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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

OPINION:

If the NFL is a “mafia,” as Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder reportedly referred to it, then Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay’s declaration that kicking Skipper Dan out deserves “serious consideration” was a Corleone family kiss on the lips.

Fredo should be worried. His days are numbered.


Who would have thought it would be Irsay, the wild man of the NFL (he once outbid Monumental Sports boss Transparent Ted Leonsis for the manuscript to Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” paying $2.4 million) who would step up and deliver the kiss-off to Skipper Dan?

Maybe Irsay, of all the owners, was the most appropriate one to speak about the sins of the Washington owner.

Irsay was suspended for six months and fined $500,000 in 2014 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after pleading guilty to DWI. When it was mentioned to him that the ESPN article claimed Skipper Dan had potentially embarrassing material on fellow NFL owners to use to discourage any move against him, Irsay defiantly said, “He can investigate me till the cows come home; it’s not going to back me off.”

Or, in NFL boardroom terms, “What can that pipsqueak do to me?”

Irsay inherited the Colts franchise from the late Robert Irsay, the man who swept the Colts away from the city of Baltimore in the dark of night.

The elder Irsay died in 1997 as one of the most hated and despised owners in NFL history, his son is now the conscience of the league.

Admittedly, it’s a league that doesn’t have much use for a conscience most of the time, so the job’s been vacant for a while — but the Colts owner stepped up after the owners meetings in New York when no one else was willing. He told the press that Skipper Dan has become an embarrassment to the NFL, a conclusion quietly backed by many other owners at the meeting, Irsay said.

“I assume we’re going to get into more and more discussion on that,” Irsay told reporters. “It’s a difficult situation. I believe that there’s merit to remove him as owner of the [Commanders]. I think it’s something that we have to review. We have to look at all the evidence, and we have to be thorough in going forward. But I think it’s something that has to be given serious consideration to.

“That’s not what we stand for in the National Football League,” Irsay said. “And I think owners have been painted incorrectly a lot of times by various people and under various situations. And that’s not what we’re about. … There’s just a lot of closeness in this league. And I don’t think, some of the things I’ve heard, it doesn’t represent us at all. And I want the American public and the world to know what we’re about as owners.”

He was likely referring to the report they got about the Mary Jo White league investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Skipper Dan. But there is so much more, an exhausting list of probes into the bile that has spewed from Ashburn for more than two decades. The toxicity that Skipper Dan spread throughout his football franchise since he purchased the team in 1999 has now spread to Capitol Hill and NFL headquarters in New York and, if you believe the skipper, could wind up spreading to every owner in the league that dares to stand up to the Commanders owner.

The new Washington Commanders brand has become as toxic as a warning label on a bottle of poison, and it is infecting the rest of the league now.

The Commanders responded with this statement from a spokesperson: “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 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.”

Yes, they will.

This is the finish for Snyder. There’s no going back from this, no recovery. There is no looking in the rear-view mirror two years from now and remembering how Skipper Dan survived this. The once-proud franchise that was one of the league’s healthiest is now diseased, with no cure but to cut out the infection.

It would take 24 owners to vote Snyder out. Various reports say sentiment is growing to do just that. But it has never been done in the league and would likely take the kind of guts that Irsay showed Tuesday to do so. That’s generally in short supply among NFL owners.

What is more likely is that the league will give Skipper Dan the option — jump on his own or get pushed off. That jump could be as high as $7 billion for his football team.

The Denver Broncos sold in August for $4.65 billion. There has been speculation that the Washington franchise is worth $5.6 billion, according to Forbes. 

But this is an NFL club that was once seen as part of the very heart of the league, a living, breathing representation of their product to lawmakers in Washington, where the NFL spends more than $1.5 million annually to influence decision-makers. This team, in the right hands, has special value to the league.

The NFL may set a special asking price for the Commanders, one that would include a sweetener for Skipper Dan. There will likely be no shortage of bidders raising their hands, even at that astronomical price.

Consider this — right now Skipper Dan is costing the owners money. His team is near the bottom of the league in attendance in a garbage dump of a stadium with no hope on the immediate horizon for a new home. Merchandise, television ratings, everything has cratered for this team, in a league where they are used to the arrow going up.

You manage to sell this franchise at the pumped-up value of $7 billion, you just raised the value of every other NFL owner’s team, putting more money in their pockets.

If Skipper Dan won’t go quietly, then there will be an ugly, unprecedented fight. They are at the point of no return. Irsay delivered that message Tuesday with a kiss.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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