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Jim Irsay hopes Daniel Snyder will proceed with ‘normal’ sale of Commanders

Colts owner Jim Irsay spoke at length about the possibility of a sale of the Washington franchise. (Justin Casterline, Getty Images)
6 min

PHOENIX — Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said Monday he’s hopeful that owner Daniel Snyder will sell the Washington Commanders on terms that are “normal and acceptable,” without unusual demands for legal indemnification, so that other NFL team owners do not need to revisit consideration of voting to remove Snyder from the league.

“You don’t really … think of things not going well,” Irsay said. “You think of them hopefully going right and … a sale taking place, which would be greatly beneficial for everyone. And that’s what you hope for. But only time will tell because right now the hope is for a sale that happens and that happens where the terms are normal and acceptable, like with Denver and the Bowlen family to the Waltons.”

Irsay spoke to reporters at length after participating in a privileged session of owners on the second day of the annual league meeting.

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Irsay said the owners are not inclined to grant Snyder indemnification against future legal liability and costs beyond what has been associated with other franchise sales.

“I think that we’re going to do what we’ve done with deals like with Denver or Carolina,” Irsay said. “I mean, it’s just ... going to be fair and equal treatment where there’s a normal course of aspects that happen during a sale. And we’re going to stay along those lines. So, I mean, there would be no reason for us to be giving any sort of unusual indemnification that the Waltons and Bowlen family didn’t have. ... But we’re really not at that situation yet.”

A group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton bought the Broncos last year from the Pat Bowlen Trust for $4.65 billion, a record price for an NFL franchise.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said earlier Monday that he’s also waiting to see what occurs with the Commanders’ sale process.

“I don’t have a stance,” Kraft said. “I think [Snyder has] put the team up for sale. I believe that something is close to happening. I don’t know that for sure. We’ll wait and see what happens.”

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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said earlier Monday that the Commanders franchise is “a national treasure,” adding that his interest is in the team becoming what it should be.

“It’s a team in the nation’s capital,” Jones said. “It’s highly visible and creates a unique perspective for fans.”

Jones said his relationship with Snyder is “not ‘lovey-dovey,’ but it’s not really strained in any way.”

Irsay spoke to a group of reporters for about 12 minutes following the owners’ privileged session, held without other team executives inside the room. Norm Chirite, an adviser to Snyder and former counsel of the Commanders, stood among the group of reporters and used a phone to record a portion of Irsay’s comments.

During the owners’ privileged session, Chirite waited outside the meeting room with team president Jason Wright and Karl Schreiber, a longtime business associate of Snyder.

“It’s certainly understandable why we would want to know what an owner who has previously left confidential league meetings and made disparaging comments about other owners had to say,” a Commanders spokesperson said.

Irsay said in October that he and fellow owners should give serious consideration to voting to remove Snyder from ownership. Such a move would require the approval of at least three-quarters of the owners.

Irsay said Monday that he believes the best outcome would be a sale by Snyder that would preclude the owners taking such a vote.

“You hate to speculate like that because, I mean, you know, that is in the [NFL] constitution for a reason,” Irsay said. “But you never hope to get down those trails. And I think everyone’s just trying to be positive and think that, you know, that that’s not something that’s going to become an issue because it’s like asking a coach, ‘Well, if you get down 28 points, do you think you’ll throw the ball downfield on every single play?’ I mean, you hope that it doesn’t come down to that.

“And I think we don’t speculate in terms of getting there because, I think, the best thing is having the process, like I said, unfold where there’s a sale and the terms are agreed upon by the league and the seller and the buyer, and we move on past there. So that’s really the hope.”

Daniel Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, is representing the Commanders at this meeting, in her husband’s absence. Irsay said he was not aware of Tanya Snyder addressing fellow owners Monday about the potential sale or other issues.

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The league and owners have been told little by the Commanders about the sale deliberations, Irsay said.

“The information is very little to none in terms of the 31 of us and, you know, really, probably even the league office,” he said. “Right now, you know, the sale process is being run by them. And so, really, we’ve heard kind of what you guys have heard about possible three candidates and everything that gets reported out there, I know, is probably somewhat speculative because it’s just what people have heard. But, really, this hasn’t been anything where we’re being informed on anything yet, on any aspect from the report that’s supposed to come in as well as where the sale process stands.”

Daniel Snyder has declined to be interviewed by attorney Mary Jo White as she conducts the NFL’s second investigation into Snyder and the team, according to three people with direct knowledge of the league’s inner workings.

Leading bidders for the team attempted to complete a deal with Snyder ahead of this 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.

Any sale would have to be approved by at least three-fourths of the owners.

“Remember, this just isn’t any franchise,” Irsay said. “I mean, this is right there in Washington, D.C., in the power lane of the world. Not just the country, the world. ...We just hope for great success going forward. And again, this is a very unique opportunity, I think, in terms of team ownership. All teams are very, very valuable and those sorts of things. But there’s a few like this for the reasons that are obvious that are very key. So just looking forward to getting it concluded.”