Photo Credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons and DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
It finally happened! After months of back-and-forths and will-he-or-won’t-hes, Daniel Snyder, the embattled owner of the Washington Commanders, has finally sold off his stake in the team to a group of investors led by Philadelphia 76ers majority owner Josh Harris and NBA legend Magic Johnson. It’s been a drawn-out, arduous process getting to this point, but it appears we have our resolution.
For Commanders fans (formerly Washington Football Team fans, formerly Washington Redskins fans), this is a moment decades in the making. Without question, Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, has been one of the most dysfunctional, inept and embarrassing owners in recent NFL history – and has arguably done more to tarnish “the Shield” than any owner before him. From sexual harassment lawsuits to toxic workplace cultures to outright defrauding the league, it's no surprise that the rest of the NFL owners were happy to let the door smack Snyder on the way out as they levied a $60 million fine against their disgraced associate and unanimously approved the sale to Harris & Co.
While all of this was happening, another transaction was taking place just a six and a half hour drive to the southwest: Michael Jordan, six-time NBA Champion, face of the Jordan brand, and NBA god, sold off his majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets (formerly the Charlotte Bobcats). Because of the relative lack of scandalous headlines, Jordan’s sale went almost unnoticed by the wider public. While NFL fans around the country rejoiced at the demise of the Wicked Witch of the NFC East, His Airness moved on in anonymity.
There is a case to be made, though, that despite all of the (insert the sports world’s favorite euphemism) off-field antics surrounding Snyder’s ownership tenure, he might actually have been a better owner than Jordan, as impossible as that sounds. Here’s a breakdown of the two by the numbers:
24 – seasons as majority owner
6 – total playoff appearances
2 – playoff wins
4 – NFC East titles
2 – team nickname changes (Redskins —> Football Team —> Commanders)
$800 million – purchase price for franchise
$6.05 billion – sold franchise
8x – initial investment increased
$5.3 billion – net profit from selling franchise
$60 million – in fines for workplace sexual harassment
17 – season as majority owner
3 – playoff appearances
0 – times advanced in the playoffs (3 total playoff wins)
0 – Eastern Division titles
1 – team nickname change (Bobcats —> Hornets)
$275 million – bid to become majority owner
$3 billion – sold majority stake
11x – initial investment increased
$2.7 billion – net profit from selling majority stake
$0 – in fines for workplace sexual harassment
Seriously MJ? Three whole playoff wins in seventeen years!? Your entire career mythos was based on your complete and utter desire to obliterate your foes in the playoffs! What the hell happened?
And zero Eastern Division titles? I know divisions are almost meaningless in the NBA, but come on – you couldn’t have stumbled blindly into one? In seventeen years? Good grief…
And while, yes, Snyder’s on-field accomplishments are few and far between, the fact that the Commanders have actually advanced in the playoffs twice under his watch is staggering. Given the way the team is covered, you’d be forgiven if you thought they’d barely won 25 games in the last 24 years. Mike Brown, the owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, has certainly improved his standing amongst fans over the last three years, but you can be sure that back in 2020 there were probably more than a handful of Bengals fans who would have done a Mike-Brown-for-Dan-Snyder swap in a heartbeat.
It’s truly one of the great sports mysteries that Jordan, a player who was so singularly associated with success that his status as the “Greatest Basketball Player of All Time” goes almost unquestioned, could be so completely terrible at operating a professional basketball team. Three wins in three playoff appearances is embarrassing, but it’s even worse when you find out that they were swept in their first two playoff appearances – and granted, the Hornets did take the Miami Heat to seven games in 2016, but that was the Heat’s first season post-LeBron James returning to Cleveland. Basically, it’s been basketball misery in America’s alternate Queen City.
Incredibly, both owners actually changed their team nicknames at least once during their tenure, with Snyder even taking a second crack at it after deciding that the “Washington Football Team” was just a bit too on the nose. In Jordan’s defense, “Bobcats” was a pretty underwhelming nickname, but to go back to “Hornets?” For a guy who was famous for his fearlessness, this was an extremely uninspired choice.
So, who was worse? Which proprietor was responsible for the propagation of the most pain? The answer of course is Snyder. Even acknowledging his (relative) on-field success, his atrocious behavior at the helm of a now-six-billion-dollar franchise was a stain on the NFL that Jordan, no matter how pitiful the Bobcats/Hornets were, could never approach. But man, it’s a hell of a lot closer than people might think.
If only Snyder could have kept it in his pants…or didn’t scam his fellow owners…or hold on to a racist nickname for twenty-one years… Oh, who am I kidding, you’re a bum Daniel Snyder – good riddance. But hey MJ, maybe hold off on piling on Snyder while he’s down, okay? We wouldn’t want anyone dredging up your track record now, would we?