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NFL finance committee endorses Commanders deal; legal issues resolved

The NFL finance committee met remotely Monday and voted informally to recommend approval of Josh Harris’s $6.05 billion deal to purchase the Washington Commanders from Daniel Snyder, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.

Attorneys for the NFL and Snyder also reached an agreement that resolves the remaining legal issues that had threatened to complicate the approval and closing of the deal, those people said. That clears the way for NFL team owners to vote to ratify the record-setting sale during a meeting scheduled for Thursday in Minneapolis.

Some of the eight owners on the finance committee did not participate in Monday’s meeting, and the committee did not take a formal vote to recommend approval of the sale, according to one of the people with knowledge of the deliberations. But the owners who participated took what that person described as a “straw poll” in which they unanimously endorsed the deal.

The finance committee’s official vote to recommend approval of the sale to the other owners is expected to come during its meeting Thursday at a Minneapolis hotel, just ahead of the full owners meeting. The owners generally follow the recommendation of the committee. The sale must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 owners.

“This is a good outcome,” one of the people familiar with Monday’s deliberations said, predicting the sale will receive unanimous support from the finance committee and the owners.

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The sale is expected to close as soon as Friday. According to one of the people with knowledge of the deliberations, the findings of the NFL’s investigation of Snyder and the Commanders being conducted by attorney Mary Jo White could be released soon thereafter. Snyder spoke recently to White for her investigation, two people with knowledge of that conversation said.

Harris’s group is set to take control of the Commanders by the opening of training camp next week. The final impediment to the approval and closing of the deal emerged last week with complications stemming from legal issues that included indemnification tied to former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s lawsuit against the league. One person familiar with the deliberations said last week that the issues were significant and could have delayed the sale if they were not resolved.

How those issues were resolved was not immediately clear Monday evening, but a person familiar with the deliberations said the league and Snyder were satisfied with the outcome. The NFL did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the person familiar with the deliberations, Snyder and his family had been unwilling to indemnify the league and the other NFL owners against liability related to the Gruden case. Snyder’s attorneys were arguing that Snyder should not be responsible for any legal liability stemming from the actions of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and top league attorney Jeff Pash, that person said last week. Snyder’s sister, Michele, a part owner of the Commanders, had not been willing to agree to indemnification of the other owners from legal liability in the Gruden case, according to that person.

The team’s view had been that all of the Commanders’ owners “agreed to indemnify the league for any damages arising from the actions of the owners and the team,” a person familiar with the communications between the Commanders and the NFL said last week. Such an agreement, however, would not necessarily apply to the actions of Goodell and Pash.

Gruden resigned from the Raiders in October 2021 after the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times published emails sent to the team account of Bruce Allen, Washington’s former team president, in which Gruden used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language over approximately seven years of correspondence while he worked for ESPN. Gruden filed a lawsuit against the NFL in 2021, accusing the league and Goodell of using the leaked emails to “publicly sabotage” his career.

The NFL has denied leaking the emails, which were gathered as part of a previous investigation of Washington’s workplace conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson. According to the final report issued in December by the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability (then called the House Committee on Oversight and Reform) on its Democratic-led investigation of the team’s workplace, Allen learned in October 2021 that emails were leaked to the Journal. The report said that when Allen called Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, to complain, “she indicated that the team was responsible for the leak, stating: ‘We didn’t do it at the league office. It came out of their side.’ ”

Goodell reiterated to owners Monday that he and the league office were not responsible for the leaking of the emails, according to a person familiar with the conversations.

Daniel Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, told fellow NFL owners at an October 2021 league meeting that neither she nor her husband was responsible for the leaked emails, multiple people present at that meeting said then.

Harris, a private equity investor who owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, reached an unsigned, nonexclusive deal with Daniel Snyder in April for the Commanders and then signed an exclusive deal May 12. The finance committee initially had concerns about the structure of Harris’s deal to purchase the Commanders from Snyder. But Harris addressed those concerns by agreeing to make adjustments to the deal.

Harris and Mitchell Rales, a top investor in his group, met with the finance committee at the NFL’s offices in New York for 2½ hours June 7. A person familiar with the deliberations said afterward that the deal was expected to be approved “unless something crazy happens.” Two days later, the NFL notified the owners to be available to meet July 20 or Aug. 8, then later scheduled the meeting for July 20.

NFL schedules July 20 meeting for owners to vote on Commanders sale

The sale price would be a record for an NFL franchise, surpassing the $4.65 billion that a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton paid last year to buy the Denver Broncos from the Pat Bowlen Trust. The league also scheduled a special league meeting for the owners to ratify the Broncos sale. The owners took that vote last August in the same hotel at which they will meet Thursday.

The Harris group declined to comment Monday through a spokesman.

White is leading the NFL’s second investigation of Snyder and his franchise. Snyder had declined to be interviewed by White, three people with direct knowledge of the league’s inner workings said in March. White was expected to make at least one more attempt before completing her investigation, one of those people said then.

It was not clear Monday how cooperative Snyder was in answering investigators’ questions during his meeting with White’s team, which is believed to have occurred this month.

The Washington Post reported in February that Snyder was seeking for the NFL to keep confidential the findings of White’s investigation. ESPN reported in May that Snyder and his attorneys were lobbying the NFL to limit the release of White’s report. The Commanders denied that report. Goodell has said the league will release White’s findings publicly even if Snyder sells the team.

White’s findings could lead to Goodell imposing a fine, a person familiar with the NFL’s inner workings has said. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (Md.), the House Oversight Committee’s ranking Democrat, urged the NFL in a letter to Goodell last month to abide by its pledge to release the findings of White’s investigation and to impose any appropriate discipline.


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