Editors note: Jack Bezants originally published this article. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/nfl/article-12321559/Washington-Commanders-6-05BILLION-sale-Josh-Harris-approved-NFL-bringing-Dan-Snyders-era-end.html
The $6.05 billion sale of the Washington Commanders to Josh Harris has been approved by the NFL.
It brings Dan Snyder’s long-running ownership – one of the most turbulent in the league – to an end.
The sale, which was agreed upon in May, is the largest ever paid for a North American sports franchise and was unanimously agreed by NFL owners.
Snyder will net almost a 700 percent return on the $800 million he paid for the franchise in 1999.
The incoming ownership group includes Harris, who also owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, as well as Los Angeles Lakers legend and Dodgers co-owner, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson.
‘Congratulations to Josh Harris and his impressive group of partners,’ NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.
‘Josh will be a great addition to the NFL. He has a remarkable record in business, sports, and in his communities. The diverse group that Josh has put together is outstanding for its business acumen and strong Washington ties and we welcome them to the NFL as well.’
All 32 team owners voted for the sale. After the finance committee approved the agreement with the new ownership group, Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, a special league meeting was called to consider and vote on it before the 2023 season begins.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones beamed as he walked off an escalator and headed toward the meeting room, granting a brief interview with reporters about the impending sale of his team’s division rival.
‘It´s a hallmark day,’ Jones said, via The Associated Press. ‘I´m excited about the prospects of going into Washington and giving them some capital punishment.’
Owners also received an in-person update at the meeting from former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White on her investigation for the NFL into the Commanders that began one-and-a-half years ago.
Goodell made the findings of White’s investigation public later on Thursday afternoon.
‘We appreciate the diligence, thoroughness and professionalism of Ms. White and her team throughout this process,’ said Commissioner Goodell. ‘We pledged to share her findings publicly and are doing so today.’
That was launched in light of the congressional review into workplace misconduct that also included a referral to the Federal Trade Commission for potential business improprieties by Snyder.
Snyder became wealthy in the 1990s after selling his communications firm to a French advertising conglomerate in a $2 billion deal.
The long-time Redskins fan splurged $800 million for the club in 1999, but failed to build a successful culture in Washington amid battles with executives, minority partners, local government officials, the NFL, media and, most of all, disgruntled fans.
Whereas the Redskins were perennial contenders throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s, and into the early 1990s, Snyder’s erratic decisions led to instability and massive turnover.
The team had 27 starting quarterbacks during the Snyder era, as well as 10 head coaches and a .427 winning percentage.
Throughout Snyder’s tenure, the team has been criticized for its now-former nickname, the Redskins, which is considered offensive to Native Americans.
Snyder fought the change for years, but Washington finally dropped the ‘Redskins’ name in 2020 under a wave scrutiny amid the George Floyd protests.
That change – first to the placeholder ‘Washington Football Team’ and then to ‘Commanders’ – also angered many fans and conservatives.
But the problems didn’t end there for Snyder.
After years of disputes, Snyder bought out minority owners Dwight Schar, a home construction executive, Black Diamond Capital CEO Bob Rothman, and FedEx founder Fred Smith in the spring of 2021. The trio had previously filed an injunction in hopes of being allowed to sell their 40.5-percent stake of the team, which Snyder ultimately purchased after the NFL approved a debt-limit waiver, allowing him to take out a $450 million loan from Bank of America.
The former minority partners had reportedly demanded an NFL investigation into the alleged $55 million loan during a confidential arbitration hearing, but at least one source with knowledge of the proceedings told ESPN that Schar, Smith and Rothman believed league commissioner Roger Goodell and general counsel Jeffrey Pash sided with Snyder.
If Snyder did take out the $55 million loan without informing his now-former minority partners, it would have violated the team’s shareholder agreement, according to documents obtained by the AP.
The NFL did not conduct any investigation into the loan, and Snyder has never been penalized over the financial misconduct claims.
The league’s first investigation resulted in a $10 million fine in 2021, but specific allegations against Snyder and the team were never revealed by Goodell, who cited privacy concerns for the controversial decision. A subsequent Congressional probe uncovered further allegations against the team and Snyder.
Sexual harassment allegations against team employees ranged from inappropriate comments to the creation of a lewd behind-the-scenes video from a cheerleader calendar shoot in 2008, according to the 2020 Washington Post report that first uncovered the claims.
Snyder is also accused of telling one cheerleader to visit a hotel room with his friend so they ‘could get to know each other better,’ and inappropriately touching a female employee at a team dinner – both of which, he has denied.
