Done deal: Pep rally awaits after NFL owners OK Commanders’ record-breaking sale

LISTEN LIVE: WTOP has live coverage of the historic sale of the Commanders.

After NFL owners Thursday unanimously approved the sale of the Washington Commanders to a group led by Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris, fans are more than ready to celebrate.

Current and former Washington NFL players as well as the Commanders’ new owners will hold a 1 p.m. pep rally at FedEx Field.

The team will also hold a news conference, introducing the new owners at 2 p.m. Slated to appear with Harris are other members of the investment group, including legendary NBA star Magic Johnson and businessman Mitchell Rales.

The vote by NFL team owners Thursday was the final step in record-breaking deal — and put the final nail in Dan Snyder’s controversial reign as owner of the franchise.

“We are humbled and awed by the level of responsibility that we have to take care of the city, to win championships and really excite the fans again,” Harris said in a news conference after the vote.

At just more than $6 billion, the Commanders sale is the largest for a North American professional sports franchise.

“Congratulations to Josh Harris and his impressive group of partners. Josh will be a great addition to the NFL. He has a remarkable record in business, sports, and in his communities. The diverse group that Josh has put together is outstanding,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

The vote came after a lengthy closed-door meeting in Minneapolis that lasted nearly three hours, fueling fan anticipation.

“I think there are high expectations for everybody. I think there’s a sigh of relief,” Frank Herzog, longtime radio voice for Washington’s football team, told WTOP. “I think the new owners have got a lot to do. Boy, there’s a lot on their list.”

Speculation about the team’s sale reached a fever pitch in April, when it was reported that the Harris group, which includes Magic Johnson, had reached an agreement with Snyder to buy the team in the record $6 billion deal.

More Commanders News

White report released

Former U.S. Attorney and Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White, who was hired by the NFL last year to investigate various allegations of workplace misconduct and business improprieties, was at the meeting to brief NFL owners about the status of her investigation ahead of the vote.

Following the sale’s approval, the NFL released the findings of White’s investigation, which sustained Tiffani Johnston’s allegation of sexual harassment by Snyder and allegations of deliberate underreporting of NFL revenues by the franchise.

White’s investigation did not find sufficient evidence to demonstrate Snyder’s involvement in the 2013 calendar photo shoot incident or in ticket security deposit issues. The team paid $625,000 in April to settle claims that it engaged in deceptive practices to hold on to hundreds of thousands of dollars in security deposits paid by fans for premium tickets.

Snyder will pay the NFL $60 million to resolve White’s investigation “and all outstanding matters,” according to the league.

The Dan Snyder era

Snyder, a Maryland native, bought the team he rooted for as a child in 1999 for $750 million and swore he would never sell the team despite mounting criticism throughout his years of ownership. He also said the team would never change its name.

“We will never change the name of the team,” Snyder said back in 2013. “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

But pressure from sponsors, including FedEx, PepsiCo and Nike, forced Snyder to change the team’s name in 2020. The team’s former name had been the subject of criticism and protest from Native American advocates and experts who said the old name is defined as a racial slur.

For almost two years, the team was called the Washington Football Team, until 2022, when it became the Washington Commanders.

The team — and Snyder’s leadership — has been beset by controversy in recent years.

After multiple investigations by the league and Congress into Washington’s workplace misconduct and potential financial improprieties, a congressional report found Snyder played a role in a toxic culture, The Associated Press reported. These allegations included sexual harassment, a reported “tip sheet” used to put together an “enemies list,” and investigation interference, among others.

In July 2021, the NFL fined the team $10 million after a misconduct investigation. This was followed by a team announcement that Snyder would step down from day-to-day operations for several months. Two weeks later, Snyder and his wife, Tanya, took their first step toward selling the team by hiring Bank of America Securities to explore a possible sale.

Another crack in Snyder’s hold over team ownership came up last October, when Indiana Colts owner Jim Irsay became the first to suggest there was “merit to remove” Snyder as owner.

Who is Josh Harris?

Like Snyder, Harris grew up in Maryland. In addition to Magic Johnson, Harris’ ownership group includes Washington-area billionaire Mitchell Rales and David Blitzer. Harris and Blitzer have owned the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers since 2011 and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils since 2013.

“They’ve got to return the integrity of the franchise, and they’ve got to solve their real estate problems. And the integrity issue, I think, is going to be taken care of by the ownership, especially Mitch Rales … He’s a man of great integrity. ” Herzog said.

Bringing fans back is also a major priority after Washington ranked last in the league in attendance in 2022 and second-to-last in 2021.

“We look forward to running a world-class organization and making significant investments on and off the field to achieve excellence and have a lasting and positive impact on the community,” Harris said last May.

Another challenge for the new owners will be the development of a new stadium to replace FedEx Field, which was ranked as the worst stadium in the league, located in Landover, Maryland.

“They’ve got to make a deal with the District. They’ve got to find a way to put that stadium in at RFK,” Herzog said. “I understand that Congress, a couple of people in Congress have said they wouldn’t mind the idea of giving that land to the District. Maybe something can happen.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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