Thursday December 7, 2023

Dan Snyder, NFL Seek to Push Washington Football Dispute Out of Court

  • Co-owners seek to get federal court to issue injunction as they seek to sell take in team.
  • Snyder, NFL aim to get the case sent back to an arbitrator.
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

Editor’s note: This story was updated Dec. 23 to include information on court order.

The latest turn in the dispute between Washington Football team majority owner Dan Snyder and the franchise’s three co-owners remains largely under seal in a federal court located in Maryland.

At least, it was supposed to be that way. On Dec. 23, Judge Peter J. Messitte ordered Snyder along with the team’s co-owners real estate exec Dwight Schar, FedEx chief executive Fred Smith, and investor Robert Rothman to appear in court. The order comes after stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post published details a confidential sexual harassment settlement between Snyder and a former team employee.

The hearing on Jan. 7 will attempt to determine whether anyone involved in the lawsuit “provided or know of any person who may have provided such information to the press” in violation of a confidentiality and non-disparagement issued by Judge Messitte on Nov. 19.

The case is largely under seal as details — including tightly held financial dealings — would almost certainly be revealed, something that sports leagues and teams have largely kept hidden through the arbitration process.

“I think there are going to be two attacks to keep this out of the public eye,” said Jeffrey P. Burke, an employment law attorney at firm MacElree Harvey. “One of which will be by Snyder. He will try to defend against this thing and say, ‘This carve out language [in the arbitration clause of the ownership contract] is very minimal, so the court should send the owners’ dispute to arbitration.’ The NFL, presumably, is going to go in there and say these owners have an obligation to privately arbitrate this matter under the NFL arbitration agreement that they’ve all signed [with the league].”

The NFL, which filed a motion to intervene in the case, declined to comment when reached by Front Office Sports. While the filing is sealed, the NFL filed a memorandum of law to claim it has “exclusive jurisdiction to arbitrate” the case on Nov. 24.

“They are going to make the case that their arbitration clause supersedes [the lawsuit],” Burke said. “I wouldn’t be surprised, given how powerful the NFL is, that [the co-owners] are bound by overarching arbitration language.”

Schar, Smith and Rothman were already in arbitration as they look to sell their respective interests in the Washington Football Team before the lawsuit was filed, according to the redacted complaint. 

Front Office Sports previously reported the tumult started in May when Snyder told the co-owners the team would suspend the annual dividend disbursement amid the pandemic.  

California billionaires Behdad Eghbali and Jose Feliciano have offered to purchase the 40% stake in the Washington Football Team held by the three co-owners, The Washington Post reported. While Snyder had agreed on the sale of the portion of the team held by Smith and Rothman, Snyder blocked Schar from selling his. Snyder has the right of first refusal, according to court documents.

Snyder and the NFL are seeking to avoid the issues created in an ownership dispute with the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Thrashers that began in 2005 and weren’t settled until 2012. The financial losses of the Thrashers — who eventually were sold and relocated to Winnipeg — totaled more than $130 million as the infighting among ownership was on full display in legal filings.

While lawsuits can sometimes slow arbitration cases, they typically land up back before an arbitrator. 

Legal experts expect that to be the case this time before the already messy affairs of the Washington Football Team — that includes accusations Schar led a disinformation campaign to force Snyder to sell the team — gets even messier.

“They knew what they were doing when they signed the arbitration agreement,” said Tammi Gaw, a Washington-based sports attorney. “It’s different from something like a click agreement like you’d find in the terms of service of iTunes where you don’t have a choice. In my opinion and experience, that will probably be the largest procedural reason that doesn’t fly.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Goodell Makes ‘MNF’ Visit To Help Jaguars in $2B Stadium Talks

The Jaguars are exploring a $2 billion stadium deal.
A Chicago Bears helmet.

Yet Another Proposal for A New Bears Stadium: The Parking Lot

Popular tailgating site becomes latest stadium site possibility for NFL team.

Ex-Jags Employee Accused of Stealing $22M, Going on Massive Shopping Spree

Executive accused of using team funds to fund lavish personal lifestyle.
Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh Reportedly Eyes Five-Year Extension With Michigan

The Michigan coach is close to a $55 million contract. But the school wants written pledge he won't jump back to NFL.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Why the NBA May Have Made Billions With Midseason Tournament


Featured Today

The College Football Playoff is considering rotating TV networks for the national championship game.

CFP Considers Super Bowl-Like Rotation For National Championship Game

Multiple networks could share rights to the championship game, sources told FOS.
Brett Favre
November 27, 2023

Favre Welfare Case Hold-Up? "AG’s Office Has Not Expressed Interest In Pursuing"

The DOJ interviewed Brett Favre in early 2020.
The future of the Pac-12 rests on a court decision.
November 24, 2023

The Pac-12 Plays Its Final Regular-Season Game. Then A Court Decides Its Fate.

The conference's future rests with a court decision.
Lane Kiffin
November 9, 2023

Ole Miss, Lane Kiffin Lawyers Argue for Dismissal of Player Lawsuit

FOS obtained audio of Lane Kiffin's interaction with the player behind lawsuit.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Multiple Locations
Multiple Locations
Creative Artists Agency
Multiple Locations

Top Sports Business Jobs This Week (December 2023)

Each week, our staff combs through the thousands of job listings from…
August 10, 2022

PGA Tour Touts Projected Earnings to Keep Players

The PGA Tour is asking its players to consider their potential futures.
October 3, 2022

Real Madrid President Renews Call for Super League

Real Madrid's president believes that soccer is losing ground.

NHL’s Chris Foster on Amplifying Content Distribution With Automation

Learn how the NHL is using WSC Sports to increase fan engagement.
August 10, 2022

Bayern Munich to Make Growth Push in U.S. Market

Bayern Munich is looking to expand its reach in the U.S.
August 3, 2022

Nintendo Profits Underwhelm, Switch Sales Decline

Nintendo failed to meet expectations in the company’s latest earnings report.
August 19, 2021

MLB Owners Propose $100M Salary Floor

Major League Baseball owners have proposed a $100 million payroll minimum for MLB’s 30 teams and a lower luxury tax threshold.
July 23, 2021

NFL to Players: Get Vaccinated or Pay the Price

The NFL's threatening to drop the financial hammer on un-vaccinated players and teams that cause forfeited games in 2021, according to memo.