Snyder Sale Means Washington Have A New Commander-In-Chief

By Ian John
April 17, 2023

The often-controversial Dan Snyder’s reign as the owner of the Washington Commanders NFL franchise is coming to a much-anticipated close.

Snyder is believed to have accepted a bid of around $6.05 billion from a group of investors led by the 58-year-old billionaire, Josh Harris.

The finer details of the proposed deal are still to be finalised, plus the takeover has to be ratified by the other 31 NFL franchises, although both of these are expected to be a formality.

And it is fair to say that the Commanders fan-base are delighted that their current owner is set to sell the team.

So why has the news of Snyder’s imminent sale of the club been met with joyous scenes in Washington and by Commanders fans across the United States?

Let’s take a look back at almost 25 years of Snyder’s ownership.

Daniel Snyder – Why So Polarising?

It is strange to think that when Dan Snyder bought the then Washington Redskins for $800m in 1999, he was heralded as the saviour of the team that he had supported since he was a boy.

After buying the franchise, Snyder commented:

“I feel an obligation and a commitment. I wouldn’t have done this unless I felt capable of doing a first-class job on behalf of the fans.”

With money no issue for the ultra-wealthy Snyder, he began his tenure by trying to splash the cash to make Washington a genuine super-power in the NFL once again.

However, his big free agent signings were generally either well past their best, as in the case of Deion Sanders, or proved to be an absolute bust, as in Albert Haynesworth.

Had Snyder had the modesty to accept sage advice about his spending on the wrong type of player for his team, those mistakes may have been mitigated by better signings, but Snyder’s rule was absolute and his employees soon learned that they weren’t to question what their owner was doing or demanding.

While on the field, Washington saw their once proud team descend into an irrelevance in the NFC East, if anything matters off the field were even worse.

Snyder had a reputation for going after anybody in the local press, especially those previously supportive of his franchise, if they were to report anything negative about him or his team.

He also, unwisely, refused initially to consider changing the Washington Redskins racist team name, he used his contacts across the NFL to gather information, salacious gossip and worse on other teams and owners.

Worst still, the Washington franchise owner oversaw a culture of toxic misogyny and sexual harassment that was so bad, congress investigated what had happened.

A later apparent change of heart to rename the team to the Washington Commanders (chosen from a somewhat uninspiring list of potential new names) was seen more as a move of cynical manipulation than an act of contrition.  

A Once Proud Franchise And Fanbase Dwindles

Since Snyder took over the franchise in 1999, there has been a continual downward spiral for the team.

The tragic death of Sean Taylor was a desperately sad period for the team, but in truth the team had been in decline for a while before that.

The glory years for Washington in the 70s, 80s and 90s were now a distant memory and as Snyder’s ownership grew more polarising, so the once best-supported team in the NFL saw their attendances slowly dwindle.

Last season, the Commanders ranked bottom of the NFL in attendance averaging 58,000 fans, meaning that for most games, the stadium was only about just over half-full.

However, it was the workplace scandal that forced NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to step in and force Snyder to hand over day-to-day operations to his wife and to start the process to find a new, fit and proper owner.

Who Is Josh Harris?

Josh Harris is a 58-year-old billionaire who has made his money through private equity. He is already a co-owner and major shareholder in three other franchises, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and Premier League team Crystal Palace.

He fronts a group that includes former Basketball legend Magic Johnson and Mitchell Rales, who made his fortune in manufacturing.

However, to meet NFL owner eligibility rules, Harris is going to have to sell his stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers first, although it is expected that negotiations to do precisely that are well-advanced.

While Commanders fans may feel that anybody other than Snyder is a step up, Harris also comes with his own baggage.

Harris has had issues managing the Devils, who have dropped down the rankings in the NHL over the last few years. He also had unsuccessful attempts to buy the Denver Broncos and New York Mets scuppered.

Can The Commanders Now Look Forward?

With the Snyder era now seemingly over in Washington, can the Commanders look forward to a bright new future?

Certainly, Harris has a proven record of supporting the wishes of his teams financially. But he is going to have to work hard to convince fans, especially those that stayed away in their tens of thousands that his Washington Commanders have changed much more than just the team name.

There is no doubt that Snyder’s era at Washington will be viewed as a monumental failure on the field, but even as Snyder disappears into the sunset, he is selling a poor NFL team for the most amount of money of any sports franchise in the world.

Which kind of goes to show that the Dan Snyder era in Washington was only good for Dan Snyder and his lackeys.

Bet365 Sport has the Washington Commanders at 66/1 to win the Super Bowl next year. They are 28/1 to win the NFC Conference and the 9/1 outsiders to win the NFC East.

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Addressing those on-field issues though are only part of the task facing Harris and company.

A site for a new stadium looms large on the horizon for Washington fans, big enough and ambitious enough to entice fans back.

Also what will the new ownership think about replacing GM Martin Mayhew and Ron Rivera?

Some tough decisions lie ahead for the new owners, but for the time being, Washington fans are happy because they will feel like for the first time in 20 years, they may have their franchise back.

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