A theory on what's really going on inside Redskins ownership

Chris Lingebach
July 09, 2020 - 4:31 pm

Redskins minority owner Fred Smith led an effort to try to get Dan Snyder to sell his majority ownership to Smith and other investors, according to Thom Loverro, in a report Wednesday evening that looks an awful lot like the other shoe dropping on a week of strange reportings on team ownership.

"Something strange is happening," Loverro wrote. "What is it? Fred Smith led an effort to try to get Dan Snyder to sell the majority ownership of #Redskins to him and other investors, sources told me today. Snyder wouldn't budge. Now Smith and investors want out."

So what, now, are we seeing? Are Fred Smith and the remaining contingent of Redskins minority owners – who were reported Sunday to have wanted out – now viewed as traitors by Snyder, left to twist in the wind after a failed coup attempt? Or are we receiving these events out of order, distorting our perception of what's transpired?

"What I reported last night, that they tried to buy him out and take over the team, I think that happened probably within the last year," Loverro told The Sports Junkies Thursday morning. "Probably at least a few months back. And (Snyder) wouldn't budge."

"The recent development, I think, is putting their shares up for sale," he said. "I find it difficult to believe that they haven't been able to sell them, as some of the reports have said, because as damaged as this franchise would be, it's still a slice of an NFL team, and like I said, there are a lot of benefits to it."

"I think Snyder probably sees it as a betrayal," Loverro added. "I think the rest of the fanbase probably sees them as saviors."

Or, as Loverro quipped in his latest Washington Times column, "Suddenly the name didn't seem as important. Many Redskins fans would let you call their team the Dallas Cowboys if it meant Snyder had to walk the plank."

Something Redskins fans may be wise to ask themselves: Does Dan Snyder really want to own the Washington Redtails (or whichever substitute that's inevitably chosen)? This is a man who's vehemently defied public pressure to change for years, pressure that would overwhelm most people into caving immediately. Defied it in no uncertain terms such us: "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Snyder's just giving up the fight? That's it?

What we may be seeing, perhaps, is Smith's last-ditch effort to outmaneuver Snyder. It may be helpful to retrace our steps. Once FedEx issued its statement about communicating to "the team in Washington our request they change the team name" on Thursday, the name was all but dead in the water.

The very next day, the Redskins issued their own statement, announcing they will "undergo a thorough review of the team’s name."

What does Smith – the founder and CEO of FedEx – stand to lose by moving against Snyder in such a public way? After all, he reportedly already wanted to sell his share of the team anyway, right? It's what he stands to gain where one might find motive: majority ownership of the Washington (football team).

If Dan Snyder – the man whose nostalgia for the team runs so deep it can be traced back to his Redskins belt buckle as a child, and can be seen on Sundays on the side of his Redskins Crock-Pot and on his Redskins watch – wanted to change the name, do you think he'd do it in such a hurried manner? Or would he likely have had a plan in place for years, carefully crafted to maximize profits off the new name and its public rollout.

Hypothetically, if a minority owner were so inclined, had only the issue of staging an elaborate power play through the media to seize the majority share from his intractable business partner, might it look something like what we've witnessed over the past week?

Now imagine if that hypothetical owner posed the following hypothetical question to his aggrieved business partner: 'You're losing the team name you so adore either way. Would you rather take $3.4 billion and run, or keep owning this team with which you have no emotional connection to whatsoever?'

"There's not many benefits to being a minority owner," Loverro said. "You get a nice seat in the owner's box on Sunday and you get to tell people you own a piece of the Redskins, or whatever team, but that's about it. There's one boss."

One key benefit minority owners do have, Loverro says, is gaining an inside track to majority ownership when one of these 32 money-printing factories does so rarely go up for sale.

"You have to be vetted and approved by the NFL to be a minority owner, and then if a team comes up for sale and you're interested in getting in at the head table, you have a much better chance of being that guy," he said. "David Tepper of the Carolina Panthers was a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, as was Jimmy Haslam, who wound up owning the Browns."

Smith's desire to own a majority share of an NFL team predates his actual minority ownership of the Redskins.

A quick history lesson from 106.7 The Fan columnist Rick Snider: "Snyder has an in-house buyer with Smith, whom Snyder once outmaneuvered for the team. The FedEx chairman sat back when Howard Milstein's bid failed as the latter's minority partner emerged with a new bid to keep the sale from re-opening to the public. Smith was waiting to pay less when Milstein's bid collapsed, rather than aggressively seeking it. Instead, Smith was left to later buy in as a minority partner."

"I think that at one point he tried to buy the Titans," Loverro said. "He's goes back I think to the World Football League, Fred Smith, so I think he's wanted to own a team on and off for a while.

"He's (75 years old), so I'm not sure how much his interest is in owning any other team, but I mean I think the motivation was the frustration of being a partner with Dan Snyder had finally reached its limit at that point. There's not a whole lot they're going to be able to do about it."

This is all just a theory on what could be happening (drawn from actual reporting by Loverro and others) and should by no means be taken as gospel (or even fact, for that matter). But this theory does conclude with one final interpretation: This fight isn't over.