Amid questions over his suitability to run an NFL franchise, Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder reportedly hired private investigators to look into other owners and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
According to ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr., Seth Wickersham and Tisha Thompson, multiple team owners and other sources inside the NFL have been told Snyder instructed his law firms to hire the investigators. One owner said he was told directly by Snyder that he "has dirt on" Dallas Cowboys CEO Jerry Jones, who has been Snyder's longtime friend and mentor.
The report illustrated a change in the relationship between Jones and Snyder:
"Jerry Jones recently told confidants that he 'might not be able' to protect Snyder any longer. Snyder has also 'badmouthed' Jones, telling an owner recently, 'he's only out to get in your pocket. He'll sell you down the river. You can't trust him,' a senior executive close to the owner said. 'Snyder's already lost Jerry,' the source added."
As part of a statement, Snyder's lawyers denied that his relationship with Jones had soured and added they have "great respect and admiration for one another." Jones declined to comment on the report, as did a Cowboys spokesman.
The report states that Snyder also told people close to him that his private investigators "dug up incriminating information about Goodell, other unnamed league office executives and an unknown number of owners." There was a bit of skepticism from league sources, with some speculating about what investigators could have uncovered while others are wondering "whether Snyder actually has anything at all and is bluffing as a scare tactic."
According to the report, "League sources say the NFL is aware that Snyder has claimed to be tracking owners. But none of the owners or sources would reveal how they learned of Snyder's alleged effort to use private investigators." The report stated that it's not yet clear exactly how many owners have been targeted by Snyder, but sources indicated that it's "at least six."
Snyder, who has been at the top of the Commanders organization for 23 years, is reportedly confident he will not lose control of the franchise without taking others down with him. He is said to have privately told people in his inner circle that he has enough information to "blow up" several owners around the league along with Goodell.
"They can't f--k with me," Snyder reportedly has said privately.
Snyder has maintained his position in Washington following multiple investigations into his conduct and the team's toxic culture. ESPN reported some owners are confused why the NFL is "propping up" the franchise, as one owner termed it.
Snyder, his wife Tanya and other Washington team officials were not made available to be interviewed for the report, but the team issued a statement through spokespeople and outside lawyers denying that Snyder has been investigating other owners and Goodell.
"This is categorically false. He has no 'dossiers' compiled on any owners," said John Brownlee and Stuart Nash, partners at Holland & Knight. A team spokesperson added that it's "simply ridiculous and utterly false" that Snyder ever claimed he could "blow up" the league or that the league "can't f--k" with him.
Despite the denial, the report stated that several owners believe Snyder's use of private investigators is a "desperate tactic intended to scare owners from voting to remove" him as Commanders owner. The NFL requires a three-fourths majority vote (24 out of 32 owners) to agree to remove an owner.
"He's backed into a corner," a veteran owner said of Snyder. "He's behaving like a mad dog cornered."