Jim Irsay becomes first NFL owner to call for Dan Snyder's removal


Jim Irsay is speaking out against Commanders owner Dan Snyder, saying he believes there’s “merit” to removing him as owner of the Washington franchise.

Speaking to the media during Tuesday’s meeting of team owners, Irsay -- who owns the Indianapolis Colts -- said he doesn’t expect the group to hold a vote to oust Snyder today, but that it could be imminent upon the conclusion of Mary Jo White’s investigation. The former chair of the SEC is leading a probe into allegations of sexual harrasment and financial impropriety on the part of Snyder and the Commanders. 

“I believe there is merit to removing him as owner,” Irsay said.

“This has been put before us and we have to act. Once we have all the facts we have to act appropriately and be an example of what we want to be about. This is a situation that has a long long history. But I want to see the final report before we move in that direction.”

Snyder responded to Irsay’s comments via a team spokesperson. 

"It is highly inappropriate, but not surprising, that Mr. Irsay opted to make statements publicly based on falsehoods in the media," a Commanders spokesperson said in a statement. "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."

This isn’t the first time Snyder’s been investigated. Attorney Beth Wilkinson led an investigation last year that ended in Snyder being fined $10 million and reportedly placed on a quasi-suspension that required him to give up day-to-day operations to his wife, Tanya. Unlike Wilkinson’s investigation which was controversially not disclosed, the NFL has said it will release White’s findings publicly. 

Irsay was 12 years old when his dad, Bob, purchased the then-Balitmore Colts. Twelve seasons later, he relocated the team to Indianapolis. Following his father’s death and an ensuing legal battle, the younger Irsay inherited the Colts in 1997, two years before Snyder bought the franchise in Washington. 

Irsay and Snyder were 37 and 34 at the time of their respective purchases, making them the youngest NFL owners in league history. 

Despite the parallels of their stories, Irsay is not mincing words, becoming the first NFL owner to publicly call for Snyder’s removal. 

“I believe in the workplace today and the standard the shield has, you have to stand for that and protect it,” Irsay said.

Irsay’s comments come in the wake of an ESPN report released last week claiming that Snyder had hired a private investigator to collect dirt on other NFL owners, the league office and even commissioner Roger Goodell. The report went on to detail the bitter relationship Snyder holds with the rest of the league, one that has only grown more acrimonious in recent years following accusations of a toxic work environment within the franchise. 

The ESPN report went on to detail how Snyder claimed to have enough information to “blow up” several NFL owners. While specific names were never listed, it was believed to be around six owners implicated in his potential blackmailing scheme, including Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a longtime ally of Snyder who recently told sources he “might not be able to” protect Snyder any longer. 

Irsay says it is “irrelevant” Snyder investigated him. He maintains that he’s more concerned about workplace culture in Washington.

“I want to see a thorough investigation put before us… including possible financial improprieties,” Irsay said.”

While Snyder apparently remains confident that the information gathered from his investigation will safeguard him from any potential removal, Irsay said they have “complete authority” to force him to sell the franchise. Removal, which requires an affirmative vote from 24 of the remaining 31 owners, has never occurred in the NFL. 

“There hasn’t been this type of removal (in the NFL)… I think at this point there has to be serious consideration to move forward,” Irsay said.

When asked about the likelihood for the league to garner 24 votes, Irsay said “I think potentially there will be.”

Irsay said the decision to remove Snyder is about more than any individual. 

“The founders of this league taught me you have to protect the game. This isn’t what we’re about,” Irsay said. “...It’s not something personal, it's about the interest of the NFL and how we are represented in the world.”

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