Dan Snyder has to have a place of honor on The NFL's List of Awful People, a title that after the last few weeks can be shortened to just The NFL. Snyder, to put it succinctly, has sinned. He's sinned against his fellow owners, he's sinned against his team, he's sinned against the fans, and he's sinned against common decency. In fact, I bet Snyder has each of the Seven Deadly Sins covered. Let's see!
Everything Snyder does is in the service of money. He's the only owner to charge fans to attend pre-season practices. It was bad enough to take a free event set up for fan interaction and start charging for it, but the problem -- something Snyder didn't think about until hatching his devious little plan -- is that by charging admission he couldn't keep anyone out. You know who bought tickets? Scouts from every NFL team on Washington's schedule. The whole thing upset the fans, it upset the players, and it upset the coaches, but Snyder made a few extra bucks so that's a win-win, by which I mean a win for Snyder and Snyder's bank account.
Under Snyder, the team has also viciously pursued legal action against its own fans when they had trouble paying for season tickets (most teams will try to work with fans but not Washington). Snyder went so far as to sue a 73-year-old grandmother who was having financial problems.
Washington typically has among the highest ticket prices, parking prices (the stadium is conveniently located a long distance from the nearest Metro stop), and among the highest cost of concessions in the NFL. If you pair all that with the fact the team on the field has, since Snyder bought the franchise in 1999, been terrible, you can start to see the extent of the greed on display.
The best owners in pro sports hire smart, capable team builders and managers, give them money to do what they think is best, and then get the heck out of the way. They might challenge their people from time to time to keep them on the right track (Jack Kent Cooke, Snyder's predecessor did that) but mostly good owners allow those they hired to exercise their expertise. That's because the best owners know that, despite owning the team, they are not experts in running a professional sports franchise. Success in the business world doesn't qualify them to pick the players or make the personnel decisions or call the X's and O's. Snyder started his reign as owner by firing a 10-win head coach. The team hasn't had a better record than that in all of Snyder's 15 seasons as owner. Instead of hiring good people and getting out of the way, Snyder has hired toadies. Snyder doesn't want to know the best way to run a team. He's too lazy for that.
This is exemplified by Washington's player personnel decisions. The team has given huge contracts to over-the-hill players with big names because they were players Snyder liked and wanted. No thought was given to how they fit into the team structure, how they'd fit into the team's salary cap, or what the repercussions would be to the organization as a whole. Snyder has gone so far as to order the playing of quarterback Jeff George over Brad Johnson a move that, suffice it to say, didn't work out well, much like signing George in the first place.
Snyder was never the GM like Jones is in Dallas, but he hired yes-man Vinny Ceratto (yes, his yes-man was named Vinny) which was effectively like Snyder hiring himself as the GM. Ceratto worked with Snyder and together they ran the franchise into the ground. Since he was fired in 2009, Cerrato's skills at running a football team were so in demand that he has been working as a radio host in Baltimore.
Finally, after over a decade of spinning his wheels, Snyder hired a competent GM and a young up-and-coming head coach. Just don't tell him Jeff George is a free agent.
When the above and many, many other facts were presented in a terrific piece in the Washington City Paper by sportswriter Dave McKenna in 2010, Snyder didn't see the error of his ways and he didn't write a letter to the editor to rebut the piece. Instead, he tried to get McKenna fired for libel. When City Paper didn't bow down to his demands, he sued them. Wow that article must have really upset him, huh? I wonder which part was the worst. The New York Times wondered too, and asked Snyder. His answer? He doesn't know because he didn't read the article. Yes, Dan Snyder tried to get a man fired from his job and then sued his employed for $2 million over an article he didn't read.
The newest, most high tech, craziest NFL stadium belongs to the Dallas Cowboys. Snyder's team plays in FedEx field, a perfectly adequate not quite two-decade-old facility in suburban Washington D.C. You can probably guess how this is going to go. The Cowboys new stadium allows them to bring in crazy new revenues from all sorts of other events, let alone the new ways it lets owner Jerry Jones reach further into the pockets of Cowboys fans. You think Snyder is going to sit there and let that happen? No! Of course he needs his own new stadium with a scoreboard that blocks out the sun.