The NFL has since launched a second sexual harassment investigation into the team to verify subsequent claims of misbehavior, including former team employee Tiffani Johnston’s allegation that Snyder grabbed her thigh at a team dinner and pressured her to get into a limousine.
Snyder has denied this claim.
The sexual harassment probes led to other controversies, as well, thanks to the Democrat-led Congressional Oversight Committee investigation.
As a result of that probe, the team was sued by the District of Columbia and fined $250,000 by the state of Maryland for improperly withholding security deposits from season ticket holders.
The NFL investigation also uncovered Gruden’s old emails, containing racist and homophobic language – messages that Snyder is accused of leaking to newspapers in 2021.
Gruden’s emails contained racist references to NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith, who is black, as well as a homophobic slur used to describe Goodell. The long-time Raiders coach resigned in disgrace in October of 2021, but has since sued the NFL and Goodell over the leaks, which he characterized as an ‘orchestrated’ and ‘malicious campaign’ to ‘destroy his career and reputation.’
But while Gruden has accused Goodell of leaking the emails, an ESPN report this week suggested it could have also come from Smith or Snyder, the latter of whom is accused of sharing the messages in an attempt to deflect criticism over a sexual harassment scandal.
Snyder is also alleged to have presented a ‘Blackmail PowerPoint’ to the NFL, containing screenshots and embarrassing messages from league executives. The purpose of the PowerPoint, which Snyder’s attorneys allegedly shared with the league in June of 2021, was to pressure the NFL into withholding details of a sexual harassment investigation into the team and its owner.
There remains a great deal of speculation about the email leak.
Four unnamed team owners told ESPN that they think Goodell was personally involved. Another ownership source said it was league executives who approved the leaked emails, which contained racist and homophobic statements by Gruden, a longtime critic of the league office and Goodell.
The Wall Street Journal reported in October of 2021 that Gruden used a racist term to describe NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith, who is black. Gruden resigned with $100million left on his contract the following day, shortly after The New York Times revealed additional offensive emails, some of which dated back more than a decade. Gruden then sued the league in November of 2021, claiming the NFL and Goodell engaged in a ‘orchestrated a malicious campaign’ to ‘destroy his career and reputation.’
Speaking with ESPN this week, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy repeated the league’s denial that Goodell had any involvement in the leak: ‘Neither the NFL nor the commissioner leaked Coach Gruden’s offensive emails.’
The messages were sent from 2011 to 2018 by Gruden to several people, including former Washington Redskins executive Bruce Allen, while Gruden was an announcer at ESPN. Gruden previously coached in the NFL from 1990 to 2008, including stints with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was rehired by the Raiders in 2018 – two years before the team’s move to Las Vegas.
In one email, Gruden said Smith had ‘lips the size of Michelin tires’ and later referred to him as ‘Dumboriss Smith.’ Additionally, Gruden also used a homophobic term, ‘f*****,’ to describe Goodell in another message.
Raiders owner Mark Davis felt the leaks were a ‘setup,’ but decided to poll current and former team players to gauge whether or not he should fire Gruden, a source told ESPN.
Davis was leaning towards keeping Goodell until, sources say, he was pressured by Goodell to ‘do something’ – a directive the Raiders owner saw as the Commissioner’s effort to protect Snyder.
After all, it was the NFL’s investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Snyder and the Commanders that uncovered Gruden’s emails to Allen in the first place. Furthermore, as one source told ESPN, Goodell told Davis after the initial leak that there were ‘more emails coming.’
But to Davis, the 2021 email leaks appeared to be the NFL’s effort to insulate Snyder from the sexual harassment allegations, and Gruden was simply collateral damage, according to ESPN.
‘F*** the NFL,’ Davis allegedly told Gruden. ‘And f*** Dan Snyder.’
With the sale, the NFL hopes to have turned the page on the Snyder era.
As for Harris and his group, they now take over a team coming off an 8-8-1 season. There are concerns about second-year quarterback Sam Howell and fourth-year coach Ron Rivera enters the season on the hot seat.
Their biggest immediate challenge for the long-term future of the organization is a new stadium to replace FedEx Field, the rushed-to-completion home of the team since 1997 in Landover, Maryland, that has not aged well. Virginia abandoned a stadium bill more than a year ago, a consequence of the number of off-field controversies swirling around the team.
Bringing the fans back is a major priority after Washington ranked last in the league in attendance in 2022 and second-to-last in 2021.