NEW YORK — Following an investigation and an inquiry by the House Oversight Committee over allegations of a toxic workplace at the Washington Commanders organization, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said there is “merit” to remove Daniel Snyder as the owner of the team.
Irsay spoke Tuesday afternoon at the Conrad Downtown Hotel in lower Manhattan, where the NFL is holding its fall league meeting.
“I assume we’re going to get into more and more discussion on that,” Irsay said. “It’s a difficult situation. I believe that there’s merit to remove him as owner of the (Commanders). I think it’s something that we have to review. We have to look at all the evidence and we have to be thorough in going forward. But I think it’s something that has to be given serious consideration.”
His comments present the harshest rebuke any NFL owner has publicly made about Snyder and his standing in the league.
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The Commanders responded to Irsay on Tuesday evening in a statement from a team spokesperson, reiterating their stance that Snyder would not voluntarily sell the franchise.
“It is highly inappropriate, but not surprising, that Mr. Irsay opted to make statements publicly based on falsehoods in the media,” the statement said. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Irsay decided to go public with his statement today, while an investigation is in process, and the team has had no opportunity to formally respond to allegations. The Commanders have made remarkable progress over the past two years. We are confident that, when he has an opportunity to see the actual evidence in this case, Mr. Irsay will conclude that there is no reason for the Snyders to consider selling the franchise. And they won’t.”
Commanders team spokesman Sean DeBarbieri confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that Daniel Snyder was not representing the team at the fall meeting, as his wife, Commanders co-CEO Tanya Snyder and team president Jason Wright were in attendance.
The NFL has appointed Mary Jo White, the former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to investigate claims of financial misconduct and allegations of sexual assault against Snyder, both of which he has denied.
“I believe in the workplace today, the standard that the shield stands for in the NFL, that you have to stand for that and protect that,” said Irsay, who was suspended in 2014 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after a DWI.
“I think that once owners talk amongst each other, they’ll arrive to the right decision. Unfortunately, I believe that’s the road we probably need to go down and we probably need to finish the investigation, but it’s gravely concerning to me the things that have occurred there over the last 20 years.”
A recent report from ESPN indicated that Snyder had collected dirt on fellow owners and league executives and would potentially publicly expose them if he faced the pressure of removal.
“I don’t know about that,” Irsay said when asked if he thought Snyder had damaging information on other owners. “I could care less. You can investigate me until the cows come home, that’s not going to back me off. Private investigators or any of that stuff, to me, I just shrug it off. It’s irrelevant to me. I don’t know about any of that stuff, I just focus on the issue of what’s happened in Washington, and to me, it’s gravely concerning.”
Snyder penned a letter dated Monday that was distributed to each NFL owner Tuesday. In it, he denied the contents of the ESPN story, but felt the need to particularly address the claim that he has dirt on other owners.
“That is patently false and intended to erode the trust and goodwill between owners that I take quite seriously,” Snyder wrote in the letter, which was obtained by USA TODAY Sports. “I have never hired any private investigator to look into any owner or the Commissioner. I have never instructed or authorized my lawyers to hire any private investigator on my behalf for any such purpose. And I never would.”
According to league policy, there would need to be 24 votes from the other owners to approve Snyder’s removal through a sale of the team.
When asked if he thought there was enough support to get to the 24 votes, Irsay said he thought “potentially there will be.” Irsay added that he has known Snyder over the years but that they’re not close.
Irsay’s comments came before an owners-only session Tuesday during which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asked ownership to refrain from commenting until the conclusion of White’s investigation.
“I said it to the membership: ‘Speculation without facts is not a very positive thing to do,’” Goodell said later during a press conference to conclude the event. “I think everyone deserves to have the facts to make sure those decisions are made with facts and the membership will have that opportunity.”
Though Goodell said he preferred owners withhold making public comments on Snyder and the Commanders, he simply said “No” when asked if he was surprised or disappointed that Irsay did go public.
The several team owners who passed by reporters as they were exiting the hotel declined to comment.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did repeat a phrase from an earlier radio interview on Tuesday and said: “This is a media issue more than it is an ownership issue.”
The White investigation is separate from the one concluded in July 2021 that looked into allegations that cheerleaders were secretly video taped in various stages of undress and other female employees were subjected to sexual advancements and lewd comments from team employees. That investigation was conducted by independent counsel Beth Wilkinson and resulted in a $10 million fine the NFL imposed on Washington.