SNIDER: NFL review isn't good news for Snyder


Is the NFL about to get tough on Washington owner Dan Snyder?

The league announcement that it's taking over a review of alleged sexual and verbal harassment of team employees from a Washington law firm hired by Dan Snyder could produce sterner consequences. If nothing else, it will provide more credibility and independence to the report.

The NFL Network announced the new review on Monday, saying NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with Snyder, who supported the move. The Washington law firm of Wilkinson Walsh LLP led by attorney Beth Wilkinson will now report to the NFL directly. The move prevents a potential conflict of interest of reviewing the person who pays for the report. The NFL front office initially recommended Wilkinson to Snyder when allegations arose in July.

The Washington Post first reported 15 female employees and two female reporters were sexually harassed. The team fired two male employees while a third retired on the eve of the report. Since then, the Post reported another 25 women came forward with allegations of misconduct. A second Post report detailed claims that included team employees making sexually explicit videos of cheerleaders during a calendar photo shoot for Snyder, while one cheerleader claimed the owner tried to have her meet with his friend in a private room.

Snyder has denied all allegations of misconduct.

Meanwhile, Washington attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz of Katz, Marshall and Banks LLP now represent at least 15 former employees in preparation for a possible lawsuit. Banks and Katz have met with the NFL and want Snyder suspended pending the inquiry’s results and forced to sell if found guilty of misconduct.

Is the NFL's move just a PR stunt or a red flag for Snyder? There is precedent for the NFL taking over an investigation. In 2017, the league assumed an internal review by the Carolina Panthers. Owner Jerry Richardson was accused of sexual misconduct and using racist language towards his staff. The NFL later fined Richardson $2.75 million for inappropriate conduct that Sports Illustrated reported included asking women staffers to turn around so he could see their bodies. SI found four women received monetary settlements with non-disclosure agreements and another one settlement with a team scout due to racist language.

Richardson abruptly sold the team he owned for 25 years in May 2018. A statue of Richardson outside the team’s stadium was removed in June.

The NFL won’t easily rid itself of Snyder if found guilty of a major conduct violation. The owner doesn’t want to sell despite three minority owners comprising 40 percent of the team urging him to do so.

Snyder could deflect sanctions by offering recent changes that made the team’s front office one of the league’s more diverse. After hiring Latino coach Ron Rivera earlier this year, Snyder recently named the NFL's first Black president in Jason Wright and appointed Julie Donaldson to lead its communications and broadcasting team. Snyder also changed the team's controversial Redskins name to Washington Football Team pending a search into permanent options.

It was easier for the NFL to convince Richardson at 82 years old to retire. Snyder is only 55 and has no plans to sell the team he purchased in 1999. The NFL could force Snyder to sell if three-fourths of its 32 owners vote for a sale. The league could also fine Snyder or strip the team of draft picks.

Richardson was one of the league leaders as a former player whose Hardee’s restaurant chain enabled him to become an owner. He held positions on many prominent committees. Snyder has few allies league-wide and no committee positions. If the NFL can force out Richardson, it can certainly do so to Snyder.

However, unless Snyder is directly named to misdoings, the NFL at best fines the team if front office allegations are proven.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks