The decision of the NFL’s owners to allow Daniel Snyder to purchase the minority interest in the Washington Football Team has been interpreted as a sign that the league will not be forcing Snyder to sell. Lawyers representing those who have made claims of sexual harassment and related misconduct against the organization during Snyder’s tenure have complained about the outcome.
According to Matthew Paras of the Washington Times, attorneys representing women accusing Snyder’s team of workplace wrongdoing sent a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell after the owners, in a 32-0 vote, agreed to let Snyder exceed the debt limit to borrow enough money to buy 40.5 percent of the team for nearly $900 million.
The letter cites the reported recommendation (apparently not final when leaked) from attorney Beth Wilkinson that Snyder be required to sell the team.
“We are shocked that you have not only ignored that recommendation, but have instead facilitated an arrangement that leaves Mr. Snyder in a stronger ownership position than before,” the letter explains. “Today’s actions by the NFL and its owners give everyone great concern that your past statements characterizing the conduct of the organization as ‘abhorrent’ were just hollow and meaningless words to appease those who have bravely stepped forward and spoken up.”
From the moment the controversy first emerged, there’s never been a sense that the league will take extreme action against Snyder. It surely would involve a protracted legal fight. Perhaps more importantly, it would represent a precedent that eventually could be applied against other owners who find themselves the target of workplace allegations that they regard, rightly or wrongly, as baseless.
Frankly, the “it could be me next” mindset surely is a factor, at some level, in the other owners favoring a fine or maybe a suspension over a forced sale. Once the bridge of an involuntary surrender of the franchise is crossed, it can’t be uncrossed.
Whether the owners would force a sale represents a far different question than whether they should. Regardless, when the decision is being made only by persons who would then potentially face the same fate at some vague and undefined point in the future, it’s easy to understand why they’re unwilling to press that specific button.