to me the things that have occurred there over the last 20 years.” 

Irsay made the comments in the lobby of a downtown Manhattan hotel between sessions of Tuesday’s meetings. He said the allegations of inappropriate behavior in the Commanders’ workplace — more than 40 women have said they witnessed or experienced sexual harassment while working for the team — go against the NFL’s values.

“It’s an unfortunate situation, but I believe it’s in the best interest of the National Football League that we look it squarely in the eye and deal with it,” he said. “I think America, the world expects us to as leaders.” 

A Washington spokesperson said in a statement that the Snyder family won’t consider selling the Commanders.

“It is highly inappropriate, but not surprising, that Mr. Irsay opted to make statements publicly based on falsehoods in the media. It is unfortunate that Mr. Irsay decided to go public with his statement today, while an investigation is in process, and the team has had no opportunity to formally respond to allegations,” the spokesperson said. “The Commanders have made remarkable progress over the past two years. 

“We are confident that, when he has an opportunity to see the actual evidence in this case, Mr. Irsay will conclude that there is no reason for the Snyders to consider selling the franchise.  And they won’t.”

Irsay’s criticism of a fellow owner — almost unheard of in the fraternity of billionaires who run the NFL — reflects the growing sense that Snyder has become a problem the league can no longer tolerate. 

After Tuesday’s meetings concluded, a number of other owners quickly exited as they declined to address Irsay’s comments or Snyder standing in the league

“This is a media issue more than it is an ownership issue,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “So we didn’t talk about anything that I can talk about.” 

Jones — who has softened in his support for Snyder, according to ESPN, though Jones denied the report — said he wasn’t going to divulge what the owners discussed in their closed-door session.  Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, “You’d have to ask them” when asked if other owners agreed with Irsay. He then walked away when asked if he personally agreed with Irsay

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave terse answers when asked about Irsay and Snyder. The league’s top executive said White’s probe isn’t completed, adding there was no timeline for it to be done. 

“I said it to the membership: Speculation without facts is not a very positive thing to do,” Goodell said. “Everyone deserves to have the facts and membership will have that opportunity.” 

Asked if he was surprised or disappointed Irsay spoke out, Goodell replied “no.” He said “everyone deserves a fair opportunity” and the league would see what White’s investigation finds when he asked if Snyder was good for the league.

Last week, an ESPN bombshell put the Commanders back in the spotlight with a report that Snyder has claimed to have “dirt” on several owners and Goodell. The team strongly denied the report, though the story was the latest in what has been a stormy sea of controversy for Snyder and his football team. 

Irsay said he could “care less” if Snyder has dirt on fellow owners. 

“You could investigate me ‘til the cows come home,” Irsay said. “That’s not going to back me off.” 

In a letter sent to every owner Tuesday, Snyder maintained he never hired private investigators to look into other owners or Goodell, calling the allegation “patently false.” 

“Having the privilege to own a franchise in America’s sport is something I know none of us take for granted,” Snyder said in his letter. “Falsehoods and lies being spread about any of our organizations hurts our League, our players and our fans, and we simply cannot let them go unchallenged. … If you have any questions, Tanya and I are always available to answer them, and we look forward to discussing these issues with you at the appropriate time.”

Irsay said he believes the NFL has properly handled its investigations into Snyder. In July 2021, the league fined Washington $10 million and announced Snyder would step away from day-to-day operations for “several months.” But Snyder was never formally suspended, and his troubles continued to mount. 

There are at least four active investigations, with Congress, the NFL and attorneys general in the District and Virginia looking into charges made against Snyder and the team.

The Washington Post reported Monday that District Attorney General Karl Racine, the District of Columbia’s top prosecutor, was close to completing his probe and that he plans to take further action, with one anonymous source vowing that Snyder, the Commanders and the NFL would “soon face accountability for their actions.”

The team plays in Maryland and is headquartered in Virginia, but has cooperated with Racine’s investigation.

A fifth probe, from the NFL and the NFLPA, is also looking into whether the Commanders complied with its prescription drug monitoring program after former trainer Ryan Vermillion entered into a deferred prosecution agreement for illegally obtaining and distributing painkillers, though that’s not directly targeting Snyder

Irsay said he didn’t know if the league would try to convince Snyder to voluntarily sell the team so that a formal vote wouldn’t have to be issued. But the league “has to act” once White’s investigation is complete, he said. 

He said his issue with Snyder wasn’t “personal,” but noted the Washington owner’s removal would be in the best interest of the NFL

“I believe there’s merit to remove him as owner of the Redskins,” Irsay said, referring to the Commanders’ former moniker. “I think it’s something we have to review. We have to look at all the evidence and be thorough in going forward, but I think it’s something that has to be given serious consideration.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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