A primer from NFL owners’ meetings on a potential Commanders sale

A primer from NFL owners' meetings on potential Commanders sale originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

DALLAS — While the Commanders surged into the playoff race during the second half of the NFL season, the team’s future operations remain firmly in limbo. 

As NFL owners from across the country gather this week in Dallas for business meetings, among the largest lingering league issues is the Washington ownership situation under Daniel Snyder. Last week the House Oversight Committee issued its final report from an investigation into the team and concluded that Snyder had operated his organization through abusive and harassing means while using private investigators to intimidate whistle-blowers. 

While there’s little clarity about what will happen next there is some information available. That starts with understanding the sale process, which the league does not run. 

The team is working with Bank of America brokers to find potential buyers and work through scenarios. The only formal role for the NFL comes when a price is agreed upon by the seller and the buyer, and then the transaction goes to a vote of other NFL owners. 

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Specific to the Commanders it’s important to point out that while a few scenarios seem most likely, nothing is known. Some of the scenarios include:

– No competition – Jeff Bezos is among the richest people in the world and if he wants the Commanders it’s unlikely any other bidder would enter the fray. Why enter an unwinnable fight? The Amazon founder and chairman has a home in Washington, bought The Washington Post almost a decade ago and is building an East Coast campus for his company in Arlington. Plenty of signs point to Bezos as the eventual owner of the Commanders, but there are questions too.

Do other NFL owners want to let Bezos into their club, knowing he has more wealth than many of them combined? There’s also the Amazon television rights for Thursday Night Football. That’s a lucrative deal for all the other owners, and could be a growing revenue stream in years to come. Lawyers could probably figure out some workaround here, but it would be cumbersome and lead to lots of questions.

Also think about this – what better way to drive up prices than the looming threat of Bezos buying a team? That might be the NFL’s best way to push already sky high franchise prices even higher. Consider this too – the NFL believes states and municipalities should help its clubs build new stadiums. There’s a wide array of evidence to support this theory, and the league has a loan program for teams to build new stadiums as long as its taxpayer supported. 

– Lots of competition – Assuming Bezos isn’t in the hunt for the team there will be plenty of competition. NFL franchises have immense value and there are plenty of billionaires that want to tap into the powerful D.C. market. Plus, if a new owner had the liquidity and political clout to get a new stadium deal done in the District, the future of the Washington franchise could be an absolute cash cow.

Two names to watch are billionaires with local ties in Todd Boehly and Josh Harris, but there will be plenty of interested parties. Multiple sources around the league believe as many as six groups have already submitted offers for the Washington organization with the clock ticking on submissions. 

– An elaborate hoax –  There’s also the nuclear option for many Commanders fans: Dan Snyder has no intention to sell. It’s entirely possible, even if unlikely, that Snyder requested proposals for his team just to determine that no offer was good enough and he will continue to own the club. That could force league action if the other owners are truly determined to get Snyder out of the NFL.

There’s also the thought that Snyder only wants to bring in a new limited partner, a cash infusion for a new stadium push. A new partner would require NFL approval, which might not be easy if it’s seen as helping Snyder. Perhaps there’s a way that a new owner buys a piece of the Commanders now with more purchases in agreed upon increments over time, similar to Steve Bisciotti’s deal to buy the Ravens from Art Modell. Regardless, for Commanders fans waiting for Snyder’s departure, this scenario presents the least pleasing option. Whatever the eventual outcome with Washington’s ownership situation, this week in Dallas with the NFL’s power brokers all in one place could push everything closer to a conclusion.  

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