NEW YORK — For the first time, an NFL owner publicly has called for serious consideration to remove Washington‘s Dan Snyder from NFL ownership.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay held an explosive interview scrum at the fall meetings Tuesday and called Snyder’s missteps as owner, particularly with workplace misconduct, “gravely concerning.”
“I believe there is merit to removing him as owner of the [Commanders],” Irsay said from the hotel lobby of the Conrad New York Downtown. “There’s consideration that he should be removed.”
The Mary Jo White investigations into Washington’s years of alleged workplace misconduct and financial improprieties under Snyder are at the root of the issue, said Irsay, who stressed that the league “potentially” could have a majority vote from owners to unseat Snyder. White, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairwoman, is probing the matter on behalf of the NFL.
The league requires 24 of 32 owners to approve such a vote, which never has been done at the NFL level.
Irsay said that no vote will take place at Tuesday’s meetings and that owners need to hear more about where the investigation stands.
A recent ESPN investigation detailed the matter while painting Snyder’s shrewd plans against fellow owners, using private investigators to acquire “dirt” from their past.
“Some of the things I’ve heard doesn’t represent us at all,” Irsay said. “I want the American public to know what we’re about as owners. … You can’t shy away from the fact that, I believe it’s in the best interest of the National Football League that we look at this squarely in the eyes and deal with it.”
Snyder sent a letter to fellow NFL owners addressing the ESPN investigation and refuting his alleged use of private investigators.
“That is patently false and intended to erode the trust and goodwill between owners that I take quite seriously,” he told his counterparts according to the letter, which was obtained by ESPN and dated Oct. 17. “I have never hired any private investigator to look into any owner or the Commissioner. I have never instructed or authorized my lawyers to hire any private investigator on my behalf for any such purpose. And I never would.”
A vote to remove Snyder as owner could come as soon as the winter meetings, said Irsay, who noted owners must receive a thorough and detailed status report.
“That’s not what we stand for in the National Football League,” he said. “I think owners have been painted incorrectly a lot of times by various people and various situations. That’s not what we’re about.”
A Commanders spokesperson called Irsay’s comments “inappropriate” and said results of current investigations will cause Irsay to see Snyder in a better light.
“It is highly inappropriate, but not surprising, that Mr. Irsay opted to make statements publicly based on falsehoods in the media,” the Commanders spokesperson said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Irsay decided to go public with his statement today, while an investigation is in process, and the team has had no opportunity to formally respond to allegations. The Commanders have made remarkable progress over the past two years. We are confident that, when he has an opportunity to see the actual evidence in this case, Mr. Irsay will conclude that there is no reason for the Snyders to consider selling the franchise. And they won’t.”
Irsay said Snyder’s issues have a “long, long history,” and the allegations of workplace misconduct span more than a decade. In July, Snyder began testifying before a congressional committee investigating the team’s history. The hearing was not made public.
White’s investigations into the workplace and financial allegations are ongoing. Irsay said league owners should be “updated a lot more thoroughly and clearly.”
While Irsay wasn’t sure about whether Snyder could be persuaded to sell the team, he said owners have “complete authority” to remove him from his seat.
“This was put before us, and we have to act,” Irsay said. “To protect and be an example from what we want to be about.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters here Tuesday night that he had “little to no discussion” with ownership about the Snyder issue, in large part because White’s investigation is not complete.
“It’s an ongoing investigation. We did not provide anything because we don’t have them,” Goodell said. “When Mary Jo White is done with the investigation, we will share that with membership and share it publicly. I was very clear with them that there’s no reason for speculation at this point in time until we have [the investigation].”
Asked if he was surprised Irsay took a public stand, Goodell added: “No.”
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam told ESPN he was not aware Irsay would make his comments and that he plans to wait on White’s investigation before making determinations.
“It’s premature for anybody to make any comments,” he said. “We need to follow the process.”