Daniel Snyder’s Commanders keep hurting themselves



Follow along here. One arm of the Washington Commanders this week felt compelled to release a statement distancing the team from a statement released by another arm of the Commanders, which felt comfortable using an innocent player as a pawn in a typically scorched-earth reaction to an event that hadn ‘t even happened yet. It may take you four readings of that sentence to have even a vague sense of what transpired. In Ashburn, they call that “Wednesday.”

For the Commanders and all the iterations that have preceded them, self-inflicted wounds are mandatory, chaos baked-in. The news Thursday should have been contained: Karl A. Racine, the DC attorney general, announced that his office was filing a consumer protection lawsuit against the Commanders, owner Daniel Snyder, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell, alleging past deceptions. When there are ongoing investigations of Snyder’s alleged personal and financial misdeeds by the NFL, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia, the cows have to come home at some point. This was merely opening the barn door.

But because, until further notice, Snyder still owns this team, there are no blips. Every move registers on the Richter scale. Someone with the Commanders thought, after Racine’s office said the attorney general would have a “major announcement” about his Snyder investigation, that it would be a good idea to link the August shooting of rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr., a blameless victim, to Racine’s impending announcement.

The fangs were out. Buckle up.

DC attorney general sues Daniel Snyder, Commanders, NFL

“Less than three months ago, a 23-year-old player on our team was shot multiple times, in broad daylight,” the statement, issued through a team spokesperson, began. “Despite the out-of-control violent crime in DC, today the Washington Commanders learned for the first time on Twitter that the DC Attorney General will be holding a news conference to ‘make a major announcement’ related to the organization tomorrow. …

“It is unfortunate that, in his final days in office, Mr. Racine appears more interested in making splashy headlines, based on offbeat legal theories, rather than doing the hard work of making the streets safe for our citizens, including bringing to justice the people who shot one of our players.”

That’s breathtaking. It’s hard not to feel Snyder directly behind it, imploring his pit bulls to lunge for the jugular. Failing to anticipate inevitable public backlash is one thing. Not giving a millisecond’s thought to what the impact on Robinson might be is another.

Never mind, too, that DC police have arrested two teenagers and are still searching for a third suspect in what has been described as an attempted robbery. Robinson feels fortunate to be alive. He was a victim in what could easily have been a tragedy. He is a 23-year-old trying to establish himself in the NFL. His own-team drags him into this?

“Although I know that there are some great humans in that building,” his agent, Ryan Williams, tweeted Wednesday night“whoever is hiding behind this statement is not one of them.”

That’s true. But while acknowledging that there are and have been and will be good people who occupy offices in Ashburn, it’s fair to say that the whole lot of them is stained by the rot that defines the franchise. It’s not just that accepting a job there is unlikely to enhance someone’s reputation. The goal has to be to get out before permanent damage is done.

What must it be like to work for the Commanders, even at a time when Snyder argues — over and over — that the culture of the team has been transformed? All those employees who come and go certainly work for Snyder; he signs the checks. But there has to be a feeling, not infrequently, that they work against him. Or, maybe more accurately and more often, Hey works against them.

That’s the only conclusion to draw. Within hours of the issuance of the first statement — which some in the building actively considered a disaster — came the next, attributable to Jason Wright, the team president installed by Snyder to clean up the owner’s masses. On his first day, Wright must have been issued an endless supply of mops and a bottomless bucket.

Commanders called out for statement criticalizing DC attorney general

In the statement, Wright said he had spoken to DC Police Chief Robert J. Contee III in addition to other leaders working to reduce gun violence. He pinned the initial statement on team lawyers who have been frustrated by Racine’s investigation.

“The lawyers’ legitimate frustrations with the AG should have been separate and apart from referencing the terrible crime that affected our player,” Wright’s statement concluded.

So who issued the first statement? The transformed organization that is setting an industry standard or the old one that expresses remorse only after it has been exposed? Either way, it’s astonishing that the people who issued what amount to dueling statements work for the same person. They’re clearly not working for the same cause.

Think about what Ron Rivera, the head coach, said in the days after Robinson was shot.

“I think it’s about the community being aware and the community really just saying enough is enough, coming together, supporting our elected officials, helping them,” Rivera said then. “There’s too much fighting as far as that’s concerned. The real truth of the matter is people are dying unnecessarily, and it’s crazy how we, as one of the most advanced societies in the world, continue to have this issue.”

That such an issue is entirely and completely separate from one of several investigations of the culture of an NFL team’s workplace should be left unsaid. Except in Ashburn, one branch of the organization tries to stitch those together as the other grabs the thread in an attempt to tug it apart.

Whether the workplace environment is actively toxic anymore is important, and if real strides have been made in that area then kudos to those responsible. But the stain and the stench remains at the top, and anyone who takes a job and a paycheck does so at his or her own peril.

Daniel Snyder may finally sell his team. But until he does, assume an avoidable catastrophe will be served with breakfast, as reliable as morning coffee. The owner under siege knows no other way.


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