For years, I waited for Snyder to grow up or find better sides of himself. Several times in his first dozen years, one-on-one, we found it easy to be cordial. After a team affair, he asked, “How do you think it went?” Who is going to say that it defines trying too hard to give away crystal footballs, as big as your fist, as party favors?
It’s hard to be the nonathlete, wearing a huge team belt buckle, who always looks a fool while trying to be cool. Nobody ever says to billionaires what the rest of us hear, sometimes from ourselves: “Play to the better traits in yourself and do some work on the messed-up parts.”
Snyder never found the right people to help him figure out how to run an NFL team, how to treat other people, whom to trust or how to be rich and decent. So second- and third-raters became barnacles on his treasure ship.
If his team had won quickly and he had gotten the acceptance he wanted so much, maybe he would have been a different man by age 40. But the overpromising of a marketer and the underperforming of an amateur brought flops and feuds — and criticism, which often ignited self-pity or anger.
As he felt isolated, the values of the NFL became his values by default. In a league that was casually racist, misogynistic, bullying, pretentious, exploitative and amoral toward fans, Snyder mimicked his surroundings.
Long ago, one successful NFL team was known for the all-in-black central-casting thugs who surrounded its owner and executives. A wiseguy look? Snyder had a period when he was trailed through NFL stadiums on the road by a similar comic-goon entourage. I’m tough, too?
Now he’s in his 305-foot-yacht period — still trying to keep up with the Joneses. In this case, that would be NFL owners Jerry Jones (who owns a 357-footer) and Shahid Khan (312 feet). Dan can say he has the world’s only yacht with a 12-seat, two-deck Imax theater. Now all he has to do is find 11 people who will go to the movies with him.
From the beginning, he fell for the cult of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders — objectifying and demeaning women. Or does that just mirror American mass culture in his lifetime? But when you read The Washington Post’s (second) exposé on the football franchise’s pervasive, disgusting culture, don’t excuse it as a product of its time. In a half-century covering sports, I have never encountered any franchise in any sport that behaved so atrociously. After 21 years, Snyder owns this utterly.
The two Post stories already have precipitated firings and maybe, eventually, some change. But the portrait of Snyder that emerges should be cautionary to anybody with power or privilege — even power within a family.
All employees on Day 1 are instructed to call Snyder only “Mr. Snyder” or “Sir” and never “Dan.” They are never to look him in the eye. If he approaches, they are to walk away. Snyder has tried this “That’s Mr. Snyder to you” stunt on adults who don’t work for him and gotten a laugh. He’s probably lucky that’s all.
People who work close to Snyder can’t speak loudly near him or eat where he can see it. All of his paper clips must point in the same direction. The toilet paper in his private bathroom must always be folded into a “V.”
It’s certainly not a “V” for victory.
The working conditions inside this franchise have been known for many years; they include Snyder’s petty grudges, preferential treatment for suck-up favorites and vindictiveness toward those he turns on. This leads to a self-selecting organization of fearful, insecure people who will accept such treatment.
This team’s treatment of women fits right in. How can you spend tons of money for 20 years and keep right on losing? How can you drive away one of the most loyal fan bases in sports until some games have more fans of the visiting team?
How can you finally ditch a racist team name but do it in such a panic that you end up with no name at all? How can you alienate the three largest part-owners of the team until they try to sell their 40 percent share just to get away from Snyder’s toxicity?
How can you hire as a general manager an admitted alcoholic who says he still drinks beer, then fire him — for drinking? Who alienates the team’s best quarterback in decades, Kirk Cousins, as well as seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams, who denounced the team’s medical staff?
How can you do this?
We could make a list of the other repulsive figures in D.C. sports since World War II, those who embarrassed the town with racist policies or treated fans like suckers or whose teams went from scandal to farce and back again. But Snyder wins by acclamation.
You say it can’t get worse, but it can. Snyder issued a statement Wednesday to explain that none of these Post-reported problems are his fault. His only sin is that he has not paid enough attention to his team, not been hands-on enough.
But just watch, Snyder says. He will fix it now.
The NFL should kick Snyder out for bringing repeated disgrace to the league. But don’t bet on it. Why set a precedent on a minimum standard of conduct by owners? It would be like removing all of the manhole covers. You would be losing owners to the sewer constantly.
You could advise fans to ignore the team or not attend its games or not buy its junk. But they already did that.
The D.C. area has only one real recourse. More than anything, Snyder wants some foolish government to build a publicly funded, multibillion-dollar stadium. The Washington Football Team is contractually obligated to play at FedEx Field, which Snyder hates, until 2027. Nothing precludes the team from staying there indefinitely, but a new stadium is Snyder’s lifeline to more money and vain glory.
Don’t give it to him. That’s how you make him sell or get the NFL to boot him out to land that new stadium.
Watch your politicians like they’re weak, corruptible folks. Sure, the playpens of the Capitals, Wizards, United and Nationals have been boons to D.C. — financially or if you like entertainment and victory parades. But none of those teams are owned by Dan Snyder, the hometown boy who made good, then turned bad.
At this point, the only release from Snyderdom is to deny him his form of oxygen: money. Whether that’s in the form of tickets, trinkets or, most important, that gaudy new stadium.
Enough has become several times more than enough. Washington and its fans deserve far better. It’s time to Defund Dan.