PHOENIX – Six billion dollars.
With that staggering price tag in the mix – offered in two bids, according to ESPN, to purchase the Washington Commanders – who needs to vote the embattled Dan Snyder out of the exclusive NFL ownership club when he can take the record-breaking money and run?
“Considering everything – the fan base, the Snyder family, the NFL – the fact that he’s chosen to make a transition is, in my opinion, the right decision,” Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank told USA TODAY Sports during the league meetings that concluded on Tuesday. “But he has to decide that.”
Despite an ongoing NFL probe conducted by former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White that follows multiple investigations exploring the franchise’s workplace culture, sexual harassment allegations and alleged financial misdeeds, Snyder is seemingly poised to go away in a blaze of mad money.
This week, ESPN reported Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos has submitted a $6 billion bid on the heels of another in that range from a group led by Josh Harris.
At that price, the Commanders sale would represent the largest amount ever for a U.S. sports franchise, exceeding the $4.65 billion mark last year for the Denver Broncos.
Force Snyder out? That potential movement by fellow NFL owners fueled much buzz during past league meetings. But not now. Barring the collapse of a sale – which would involve extensive vetting by the league and approval from at least 24 owners – the idea of kicking Snyder to the curb now seems to be a moot point.
“I think you hate to speculate like that, because that is in the constitution for a reason,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay told a group of reporters. “But you never hope to get down those trails. Everyone is just trying to be positive and think that that’s not something that’s going to become an issue. Because it’s like asking a coach, ‘Well, if you get down 28 points, do you think you’ll throw the ball downfield every single play?’ You hope it doesn’t come down to that, and we don’t speculate.”
In other words, fellow NFL owners – briefed during the meeting on the prospects of a sale and the status of White’s ongoing investigation – can envision the path of least resistance.
“Right now, the hope is for a sale that happens, where the terms are normal and acceptable, like with Denver and the Bowlen family to the Waltons,” Irsay added. “It was pretty customary in terms of what the terms were.”
It’s striking to consider that for all of the mud and allegations, Snyder could wind up selling at a price that is more than seven times the then-record $800 million that it cost him and fellow investors to obtain the franchise in 1999.
Sure, that windfall may turn the stomachs of long-suffering fans who witnessed under Snyder’s management the significant deterioration of one of the NFL’s signature franchises.
Yet the potential sale also looms as perhaps an odd twist of fate that marks the NFL’s prowess as the nation’s most popular and profitable sports league. That Washington could command such a hefty price even while Snyder has been unable to strike a deal for a new stadium says much about growth and potential.
“The essence of it shows us where the NFL business is very healthy,” Blank said when asked about the reported bidding for the Commanders.
Blank, who co-founded the Home Depot, runs his own example of escalating franchise values. In 2002, Blank purchased the Falcons for $545 million. In 2022, Forbes estimated the Falcons value at $4 billion – in the middle of the pack among NFL franchises.
The Dallas Cowboys were again tabbed as the world’s most valuable sports franchise by Forbes at $8 billion. In 1989, Jerry Jones bought the franchise for $150 million.
As one NFL franchise turns over with a huge return on investment, the value of every franchise increases. That’s pretty much a core principle for a league business model weighted heavily on revenue sharing.
It’s no wonder that Blank says of Snyder’s potential sale, “The NFL will do whatever it can to support that transaction.”
During an interview with USA TODAY Sports in December, Jones maintained that he remained a personal ally of Snyder but drew a line in the sand when it came to business – and the impact that Washington’s issues had on the value of the league and its teams.
“My main thing about Washington is that I don’t want to do damage to the ability to attract capital,” Jones said. “With sponsors alone, you want people to stand in line to be associated with the team. There are a lot of natural things that will occur on their own if you don’t mess it up.”
Of course, Snyder was the typical sensitive subject among some owners this week. When Robert Kraft was asked whether he felt that Snyder should still be an NFL owner, the New England Patriots owner responded, “I’m really focused on trying to see what I can do to help our team make the playoffs next year. I’m going to let his fans worry about that.”
Snyder again wasn’t at the league meetings, represented by his wife, Tanya, as part of his agreement to relinquish day-to-day control of the franchise. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that Snyder hasn’t cooperated to the point of being interviewed by White for her probe.
So, even with a sale apparently in the works, there are fresh questions about whether his conduct might result in NFL discipline.
“I’m not going to speculate,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday. “Mary Jo White makes the determination of who she speaks to and when she speaks to them. That’s what she should do. We’ll allow her to do her job and see where we are.”
Goodell reiterated that whenever White’s probe is completed, the NFL will publicly release the results. That would be in stark contrast to the investigation completed by Beth Wilkinson in 2021, which was never released publicly and said to have been delivered orally rather than with a written report.
If Snyder completes a sale before White’s probe is finished, it may appear that the NFL would have little to gain by publicly releasing a report. Goodell, though, contends that the NFL needs to follow through as promised – regardless of the timing and implications.
“We made a commitment last February,” Goodell said. “We made a commitment publicly. We made it in front of Congress and we made it to our clubs. So, we will continue that.”
Even if Snyder is counting his cash from a record-breaking deal.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.