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Report: Snyder’s Status With NFL May Hinge on Stadium Deal

Sports Illustrated 10/13/2022 Daniela Perez
© Provided by Sports Illustrated

Public outcry has halted a new Commanders’ venue and some reportedly have plans that could halt it altogether to oust Snyder.

One NFL owner claims some owners would forgive Commanders’ head Dan Snyder and the team’s financial struggles and troubling misconduct allegations if he built a new stadium, ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr., Seth Wickersham and Tisha Thompson reported Thursday.

It’s the latest revelation in ESPN’s report centered on the “dirt” Snyder has accumulated on team owners and league officials during his tenure as the Commanders’ owner. Washington’s financial issues have been the focus of many—including a congressional committee—but some NFL owners appear to be more annoyed by the team’s monetary struggles than by the sexual harassment and workplace misconduct allegations levied against the franchise, ESPN reported. 

The same owner told the network Snyder is aware that owners may forgive him if a new stadium comes to fruition. However, public outcry has halted the building of a new Commanders venue, and according to the report, some league executives are considering plans that could halt a stadium build altogether in an attempt to oust Snyder. 

“Some owners aren’t liked in their cities because their team is losing,” the owner told ESPN. “That goes with the territory. Snyder isn’t liked because of what he has done to that franchise, with all its history. The stadium is falling apart. The team is underperforming. He can’t get a new stadium. There’s no way out. … He may have passed the point of no return.”

Snyder was close to securing a new stadium in March after Virginia’s legislature passed a stadium bill for a $3 billion complex that included an amphitheater, shops, apartments and a practice facility, all of which would surround a 55,000-seat Commanders stadium. It was sent to a conference committee for lawmakers to work out issues in the bill and then meant to be sent to the governor, who reportedly supported it. 

However, several former Washington employees detailed their experiences with sexual harassment and workplace misconduct in a hybrid roundtable hosted by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, causing many state residents to vehemently oppose the building of a new stadium. 

“Using taxpayer funding to pay for anything having to do with this stadium is morally reprehensible,” one Virginian said via email, per ESPN. 

A supervisor in Prince William County, where Washington was looking to build, sent a survey out to residents in June regarding the stadium. It found that 85% of 850 residents did not want the stadium to be built, ESPN reported. 

The bill was abandoned in June. Many owners told ESPN they were stunned Snyder’s bill was squandered despite its support from lawmakers. 

Washington currently plays at FedExField, which opened in 1997 with a capacity of more than 80,000. During Snyder’s 23 years as owner, capacity and attendance have dwindled dramatically. In September, the team reduced its capacity from almost 68,000 to between 62,000 to 63,000, per The Washington Times. From 2005 to ’10, the stadium’s capacity was reportedly more than 90,000. 

The last time the Commanders had the highest attendance in the league was in 2008, when they drew 708,835 fans during the team’s home games. Last season the Commanders held the second-lowest mark in the NFL. They averaged just 52,751 fans per home game for a total of 422,009. 

FedExField has faced recent scrutiny after a railing collapsed and multiple fans fell onto the field after the Commanders’ 20–16 loss to Philadelphia in January. Several fans denied Washington’s claims that they were offered “onsite medical evaluation” following the railing collapse, and now four of those who fell are suing the franchise

Despite the stadium’s issues and a clear consensus that a new one is needed, some have plans to stop Snyder from building one. According to ESPN, a few owners and executives have talked about potentially refusing to give Snyder the $200 million loan given to teams building a new stadium, an attempt to try and get the Washington owner to sell the team or to transfer the team permanently over to his wife, Tanya. 

“The league’s only real tool is to starve him from the funds to build a stadium,” a team president told ESPN. 

The NFL is investigating new allegations stemming from the House Committee’s probe into workplace misconduct in the Commanders franchise. The league initially conducted an investigation after former employees cited sexual harassment in 2020. Attorney Beth Wilkinson and her firm investigated, and Snyder was levied $10 million fine as a result, but the probe’s findings were never released to the public.

Tanya assumed the team’s day-to-day operations in July 2021. The league’s initial probe catalyzed the House Committee to launch its own investigation into the organization, consistently pressing commissioner Roger Goodell to release the Wilkinson investigation findings. The House Committee’s findings caused the NFL to open a new probe led by U.S. attorney and former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White in February.

The House Committee and NFL’s investigations are still ongoing.

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