Over the years, I’ve been among the numerous sportswriters to advocate for Daniel Snyder’s exit from the NFL oligarchy, most recently in 2020 when I wrote this sentence:
The time has come for the NFL to cut its losses by cutting its ties to Dan Snyder, and to replace him with ownership that would have never thought a racial slur was the right hill to die on.
The slur was the former name of Snyder’s team, the Commanders, which until 2021 went by a derogatory name for Native Americans. That could have been a reference to any number of hills for Snyder, from his refusal or inability to guide the team to a winning season to his reported threats to use dirt he’d dug up on the other 32 NFL owners to keep them from kicking him out of the club. Either way, it’s past time for him to go, and we’ve learned in the past 24 hours that there is in fact, a suitor for the team who definitely wouldn’t make his last stand on keeping a cartoonish mascot for his team.
Byron Allen wants to buy the Commanders from Snyder. And Snyder should sell the team to him. Right now.
Of course that won’t happen, at least not immediately. The Commanders only days ago announced that Snyder had hired Bank of America as his financial adviser to “explore options” for the team, which is the sports ownership equivalent of a homeowner signing a listing contract with a Realtor. If there’s anything that Snyder’s reputation as the team’s owner tells us, it’s that he’s greedy, which means he’d prefer a bidding war rather than selling his prized possession to the first potential buyer to come along.
But this isn’t any old house, or NFL team, as it were. This is the NFL franchise in the nation’s capital, a municipality once known as Chocolate City, which in some parts is gentrified beyond recognition even if the broader DMV region remains synonymous with Black ascendance. The potential for a sale comes as the league needs to kill two birds with the same slingshot. It desperately wants to get rid of its most problematic owner and to prove that it wants to give more than lip service to its commitment to diversity at a time when it’s mired in lawsuits over discrimination and the use of racial and homophobic slurs by one of its most famous former coaches.
In March, NFL owners issued a vague resolution prioritizing nonwhite participation in new ownership groups going forward, without providing details on how it would achieve that goal in a sport where ownership requires the kind of capital that very few African-Americans in history have ever achieved. In retrospect, that was a signal about the NFL’s impending approval of the sale of the Denver Broncos to a group that includes finance exec Mellody Hobson, former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice and Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton.
But while that deal translated to equity participation, it was led by Walmart heir Rob Walton, freezing out interest from Black entrepreneurs like Allen, Magic Johnson and financier Robert F. Smith, any of whom could’ve potentially emerged as a principal, not minority owner. Allen is now preparing a new bid for the Commanders, Bloomberg reported. What better way for the league to solve its Synder problem, and make headway on its nagging issue with structural racism than to nudge Snyder to close a deal with Allen, who through his ownership of media outlets including the Weather Channel, The Grio, and his recent purchase of the former Black News Channel knows a thing or two about how the NFL makes most of its money: through media sponsorship deals?
Of course a few things could get in the way. Snyder could spite the rest of the NFL’s owners by not selling. Johnson or Smith could throw their hats back in the ring. There’s already a rumored offer being put together by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos with Jay-Z as a potential partner. Any of those things would shift the reasoning here.
But if none of them becomes real anytime soon, and Allen can prove he has the goods, the NFL should make this a done deal and quickly.