NFL owners approve sale of Commanders, former owner fined $60 million

A general view of fans in front of the Washington Commanders logo during the first half of the game between the Washington Commanders and the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField on September 25, 2022 in Landover, Maryland.

Scott Taetsch | Getty Images

National Football League owners have unanimously approved the sale of the Washington Commanders franchise to a group led by the co-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, the league said on Thursday.

Financial terms of the deal to purchase the Commanders from Dan Snyder, who was fined $60 million by the NFL for workplace misconduct after the approval was announced, were not disclosed. Several media reports said the deal was struck for an NFL-record price of $6.05 billion.

The group led by Josh Harris, who is a managing general partner at Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, includes Maryland businessman Mitchell Rales and Magic Johnson, who won five NBA championships during a Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

In connection with the HBSE portfolio, Harris is managing partner of the 76ers, Devils and a general partner at Premier League soccer club Crystal Palace. He is also the co-founder of asset management firm Apollo Global Management.

“From day one, it is our top priority to deliver you a championship caliber team, and we will strive every day to ensure that we are a franchise you can be proud of,” Harris said in a statement.

“To Commanders fans everywhere, our promise is simple: we will do the work, create the culture and make the investment needed to deliver for this team and for Washington.”

Former NBA great Johnson wrote on Twitter that he is both “honored and ecstatic” to be a co-owner of an NFL team.

“This is truly the biggest achievement in my business career and a historic moment for the entire Black community,” said Johnson. “Talk about God’s perfect timing. This was the right organization for me to be a part of given (its) global appeal, history of winning, and the diverse fanbase and DMV community.”

Workplace culture

Minutes after the Commanders’ sale was approved, the NFL released the findings of an independent investigation that sustained an allegation by a former team employee of sexual harassment by Snyder.

Snyder denies the accusations, calling them “outright lies”.

The investigation also concluded that the Commanders withheld about $11 million in revenue, and possibly more, that should have been shared with other NFL teams.

Snyder bought the Washington franchise in 1999 for $800 million and his ownership of the club came under pressure amid investigations by the NFL and Congress into the team’s workplace culture and potential financial improprieties.

In 2021 the NFL fined the Commanders $10 million after an independent counsel review found the workplace demonstrated “a general lack of respect” towards women.

The Commanders said last November that Snyder would explore a potential sale of the team, one of the NFL’s marquee sides, which was ranked by Forbes in 2022 as the league’s sixth-most valuable franchise at $5.6 billion.

The following month the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform said in a report after a year-long investigation that Snyder both “permitted and participated” in the team’s toxic workplace culture while the NFL helped to cover it up.

The committee’s final report said sexual harassment, bullying and other toxic conduct pervaded the team’s workplace, perpetuated by a culture of fear instilled by Snyder.

The report also stated that despite the NFL’s knowledge — through its internal investigation — that Snyder engaged in tactics used to intimidate victims, the league aligned its legal interests with the Commanders and buried its findings.

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