Dan Snyder Is the NFL’s Donald Trump

From a Jack Shafer Fourth Estate column on politico.com headlined “Dan Snyder Is the NFL’s Trump”:

Going into the NFL’s quarterly owners’ meeting this week, Washington Commanders proprietor Daniel Snyder found himself orbiting the same fiery sun as Donald Trump.

Like the former president, Planet Snyder exerts the sort of moral force that attracts multiple investigations. The Washington, D.C., attorney general is chasing a Washington Post scoop from 2020 about sexual harassment charges and possible ticket-selling scams. A parallel House committee probe occupies similar trajectory. Meanwhile, the NFL, which fined Snyder $10 million in 2021 for rampant bullying and harassment at the franchise, is continuing its own investigation led by former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White.

But as the evidence against Snyder mounts, it’s not just Trump the owner has come to resemble. He’s reliving the final days of Richard Nixon’s presidency. Snyder’s fellow owners are starting to tell him he must sell his team for the good of the league, the way prominent senators told Nixon in the summer of 1974 that he had to leave the White House for the good of the country. Indianapolis Colts’ Jim Irsay, no model of propriety himself, told reporters in a Tuesday press scrum, “I believe that there’s merit to remove him as owner.”

If only more Republican members of Congress had been as forthright about Trump.

The Snyder equals Trump equation doesn’t balance precisely. Snyder is a self-made billionaire. Trump started his fortune with daddy’s money. Snyder avoids the spotlight like an acned, fidgety 7th-grader. Trump wears a foil reflector to amplify whatever attention is directed his way. Trump is tall. Snyder isn’t.

But the two have much in common. They favor gaudy mansions. Both have deserved reputations for being cheapskates. Both hate the Washington Post for having showcased their craven ways. Snyder’s affinity for Trump and Trumpism prompted him to give $1 million to the Trump inauguration festivities. Both have filed meritless lawsuits. Both have been accused of sexual assault. Both men talk smack about their associates: Last week, ESPN reported that Snyder claims to have secrets on fellow owners, the league office and the league commissioner that could “blow up” the NFL. “One owner was told by Snyder directly that he ‘has dirt on [Dallas Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones,’ a team source told ESPN.” (Snyder deniesthe ESPN allegations.) And both have a way of surprising their business partners in a bad way. Trump’s shady business practices are the stuff of legend. In April, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission citing evidence that Snyder’s team may have kept two sets of books, denying the league and its teams revenues they were due.

The biggest difference between Snyder and Trump can be found in the way their associates have responded to them. The NFL may actually be moving in the direction of forcing Snyder to sell. There is a precedent for an owner losing his team amid harsh scrutiny. In 2017, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson divested himself of the team after the league launched an investigation over sexual misconduct allegations and use of racist language.

“I think America, the world, expects us to, as leaders,” Irsay told the press, emphasizing the NFL’s duty to uphold the values it publicly subscribes to. The NFL’s apparent willingness to discipline its wayward kin finds no companion inclination in the Republican Party. Immediately following the Jan. 6 riots, many Republicans sounded like they were done with Trump. But he was not done with them, and soon GOP lawmakers were spotted traveling to Mar-a-Lago to eat Cheetos from his palm and do his bidding. Trump’s demagoguery has soiled the Republican image as much as Snyder’s junky home field (the embarrassment of the league); meanwhile, his team’s abysmal play and dwindling attendance have corroded the NFL brand. At least the NFL might be doing something about this human embarrassment. (Of course, it’s also quite possible the owners will back off just like their Republican counterparts; if they oust Snyder, the thinking goes, they may be risking their own survival if they slip up down the line. And a high bar must be cleared to remove Snyder: 24 of the league’s 32 owners must vote for his ouster. Ultimately, there may be more Mitch McConnells than Liz Cheneys in the NFL.)

Snyder could go quietly, but who expects that? The only thing he does quietly is lose. Achieving NFL ownership — something Donald Trump lusted after and had to settle for a dismal New Jersey USFL franchise — marks the pinnacle of Snyder’s climb. Rather than surrender, Snyder would likely ignite his retrorocket for a Trumpian orbit of endless lawsuits. And if he really has the explosive dirt on the NFL and its owners that he alleges to have, who would be surprised at him bombing the league he was forced to leave, just as Trump seems happy to destroy the presidency if he can’t have it.

Like Trump, Snyder isn’t the type to bow, no matter what ill his intransigency spreads. Both men lead storied institutions that have seen much better times. Aeronautically speaking, Trump and Snyder could still amend their flight plans and give priority to their organizations’ well-being. But everything we know about these brothers by different mothers tells us it’s too late. Their egos reached escape velocity decades ago.

For more on Snyder, see this recent Politico piece by Michael Schaffer.

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