Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay suggested that Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder should be removed from his position for his alleged workplace misconduct and damaging behavior over the years.
At an NFL fall meeting on Tuesday, Irsay said he believes there’s “merit to remove him as owner of the Commanders,” according to The Athletic.
“I just believe in the workplace today, the standard that the shield stands for, in the NFL, that you have to stand for that and protect that,” Irsay said, apparently referring to the league’s logo.
“I just think that once owners talk amongst each other, they’ll arrive to the right decision,” he added. “My belief is that, unfortunately, I believe that that’s the road we probably need to go down, and we just need to finish the investigation. But it’s gravely concerning to me, the things that have occurred there over the last 20 years.”
The NFL is investigating accusations that Snyder sexually harassed one of his employees and withheld revenue meant to be shared with other NFL team owners. The NFL hired attorney and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White to lead the investigation.
Irsay’s comments prompted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to issue a statement of caution on Tuesday toward other team owners looking to oust Synder from the league.
“There’s no reason for there to be any speculation at this point in time or discussion until we have the facts. That was my message to ownership,” Goodell said, according to The Associated Press. “Speculation without facts is not a very positive thing to do. I think everyone deserves to have the facts and to make sure those decisions are made with facts, and the membership will have that opportunity.”
A Commanders spokesperson released a statement on Tuesday criticizing Irsay’s comments.
“It is highly inappropriate, but not surprising, that Mr. Irsay opted to make statements publicly based on falsehoods in the media,” the spokesperson said, according to The Washington Post. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Irsay decided to go public with his statement today, while an investigation is in process, and the team has had no opportunity to formally respond to allegations.”
Snyder, who’s owned the Commanders since 1999, has faced a multitude of allegations about his behavior and leadership from former employees. At least 15 former employees have said they were sexually harassed during their employment with the team, in some cases by team executives.
One former Commanders employee, Tiffani Johnston, accused Snyder of touching her inappropriately during a work dinner and “aggressively” pushing her toward his limo. Johnston was one of six former employees who spoke out about the Commanders’ harmful workplace environment during a congressional roundtable earlier this year.
In 2018, The New York Times published an investigation into the treatment of the team’s cheerleaders. Several women alleged they were sexually harassed while cheering on the team’s squad, with some saying team leadership was “pimping us out” to male sponsors. Others said they were required to pose topless for a calendar photo shoot. The team replaced its cheerleading squad with a coed dance team in 2021.
In 2021, the NFL issued a $10 million fine to the Commanders after an investigation found that Snyder had failed to establish an appropriate work environment. The league also required the team to put firm anti-harassment policies in place.
Snyder has long been defiant in the face of public backlash. During an interview with USA Today in 2013, he told the outlet that “we will never change the name of the team,” which, for decades, was a racial slur referring to Native Americans.
The team officially dropped its racist moniker in 2020 after decades of pressure from Native American activists, briefly going by the name “Washington Football Team” before unveiling the Washington Commanders name earlier this year.