The team has, according to themselves (via CSN Washington), "started the process" of planning for a new stadium. Snyder doesn't know where it will be, of course, because if he knew that he'd dismiss the opportunity to play the stupid politicians of Washington DC off the stupid politicians of Maryland off the stupid politicians of Virginia. Yes, it's a smorgasbord of stupidity and Snyder badly wants his place at the feedin' trough. Studies show that stadium projects bleed money from municipalities. USA Today spoke with Victor Matheson, an economics professor at College of Holy Cross. Matheson told them that new stadiums "almost never" create citywide economic benefits and sometimes they don't even positively effect their own neighborhood. But that doesn't stop idiot politicians from handing over the keys to the public vault to help the very people, like Snyder, who are so rich they need no help whatsoever.
One could fairly argue that there is an immoral component to a millionaire or billionaire demanding tax dollars for a personal stadium project, but arguments like that will surely fall on deaf ears when it comes to Snyder. "Take the billion or so dollars a new NFL stadium would cost and put it into the public schools," says Dan Snyder in my dream. Then I wake up and he laughs and says, "Gimme."
We're almost 1,200 words in and I haven't mentioned the team's name. You can probably guess why, but in case not, it's racist. Many have known that for a long time, but recently many more have decided they've had enough. It's 2014 and there is a professional sports team with a racist nickname. That would be hard to believe if it wasn't in our face all the time. But Dan Snyder says "Redskins" is about tradition and moral fortitude, and uprightness, and a whole bunch of other crap that it has nothing to do with. The truth is he grew up with the name and he likes it and he doesn't care about anyone who doesn't like it. Snyder's attempts to argue for the name, to justify the name, to "greenwash" the name, and to buy the name have been funny like that jerky little neighbor's kid who racked himself during a soccer game. You wouldn't have done it and in fact he did it to himself so you almost feel sorry for him, but still he's a jerk and he totally deserved it.
Snyder's attempts to court and then publicize the few Native Americans who agree with him while simultaneously ignoring the vast majority who don't is a special kind of arrogance. He's gotten so poisonous that when his Original Americans Foundation was skewered on The Colbert Report by host Stephen Colbert, Colbert himself was pilloried for racism. The whole thing is so toxic that journalists and NFL on-air commentators are refusing to say the team's name, and now South Park has gotten into the act.
Snyder may yet change the name (more on this in a bit), but his pathetic fight to keep the status quo regardless of whom it hurts is shameful.
Gluttony and Lust
Sure, we could show an image of Snyder hanging out a Hooters restaurant with Mike Shanahan, make some sort of man boobs joke and kill two birds with one stone (which also should be on the list of sins, by the way; not sure why religion doesn't take a stronger stance against efficient bird murder). But I'm concerned for Snyder's soul at this point -- and hope that his possible future sins can still be stopped. As mentioned earlier, there's tremendous public pressure for Snyder to change his team's name. He has set up a situation where if he does change the name it will be seen as giving up something huge, something substantial. At the same time, Snyder will be bargaining with the local municipalities for money to help him build his new stadium, yet many will balk. Let's let Vinny Cerrato -- there's that guy again! -- connect the dots:
The only way I see him eventually changing the name is if -- IF -- he gets a new stadium out of it, downtown, where old RFK was. And he builds a stadium bigger than [Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones's], which he would do, bigger and better than Jerry's. He gets a Super Bowl. All that. I said that's the way that maybe he would change the name. Getting the property, getting the land, getting a good deal from the city to make concessions to change the name. I don't know.
So there you go: Snyder wants all the things. All of them. And he'll dangle a bad thing as a "concession" in order to get them. Gluttony (for stuff) and lust (for power) all wrapped up in one special package. I suppose this deal would be trading one wrong for another, and maybe it's even a trade that common decency should make, as getting rid of the name should be done, even at the cost of a new stadium. Still, you shouldn't have to buy someone out of using a racist name. A racist name that upsets thousands maybe millions of people should be changed regardless of any other outside criteria. "Are you using a racist name?" should be the first question on any city's So You'd Like Us To Build You A Billion Dollar Football Stadium form and if you answer "yes" then the form goes into the right slot that feeds the paper shredder.
For now, Snyder can fade into the background as the child beaters and wife punchers and their enablers and PR flacks roam the molten lava field that is the foreground of the NFL these days. But don't let their awfulness obscure his. Dan Snyder deserves your scorn, too. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.