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Some NFL owners back ‘hard suspension’, fearing it could force Snyder

Some NFL owners back 'hard suspension', fearing it could force Snyder
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ATLANTA — Several NFL team owners have said they would support a significant suspension by Washington Commanders league owner Daniel Snyder if allegations of sexual harassment and financial impropriety against him and the team were founded.

But despite growing dissatisfaction with a series of controversies that began nearly two years ago, the owners said no meaningful action had been taken to push for Snyder’s removal from ownership of his franchise.

Snyder has denied all allegations against him.

“There are definitely concerns,” said one owner who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic. “There is anger. But there’s a big difference between wishing it was gone and taking action to force it out.

This owner and others have said they will support the league in taking significant disciplinary action against Snyder if an investigation by attorney Mary Jo White corroborates the allegations.

“It all depends on the report,” the owner said. “We will have to see. I think a severe suspension might be in order.”

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Two other owners said they were unaware of any efforts to gauge support in an attempt to force Snyder to sell his franchise. Such a decision would require 24 votes among the 32 teams.

“If this happens, no one has asked for my vote,” said one.

Another said: “I don’t think that’s accurate.”

When asked if the owners could get to the point of trying to evict Snyder from the property if White’s report substantiates the allegations against him, that owner replied, “I don’t know.”

Without ruling out the possibility, several owners cited the legal complications of such an attempt, expressing the belief that Snyder would go to great lengths to fight such an effort.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he was unaware of any efforts by the owners to eliminate Snyder.

“I’m not aware of that at all,” Goodell said at a news conference after Tuesday’s meeting. “I don’t respond much to speculation, especially one that I don’t know is based on fact.”

Tuesday’s comments follow reports in recent months of growing unrest among NFL owners over Snyder. An owner says USA Today last weekend, the owners were “counting the votes” regarding a possible effort to remove Snyder.

The league will make a decision on potential discipline once White’s investigation is complete, Goodell said.

“Obviously I think we took all of the allegations seriously,” he said. “We will look at them and see if there is any factual basis to any of them. But we’ll definitely treat all of this seriously, and we’ll deal with it once we know more.

Goodell acknowledged the owners had opinions on the matter, adding: “I’ve often said to everyone, including this group, ‘Let’s wait until we get the facts.’ ”

White’s investigation into Snyder and the commanders was launched following allegations made during a congressional roundtable on February 3. Tiffani Johnston, the team’s former cheerleader and marketing manager, was among six former employees who appeared on Capitol Hill to talk about their experiences working for the team as the panel investigated its work culture and on the NFL’s handling of allegations of widespread sexual misconduct at the franchise. She told members of Congress that Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, putting his hand on her thigh and urging her toward his limo.

Snyder called the accusations leveled directly against him “outright lies.”

Congress Details Allegations of ‘Illegal’ Conduct by Commanders at FTC

White also looks at allegations of financial irregularities which were detailed in a 20-page letter sent by Democratic leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to the Federal Trade Commission. The committee’s letter details allegations made by Jason Friedman, a former vice president of sales and customer service who worked for the team for 24 years. According to the letter, Friedman accused the team of withholding up to $5 million in refundable deposits from season ticket holders and also of hiding money that was supposed to be shared among NFL owners.

The commanders denied committing any financial irregularities, write in a letter to the FTC that the allegations are “baseless” and claiming that “no investigation is warranted”.

A partner in the New York office of law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, White also oversaw the NFL’s investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct against former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. She is a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and the former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Its investigation of Richardson concluded that there was no information to discredit the allegations made against him. The NFL fined Richardson $2.75 million in 2018, and he sold the franchise to current owner David Tepper.

The NFL said it intended to release the findings of White’s investigation.

The offices of Attorneys General Jason S. Miyares (R) of Virginia and Karl A. Racine (D) of the District of Columbia announced that they conduct their own investigations.

Following an earlier investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson of allegations of sexual harassment within the organizationthe NFL announced in July that the team had been fined $10 million, and that Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, would assume responsibilities for the day-to-day operations of the franchise for an indefinite period.

Tanya Snyder has represented the team at league meetings since then, but she did not attend this one after testing positive for coronavirus on Tuesday morning, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Nicki Jhabvala in Washington contributed to this report.

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