NEW YORK – If the day comes when Dan Snyder, finally, once and for all, and by whatever method it happens, finds himself without an NFL franchise, October 18 will be remembered as a milestone on the path.
And on Tuesday, the gloves took off.
While no other owner has gone where Colts owner Jim Irsay did so voluntarily, inside the posh Lower Manhattan hotel where the NFL fall meeting was held it was clear which way the wind was blowing over the future of commanders. And that future looks increasingly like it won’t include the guy who bought the team 23 years ago.
Snyder isn’t walking a metaphorical Green Mile property yet. But this is clearly in sight.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was blunt early Tuesday night when he said outside of his own owners guide to allow Mary Jo White to complete her investigation before commenting on Snyder, there hasn’t been much discussion about Snyder. behind closed doors. What he didn’t mention is what was happening in between sessions, during text messaging and in meeting rooms and meeting space corridors.
There, among themselves, the owners were discussing what to do with Snyder and his commanders. It started as soon as the owners entered the hotel. It escalated after Irsay said there are “potentially” 24 votes to remove Snyder from the position of co-owner of the commanders.
The temperature, very clearly, has been raised. And now it’s gotten to the point where a stalemate seems to loom, with Snyder more or less challenging the owners to vote him out, and on multiple occasions.
The first came last week when a spokesman for the commanders, in a written statement, called ESPN’s complaint about Snyder “part of a well-funded two-year campaign to force the sale of the team, which will continue to be unsuccessful.” . The second came on Tuesday, after Irsay spoke, when the same spokesperson in another statement said, “We are confident that when he has the opportunity to see the actual evidence in this case, Mr. Irsay will conclude that he does not. there is reason for the Snyders to consider selling the franchise. And they won’t. “
If Snyder comes out as a cornered animal, well, there’s a reason for that. He must know the score here. That another owner was willing to go on the offensive – and suggest setting the precedent of voting out of the club for an equal and forcing the sale of a multi-billion dollar commodity – is very significant.
The tenor of the meeting changed when Irsay let 13 words cross his lips in reference to Snyder.
“I believe there is merit in removing him as the owner of the [Commanders]. “
The reporters gathered filled it with follow-up. Irsay doubled, doubled and doubled down. Beside him on the nearby flight of stairs was Colts president Pete Ward, who had a slight smile and didn’t seem at all surprised by his boss’s comments. A couple of NFL public relations staff members were also within earshot.
And Irsay’s voice sometimes trembled with emotion as he continued to bury Snyder. Looking at him, it was clear as day to me, having been close to Irsay, that this was deeply meaningful to him. He had thought about it a lot, something further reinforced by the lack of surprise on Ward’s face and the others around him.
So I tracked down Irsay later in the afternoon and asked him, in a quiet moment, why it was so important to him to do what he did. He mentioned that he had his 13-year-old granddaughter, Charlotte, at training camp this summer, and that it would be the fourth generation of ownership in his family, and what the impact of the sexual harassment allegations is against Snyder and culture. some toxic work under his control would have on her.
“Getting to know Wellington [Mara] and Dan Rooney and Lamar [Hunt] and the owners over the years, I know what we do as owners, ”he told me. “Even on the last day I had the opportunity to speak [former 49ers owner] Eddie De Bartolo [Jr.] And [former commissioner] Paul Tagliabue and just a little remember the context of the past decades and the things that have happened. All of these things give you some direction and vision.
“I don’t like the fact that sometimes the way owners are viewed, people think we can do whatever we want, with all kinds of problems that are out there. Because that’s not true, ”continued Irsay. “This is not what we stand for, this kind of thing. I mean, it absolutely isn’t. So the championship is very important to me. I was taught by the founders of the league and, as I said, Lamar [of the Chiefs] and Wellington [Giants] and Dan Rooney [Steelers] that you do what’s best for the Colts but also what’s best for the league.
“You have to protect the shield to protect the league, and I don’t like seeing the shield damaged. And right now, the shield is taking damage from all of this.
There is also an important context in which Irsay was the owner to say something: his own past is checkered and he was once suspended after pleading guilty to driving under the influence of oxycodone and hydrocodone (he later said that the accident helped him cope with his drug addiction). So, being the only one to stand up to Snyder, he also put himself in the line of fire, opening up to Snyder’s retaliation.
His response to the idea of all this, and the possibility that Snyder might answer him, was implicitly, Take it. Clearly, this was too big for Irsay to keep his mouth shut. And for him, it connects with the women in his life.
“No questions,” he said. “Only by having three daughters and seven grandchildren, I can relate to that sort of thing: my seven granddaughters, as they venture into different forms of organization work. I know the culture we have in Indianapolis. I know the special culture we have and the family atmosphere we have developed there. This is important for me, and I think it is important for many owners in this championship, because that is what we do. “
Other owners have shown patience in waiting for the results of the White report. Not Irsay.
At the end of the day, the owner of the Jaguars, Shad Khan, stood on the corner of a street outside the hotel, about to board a black Escalade to drive home, and said it was important for him to be loyal to him. all the people involved. So he said he would wait for the White report to come out to offer comment.
“Once it comes out,” he said, getting into the SUV, “everyone will have an opinion.”
The problem, for now, as Irsay has also seen it, is that the league and owners will continue to suffer the brunt of Snyder’s PR damage until then. Right or not, people will ask, If they just watch and shut up, are they all like him?
Irsay’s message emphatically fought that perception and, quietly, at least a couple of other owners cheered him for it. As for the next one, it really depends on how quickly White completes his investigation, the results and then, finally, the stomach that the other owners have for sanctioning a guy who clearly made everyone else in the room look absolutely horrible. .
Will they be willing to tackle the greenhouse problem Irsay has made, risking Snyder to start airing everyone’s dirty laundry, according to the ESPN report? Are they okay with setting a precedent that could lead to pressure for others to sell their teams if they go off the line? Would they agree to take legal responsibility to oust one of them, with Snyder’s contentious past a strong indicator that he would break the lawyers again in such a circumstance?
A longtime executive said Tuesday night that he doubted they would. He suggested that if White finds what most people assume about Snyder to be true, the NFL should have Cowboys owner Jerry Jones go to Snyder and essentially say, “It’s time, I’ll give you your $ 7 billion. You have to leave. .
Jones, for his part, was not tilting his hand much as he walked out of the hotel when asked, as Snyder’s longtime defender, if he was still the right owner for the team.
“We all agreed we wouldn’t comment,” Jones said. “We simply wouldn’t offer any comment. But I know this, I said it, I don’t know anything. And I grew up in the article. I am not aware of anything that has any basis. Period.”
What wasn’t said was where Jones places himself on Snyder, the man who created this mess for everyone in the first place.
And that said it all.
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