The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Jim Irsay says owners, not the NFL, should decide Daniel Snyder’s fate

Colts owner Jim Irsay says that he and other NFL team owners must make the decision about Daniel Snyder's status at the owner of the Commanders. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

Nearly two weeks after he became the first NFL team owner to publicly say that serious consideration should be given to removing Daniel Snyder from ownership of the Washington Commanders, the Indianapolis Colts’ Jim Irsay isn’t backing down.

Irsay said Friday that he and other owners must remain engaged and vigilant to ensure they make the appropriate decision about Snyder’s status once attorney Mary Jo White completes her ongoing league-commissioned investigation of Snyder and the Commanders. Irsay called the owners the NFL’s stakeholders and said they, in his view, must take control of the process, rather than allow it to be directed by Commissioner Roger Goodell or the league.

“I’m not sure how that report’s going to come out,” Irsay said in an approximately 25-minute phone interview Friday evening. “But what already has come out is extremely disturbing, and I disagree with the process. And I most likely disagree that we haven’t discussed something more severe such as him being removed as owner. As I said, it’s not something that I’m saying we should do. I’m saying it’s something that has to be given serious consideration.”

Colts’ Jim Irsay: Removing Daniel Snyder merits ‘serious consideration’

Irsay expressed dissatisfaction with the level of involvement he and other owners had in the NFL’s punishment of Snyder and the Commanders in July 2021, following a previous investigation of the team’s workplace.

“It’s not just what was handed down, the $10 million fine and this so-called suspension that I still don’t really understand,” Irsay said, “because I told Roger and spoke about it at our meeting, that: ‘Look, I’ve been in the league 52 years. I wasn’t even asked about this, not consulted one time.’ ”

Irsay’s latest comments came two days before his team faces the Commanders in Indianapolis.

“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Irsay continues to behave in a way that clearly is in violation of the Constitution of the NFL,” a Commanders spokesperson said in a statement Saturday. “We look forward to playing his team on Sunday.”

Irsay said at an Oct. 18 league meeting that he believes “there’s merit” for the owners to consider removing Snyder. That day, Goodell said owners “will have that opportunity” to make a decision about Snyder when White’s investigation is complete, stressing that the owners should “make sure those decisions are made with facts” by withholding judgments and speculation until White’s findings are delivered.

The NFL declined further comment Saturday. The league has said that White’s findings, unlike those from a previous investigation of the team’s workplace conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson, will be released to the public. It would require a vote of at least 24 of the other 31 owners to remove Snyder from ownership of his team, under a process outlined in the league’s constitution and bylaws.

Read the transcript of Colts owner Jim Irsay’s comments on Daniel Snyder

Irsay made several references Friday to the “so-called suspension” given to Snyder following Wilkinson’s investigation, saying he remains unclear about the terms of the 2021 penalties following public comments made this week by John Brownlee, an attorney representing Snyder and the Commanders.

In July 2021, the NFL announced that the Commanders had been fined $10 million and that Tanya Snyder, the team’s co-CEO and Daniel Snyder’s wife, would assume control of the franchise’s daily operations for an unspecified period.

Jordan Siev, an attorney for Daniel Snyder, told ESPN in July 2021 that Snyder “was not suspended” by the NFL. Brownlee told Pro Football Talk on Thursday “there were other restrictions as far as going out to the [team’s] facility and those kinds of things that he didn’t do, because of that sanction that was imposed by the NFL” lasting until Nov. 1, 2021.

Goodell and other league officials have said several times this year that Snyder’s ownership status has not changed since the July 2021 announcement and that Goodell and Snyder will discuss the issue when White’s investigation is finished.

Irsay said he never has had a problem with Snyder on a personal level.

“Dan and I have never had a cross word in our life,” Irsay said. “I have no personal — there’s nothing that him and I have ever had any personal issues with each other on. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the toxic environment that was in that workplace for such a long period of time. And owners are expected to oversee everything that’s going on below them, and that’s an assumed responsibility. … And I also don’t believe you can say, ‘Well, I didn’t know this; I didn’t know that.’ I don’t buy that at all.”

Irsay said he strongly supports Goodell as the commissioner but has been “disappointed in the in-house judicial advice that Roger’s been receiving” on a variety of issues. Irsay said he spoke to Goodell last Sunday at the Colts’ game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville but the two did not discuss Snyder or the Commanders. He has not spoken to other owners about the matter since the New York meeting, he said, and has not received any feedback from them about his public comments.

NFL owners’ attitudes harden toward Commanders’ Daniel Snyder

“Like I said, I think there’s merit to consider removal,” Irsay said. “But I’m not ready to cast my vote until I hear the last report, until we discuss it as a group. But you have to be able to discuss things as a group. … I’m into transparency, and I’m into the owners running the league. That’s what it’s about. It’s our league. … Owners have to be directly involved and be very active and involved in massive decisions like this.”

Irsay said he has “no idea” if Snyder will attend Sunday’s game and does not think the two would have a pregame conversation even if Snyder is on hand.

“I only run into owners if it’s really coincidental,” Irsay said. “Most of us don’t see each other unless we happen to be passing each other on the field or somewhere at the same time. … It has nothing to do with Dan Snyder. If I was playing the Ravens, I wouldn’t know if [owner] Steve Bisciotti was going.”