The Washington Commanders are responding to claims that owner Dan Snyder has "dirt" on fellow National Football League owners after a report was published by ESPN describing Snyder's fight to hold onto the franchise.
According to the report, several owners say Snyder's threats are a tactic intended to scare them from voting to remove him as he faces lawsuits and investigations on multiple fronts.
It also claims that Snyder has told close associates that over his career as owner he has compiled detailed records and damaging information on team owners, and league office executives - including Goodell – through private investigators and other sources.
The report comes as Snyder is already in hot water. In October 2021, the House Oversight Committee sent a letter requesting all documents related to an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, and other workplace misconduct from top executives at the team.
In February, the Committee learned more about the allegations against the team from former employees, after holding a roundtable where employees widespread sexual harassment, abuse, and other workplace misconduct by top executives, including team owner Daniel Snyder, and explained that the League failed to address these issues.
The Committee then told the FTC in April that it had found evidence of deceptive business practices over the span of more than a decade, including withholding ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable deposits from fans.
Snyder has denied the sexual assault allegations and the team has denied any financial wrongdoing.
The Commanders responded Thursday to the report from ESPN, denying the claims as "categorically untrue."
"It’s hard to imagine a piece that is more categorically untrue, and is clearly part of a well-funded, two-year misinformation campaign to coerce the sale of the team, which will continue to be unsuccessful," says a Commanders spokesperson.
The team denies that Snyder hired private investigators to look into other NFL owners, that Synder said the NFL is a "mafia," and that Synder has "a file" on Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
"Although they are tough competitors on the playing field, the two families have great respect and admiration for one another and look forward to the time when the next generation of Joneses and Snyders continue their respective teams’ legacies," says representatives from the law firm Holland & Knight.
The team also denies that Snyder is not allowing Commanders President Jason Wright to make his own decisions.
"Dan and Tanya got to know and hired me as a result of my consulting work for the team. I have been fully empowered by the Snyders to do my job as I see fit," says Wright.
Here are the Commanders responses to the claims from ESPN's report in full.
On Snyder hiring private investigators:
Commanders spokesperson: "This is categorically false. Dan has never hired or authorized a private investigator to investigate the owner of any other NFL franchise, nor has he hired anyone to do so on his behalf. He has no ‘dossiers’ compiled on any owners."
On Snyder calling the NFL a mafia:
Commanders spokesperson: "This is simply ridiculous and utterly false. Dan has never said that nor does he think it. Owners have a shared love of the game, a mutual respect for each other and our organizations, and a strong working relationship that has enabled the League to continue to grow and adapt to enhance the experience of professional football for everyone."
On Snyder having "dirt" on Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones:
Holland & Knight representative: "Dan Snyder never made the statement as alleged by ESPN’s anonymous source. Dan and Tanya Snyder have a close and strong relationship with Jerry Jones and his entire family. Although they are tough competitors on the playing field, the two families have great respect and admiration for one another and look forward to the time when the next generation of Joneses and Snyders continue their respective teams’ legacies. We also understand that certain people believe their own interests will be advanced by convincing news outlets like ESPN to print false information about the Snyders and Joneses. These kinds of tactics have failed in the past and will fail in the future."
On Snyder settling an allegation of sexual misconduct in 2009:
Sullivan & Cromwell and Holland & Knight representatives: "As Mr. Snyder testified under oath to the House Oversight Committee, an investigation found that the alleged incident never occurred. He also testified that the insurance company recommended that the settlement would be far less expensive than the cost to arbitrate the matter, so it was settled."
On Snyder's involvement in running the team and his say in acquiring Carson Wentz:
Holland & Knight representative: "Dan Snyder agreed with the NFL that he would step away from day-to-day operations of for a limited period, and he is no longer under any NFL restriction related to his involvement with the team. That said, Jason Wright has, from day one, done such an outstanding job as Team President, that there has been little need for Dan to involve himself in the Team’s operations. Tanya also has been very engaged and hands on. Tanya continues to represent the Team at NFL meetings as a committed, effective, longstanding co-owner, and one of the small group of women owners. That decision is, however, a decision made jointly by Tanya and Dan, and is not as a result of any requirement imposed by the NFL."
Head Coach Ron Rivera: "Prior to the start of free agency, I went to Dan and Tanya’s home, and told them Carson Wentz was one of the quarterbacks at the top of our list and as always, the Snyders were supportive of our vision for building this roster. The Snyders continue to support our coaching staff and our players. They love this game and this team."
On the hiring of President Jason Wright:
Jason Wright: "Dan and Tanya got to know and hired me as a result of my consulting work for the team. I have been fully empowered by the Snyders to do my job as I see fit. As to whether I have been trying to make clear to the public that things are different now than they were years ago, the answer is yes. I think it is important for the media to make that clear: this organization changed years ago and is a model for what committed leadership can do to transform a workplace when problems are raised to their attention. We are today a far more diverse and inclusive team, with women and people of color holding more than 40 percent of our senior leadership positions."
Commanders spokesperson: "We heard the same veiled racism when the team hired Jason. Let’s be clear: Jason earned his position, and he is excelling in it. He is empowered by ownership and has already made significant changes, including work to enhance the team’s diversity and inclusivity. And those changes are proving, as studies have long shown, that increased diversity and inclusivity make not only for a better workplace, but a better business. Under Jason’s leadership, we have seen more than doubling of our season ticket holders, a nearly 30 percent increase in sponsorships, and we are No. 3 in the league in new suite sales. We hope that puts an end to the false and offensive claims about why Jason is in his position."
On Wright's ability to "make change" within the team:
Jason Wright: "What I believe is that the team’s ownership made changes years ago that do not receive the respect and attention they are due. Too many workplaces fail to make these changes, and here is an example of a business that did the right thing, decisively, and is committed to doing the right thing. I think it’s easy for people to take false shots at the owners of the team, but it’s actually hard to deliberately fail to report on the important changes they have supported us to make. Again, I have been as empowered as any president in this league to drive the change we need. We are not the organization we were two years ago. The change has been transformational, and monitored and verified by independent consultant Vestry Laight, as publicly acknowledged by the League. I believe these changes should be looked to as a model for leaders who really want to do the hard work of organizational change and I hope the media will draw attention to them for the benefit of all workplaces."