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NFL owners pause removal talk, await Daniel Snyder’s next moves

Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, right, walks on the field with his wife Tanya and team president Jason Wright, left, before an October game against the Cowboys in Arlington, Tex. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
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NFL team owners are pausing any consideration of removing Daniel Snyder from ownership of the Washington Commanders, two people with direct knowledge of the league’s inner workings and the owners’ views said Friday.

The owners are waiting to see what occurs over the coming weeks and possibly months with Snyder’s attempt to sell the franchise, his efforts to secure indemnification against legal liability and the outcome of the league’s second investigation into him and the team, said those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The owners expect to take no formal action regarding a possible Commanders sale or Snyder’s status during the league’s three-day annual meeting, which begins Sunday in Phoenix, those people said.

One of those people said the meeting is expected to be “uneventful” as it pertains to Snyder and the Commanders sale and added that the owners are “not going to move toward voting him out right now. This has to play out over some time. We have to see what happens.”

The prospective sale of the Commanders is expected to be discussed by the owners on the NFL’s finance committee, the two people said, and Snyder could be discussed during a privileged session attended only by teams’ primary owners. But there is no formal agenda item related to Snyder or the Commanders, according to one of the people with knowledge of the NFL’s planning.

Canadian businessman Steve Apostolopoulos has toured Commanders’ facilities

For now, at least, owners appear to be standing down on any attempt to force Snyder to sell his team. Such a move would require a vote of at least three-quarters of the owners.

“The vote-out will happen if he insists on being indemnified” by the league and other owners, one person with direct knowledge of the owners’ views said, before referencing the recent sale of the Denver Broncos. “If the deal [to sell the team] is just like Denver, that’s fine. But if he expects special treatment, that leads to trouble. The biggest thing that will lead to a vote is if he says, ‘Indemnify me.’ That’s the issue.”

That person said team owners don’t know how insistent Snyder will be about being indemnified against legal liabilities and costs, either by a prospective buyer or by the NFL and the other owners.

Owners were angered when they learned that Snyder is interested in such indemnification by the league and other owners and threatened to sue if he didn’t receive it, three people with knowledge of the owners’ views and the league’s inner workings said last month. The Commanders said at the time that such a characterization “regarding the transaction process involving the Washington Commanders is simply untrue.”

The NFL and other owners are “in the dark” regarding prospective buyers of the Commanders because the “lines of communication are completely down” with Snyder, one of the people with direct knowledge of the owners’ views said Friday.

Attorney Mary Jo White could make a push “over the next month or so” to complete her ongoing investigation of Snyder and the Commanders, that person said.

Snyder and the Commanders also are under investigation by federal authorities in the Eastern District of Virginia. The team has said it is cooperating with the federal investigation.

Leading bidders for the team attempted to complete a deal with Snyder ahead of this weekend’s league meeting, according to people familiar with the sales process. The prospective buyers include Josh Harris, the owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post; Tilman Fertitta, owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets; and Canadian commercial real estate developer and private equity executive Steve Apostolopoulos.

Apostolopoulos visited the team’s facilities recently while exploring a bid for the team, according to two people with knowledge of the visit. It is not clear whether he has entered a bid for the franchise.

Magic Johnson joins Josh Harris’s bid to purchase Commanders

Mitchell Rales, the co-founder of the Danaher Corporation, and NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson are investors in Harris’s group. The addition of Rales positioned the group as an attractive alternative if Snyder does not want to sell to Bezos, estimated by Forbes to be the world’s third-wealthiest person, because of his ownership of The Post. A person with knowledge of the sales process said last month that Snyder had to that point rebuffed all efforts by Bezos to move forward in the process, although it was not clear whether that was merely a negotiating tactic.

The Commanders announced in November that Snyder and wife Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, had hired Bank of America Securities to explore potential transactions for the franchise. The team has not said whether the Snyders intend to sell all or part of the franchise.

Forbes estimated the Commanders’ value last year at $5.6 billion. The record sale price for an NFL franchise is the $4.65 billion that a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton paid last year for the Broncos.

Tanya Snyder and other team officials are expected to represent the Commanders at the league meeting in Phoenix. After this meeting, the next owners’ meeting is scheduled for May in Minneapolis.

Before the Snyders’ announcement that they were exploring options regarding the Commanders’ ownership, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said in October that he and fellow owners should give serious consideration to voting to remove Snyder from ownership. Multiple owners told The Post in September they believed serious consideration would be given to attempting to oust Snyder from the ownership ranks, either by convincing him to sell or by voting to remove him.