Whether it takes three months or three years, Dan Snyder is done as owner of the Washington Commanders.
He can leave with his reputation — what’s left of it, at least — intact. Or he can fight his fellow owners, dragging the team and league he supposedly loves so much even further into his self-made swamp of fetid muck. Either way, the result will be the same: Snyder several billion dollars richer and someone else owning the Commanders.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was the only one to publicly call out Snyder on Tuesday and acknowledge the damage he’s been done to all 32 teams. But make no mistake, Irsay was saying what other owners, probably many of them, are thinking and, in the process, sent Snyder the message that it’s time for him to go.
“I believe that there’s merit to remove him as owner,” Irsay told reporters at the NFL’s fall meeting. “I think it’s something that we have to review. We have to look at all the evidence and we have to be thorough in going forward. But I think it’s something that has to be given serious consideration.”
Asked if there are the 24 votes required to force Snyder to sell, Irsay said, “I think potentially there will be. But we’ll see.”
Irsay’s comments by themselves are stunning. NFL owners are so tight-lipped about anything that could reflect poorly on the league or one another, they make the Mafia look like the panel of hosts on a daytime talk show.
But when you step back and consider who delivered the message, and the response to it, it seems clear this was carefully coordinated.
According to a jaw-dropping report by ESPN last week, Snyder has hired private investigators to get “dirt” on commissioner Roger Goodell and some fellow owners, including Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, as a means of protecting himself. But Irsay’s failings are already public, giving him the ability to speak freely in a way other owners maybe cannot.
“You can investigate me until the cows come home. That’s not going to back me off,” said Irsay, who was suspended by Goodell for six months after a 2014 DWI arrest and has been open about his addiction to painkillers.
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“I just focus on … what’s happened in Washington and, to me, it’s gravely concerning.”
Asked if he was surprised by Irsay’s comments, Goodell said, “No.” He also said he told owners – after Irsay had already spoken to reporters, conveniently – not to say or do anything until Mary Jo White’s report is finished.
“There’s no reason for there to be any speculation at this point in time or discussion until we have the facts,” Goodell said. “That was my message to the ownership and there was little or no discussion.”
Nor was there any as owners left the meeting. No one chimed in to agree with Irsay but, more notably, no one came to Snyder’s defense, either. Not even Jones, who in addition to being the NFL’s most powerful owner has previously been a Snyder supporter.
Snyder has been an embarrassment to the league for years now, alienating fans and civic leaders alike with his arrogance and ego. He refused to change the team’s racist nickname until sponsors forced his hand. He can’t get a stadium deal done, and Congress is looking into possible financial improprieties. Stories abound of his pettiness.
It is the steady drip, drip, drip of accusations of sexual misconduct that have finally proven to be too much, however.
Snyder is the subject of an investigation by former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who is looking into, among other things, the claim by a former cheerleader who said Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, putting his hand on her thigh and trying to get her into his limo. White has also interviewed a former Washington employee who Snyder paid off in 2009 after she said he groped her, asked her for sex and tried to remove her clothes on the team plane.
This is not to be confused with the investigation by Beth Wilkinson, who last year found a toxic and misogynistic culture at the Commanders. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform later said Snyder had tried to interfere with Wilkinson’s investigation.
Not the kind of company NFL owners want to keep.
“That’s not what we stand for in the National Football League,” Irsay said. “And I think owners have been painted incorrectly a lot of times by various people and under various situations, and that’s not what we’re about.
“Some of the things I’ve heard don’t represent us at all.”
Snyder will surely fight efforts to make him sell, but it won’t do any good. Irsay’s comments made clear that Snyder has lost his fellow owners, making it inevitable that he’s going to lose his team, too.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.