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OF COURSE, DAN SNYDER AND OTHER OWNERS ARE USING PRIVATE EYES
Gathering dirt on enemies, including fellow owners, is a way of life in sports — Snyder dangles threats to keep his NFL team; what of a Reinsdorf-fronted security firm that conducts ‘investigations'?
It’s another commentary on American idiocy when fans continue to feed the pro football machine — with money, with energy, with eyeballs — while realizing the NFL is filthier than Daniel Snyder’s toilet. Even if he’s removed from the helm of the Washington Commanders by fellow owners who loathe and fear him, a doubtful conclusion, the damage already has been done to the consumer trust.
Whatever that means anymore.
Thanks to Snyder, our ugliest concerns about these billionaires and their toys have been confirmed. The real games aren’t on the field but inside the backrooms and data bases of law firms and spy shops. The owners are engaged in unscrupulous arms wars against each other, scheming via the Machiavellian tactics that made them rich and powerful to begin with. And in the NFL, they are protected by a commissioner, Roger Goodell, who is paid obscene amounts to minimize public fallout and preserve the purring mechanism behind the most popular, prosperous league in U.S. history.
So even when there are grounds to remove Snyder, the men who could execute his demise are afraid of what he knows about them and how he might retaliate in revenge. Never mind his lengthy dirty-laundry list: a toxic team workplace culture in which videos circulated of partially nude team cheerleaders, an accusation that Snyder groped and attempted to remove the clothes of an ex-team employee on his plane, his inept stewardship of a once-formidable franchise that now generates the league’s lowest revenues, a decrepit stadium that has little chance of being replaced because Snyder has alienated politicians and clout brokers who could make it happen.
Once Snyder instructed his army of lawyers/private eyes to snoop into the business of those who could ruin him, ranging from former ally Jerry Jones to Goodell himself, any urge to purge him turned softer. His paranoia has triggered their paranoia, allowing him to remain atop his team like an inoperable cancer. Sure enough Thursday, not long after an ESPN bombshell penetrated Snyder’s web of spying and detailed his maneuvers to expose enemies, the NFL shot down a report: The owners WILL NOT vote on Snyder’s status during their fall meetings Tuesday in New York. In code, it means the league is enjoying its usual massive TV ratings; the holidays are nearing; the Arizona desert is preparing for Super Bowl LVII; and the owners have no interest in addressing Snyder, other than to say they like his wife, Tanya, and are glad she’s front and center with her rogue husband in trying to fix the football plague in the nation’s capital.
If I sometimes veer into an Orwellian mentality and bleed conspiratorial blood, I’ve also experienced enough real espionage to fill a book. My 17 years as a Chicago columnist were contaminated by bad sports owners, corrupt publishers and broadcast executives, weaselly editors and teammates — and I had to watch my path constantly. I’d wake up every morning and ask, “What the hell is going to happen today?” — and something usually did, only because I was fearless, independent and good at my job. I’ve written often on Substack about Jerry Reinsdorf’s creepy lordship over the city’s sports landscape. Not until I was sent a link recently did I realize how creepy.
Reinsdorf, the 86-year-old owner of the White Sox and Bulls, is listed as one of five principals fronting a “security consulting and business advisory firm” called Global Security Innovative Strategies. What is the mission of this curious operation, based in Washington, D.C.?
“GSIS leverages its extensive private sector, homeland and public security, public sector and international expertise to provide comprehensive solutions for its clients,” the company website explains. “These solutions range from investigations, end-to-end security assessments, design and implementation to government relations support and business advisory services such as due-diligence, new market entrance and business intelligence.”
Why is a sports owner involved in such an elaborate security initiative? Joining Reinsdorf in GSIS leadership is a “team comprised of well-known chief executives, former Federal Government agency heads, senior advisors to Presidents, cabinet secretaries and Governors.” GSIS, according to the site, “provides a wide range of services including conducting high impact investigations.”
High impact investigations, huh.
I’m not sure if Snyder will reach out to Reinsdorf, whose H Street firm isn’t far from the beleaguered owner’s Virginia mansion. But if he does, Jerry can tell him how he operates in Chicago, where media have ignored two major lawsuits against the White Sox, one involving a head trainer who says he was fired because he’s gay, and another case — settled quietly over the summer — filed by an autistic batboy who accused a minor-league manager of grotesque sexual harassment “because of his disability.”
So, yeah, sports owners hire spies. You’d think Goodell, among Snyder’s reported undercover targets, would lead the charge to remove him. But the NFL, in a cowardly public-relations strategy, is waiting out the media until we run out of oxygen. The Washington Post has published credible Snyder exposes. The New York Times was leaked e-mails, part of a massive trove reportedly under Snyder’s control, that diverted attention from the Commanders culture to the racist, misogynistic and anti-gay leanings of longtime league coach/broadcaster Jon Gruden. Now ESPN has taken its swing, admirable in the face of a lucrative, 11-year broadcast deal in which the NFL finally let Disney properties into the Super Bowl rotation.
What it all means: The league is too big and too wealthy to care. Snyder has been investigated twice by the NFL, or so the league says, and if the information was damning, Goodell never has said. The commissioner’s only response was cosmetic, asking Snyder to remain out of public view while his wife served as the interim franchise face. By all indications, after paying a chump-change fine, Snyder continues to run the team from his mansion. It was his idea, reportedly, to sign quarterback Carson Wentz, the latest brain-fart in a hellish 24-year reign that has included only six winning seasons and no playoff victories since 2005.
Dandy Danny doesn’t just disrespect the league. He blew off Congress, preferring to remain on his 305-foot yacht off the French coast as he was being summoned by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. When Goodell was asked during the hearing, “Will you remove him?” he wasn’t completely forthcoming. Not pleased with Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s question, he said, “I don't have the authority to remove him, Congresswoman.”
Not true. As the ESPN story points out, the NFL Constitution allows a commissioner to recommend the removal of an owner in the company of the other 31 owners. Goodell simply doesn’t want to make the recommendation, or he would have done so long ago. And the other owners? You think Jerry Jones wants a place in Snyder’s crosshairs in a year when, suddenly, all sorts of naughty things have been reported about Jones’ empire? A 25-year-old woman says Jones is her paternal father. His longtime publicist and protector, Rich Dalrymple, was accused of voyeurism by members of the Dallas Cowboys’ famed cheerleading squad, a lawsuit settled by Jones for $2.4 million. The ESPN piece quotes a Snyder confidante who says the owner is keeping a dossier on Jones.
So, who really thinks 24 of 32 owners will rally and oust a scoundrel who might end up burying them in the end? According to the story, Snyder has enough secrets to “blow up” numerous owners and Goodell.
“They can’t f— with me,” the story quotes him, from a conversation.
It’s your choice whether to keep watching the National Football League. I’m thinking a docuseries would be more entertaining. ESPN already has a head start, and the TV contract is binding the next 10 years. For now, I’m going to check my hard drive for GSIS bugs.
Jay Mariotti, called “without question the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes general sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts and shows in production today. He is an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and talk/podcast host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects.