It would be a mistake to look at the latest scandal, detailed in a thorough investigation by Washington Post reporters Will Hobson and Liz Clarke, only through the lens of Snyder. The heartbreaking details of abuse and misogyny should have felt devastating. Washington is alleged to have fostered a predatory office atmosphere in which young women felt they had no better option than forcing themselves to cope.
It’s critical that you first reflect upon the bravery of these women. Their perspective makes you realize how completely Snyder failed them. Determining Snyder’s culpability isn’t as simple as whether he can be directly linked to inappropriate behavior. He is still at fault because he developed a culture of manipulating, belittling and micromanaging that created a pathway to more disgusting sins. In addition, with only one full-time staffer in human resources, there was little in the organizational structure to hold those men accountable. Think of all the bright sports careers that those jerks redirected.
Just two years ago, the club stood accused of objectifying its cheerleaders and making them accessible to male premium suite ticket holders during a bikini calendar photo shoot in Costa Rica. That New York Times story resulted in Dennis Greene, the team’s president of business operations, losing his job.
So we’re dealing with a repeat-offender franchise that prefers hole-patching to comprehensive reform and carries on enabling its sickest addiction.
How long should we wait for the organization to do the right thing? It took the franchise 87 years to get rid of its racist name. Snyder had spent large portions of his 21 years in charge puffing out his chest and claiming his right to be insensitive. On Monday, he finally changed his mind, and it seemed that pressure from corporate sponsors and local leaders forced his hand. But perhaps Snyder also was in a rush to jam the news cycle with a historic decision to dull the impact of a bombshell report he knew was coming.
Add it up. It took only the novel coronavirus pandemic, racial unrest, unprecedented pressure from all angles and sweeping allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse for Snyder to say, “Okay, I’ll let go of the racial slur in our name.”
What unfathomable set of circumstances would it take for women in his organization to be free from harm?
There is no justifiable reason for the NFL to waste any more of its reputation on Snyder. He has little to offer the league besides losing and disgrace. Football already has a long and shameful history of ambivalent reaction to women who accuse team personnel of misconduct. With the sports world still quiet and recovering, this is no time for the NFL to remind people how callous it can be.
“These matters as reported are serious, disturbing and contrary to the NFL’s values,” the league said in a Friday morning statement, declaring it will monitor the situation.
A fair process is warranted, but the NFL should do more than wait out this one.
Snyder must go. If Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t think he has leaguewide support to force Snyder all the way out, he should figure out a way to make him a figurehead owner who takes the money but leaves it to the league to build a functioning organization. If Goodell doesn’t have the spine for it, those corporate sponsors should apply the same pressure that worked in convincing Snyder to change the team name.
If FedEx, PepsiCo and others didn’t want to be associated with a racist team name anymore, it makes no sense to turn a blind eye to misogyny.
Left alone, Snyder will not fix the culture in any meaningful way. Ron Rivera, the new coach and de facto team president, seems like a good and earnest man, but he’s a newbie trying to lead what a seasoned executive would consider the challenge of a lifetime.
It says plenty about Snyder’s lack of motivation that, after declining multiple opportunities to comment during the reporting of the story, he finally sent a most milquetoast statement Friday.
Still, it is embarrassing that Snyder can’t manage the concern to actually tell the public how troubling the allegations are to him. He can’t make you believe he is determined to fix it.
The franchise fired Alex Santos and Richard Mann II, two front-office members mentioned in the complaints. Larry Michael, the broadcaster and senior vice president also named in the story, retired abruptly.
In reaction to this story and the cheerleader scandal, there is a pattern in Snyder’s leadership, or lack thereof. He doesn’t take the accusations seriously at first, and he doesn’t take action until he has no choice. He doesn’t have a concrete plan to fix the larger organizational issues. He doesn’t show any willingness to be accountable by answering even the most basic questions.
The team released a statement detailing it had hired law firm Wilkinson Walsh “to conduct a thorough independent review of this entire matter and help the team set new employee standards for the future.”
Rather than an owner, it seems the Washington [Redacteds] have a squatter who intends to stay right where he is until someone has the nerve to uproot him.
In the NFL’s bylaws, Goodell has the power to pursue ousting an owner. He can take the issue to the executive committee, which is made up of all 32 owners. It requires 24 owners to vote out an owner if Goodell convinces them he or she “has been or is guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the League.”
Most owners would rather not set the precedent. The NBA forced Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers after he was caught on a recording spewing racist hate. Jerry Richardson sold the Carolina Panthers after allegations of harassment and racism. Snyder hasn’t been busted doing anything like that.
But I would like to know where on the scale of “detrimental to the welfare of the League” perpetuating a toxic culture of abuse falls. I would like to know whether unrestrained harassment of women such as former marketing coordinator Emily Applegate, reporters Rhiannon Walker and Nora Princiotti, and more than a dozen others fits under this “detrimental” umbrella. And if their pain isn’t compelling enough for the owners to scrutinize Snyder’s value to the league, I would like to know the answer to this question: If you simply protect one of your own and the culture in Washington doesn’t change, are you prepared to be branded an accomplice the next time Snyder’s boys do something bad?
It’s tragic to think about all the aspiring young women who came to this organization dreaming the biggest sports dreams, only to be demoralized.
“It was the most miserable experience of my life,” Applegate said. “And we all tolerated it because we knew if we complained — and they reminded us of this — there were 1,000 people out there who would take our job in a heartbeat.”
The new name should be the Washington Pigs. The logo should be of a man cranking his neck to stare creepily at a woman.
Sorry it’s not Hogs. But with Snyder in charge, Pigs is a more honest representation of what the franchise has become.