Daniel Snyder selling doesn’t make things right. That’s up to Josh Harris.

Daniel Snyder selling doesn't make things right. That's up to Josh Harris.

So that’s all it took to slay Daniel Snyder. Just 24 years of franchise degradation. Just a trail of misery that extended from football fields to the NFL office, from court rooms to Congress, from the traumatized lives subjected to his baneful workplace to the dignity of all who persisted in the belief that a team bearing a city’s name meant more than a single, disturbing influence.

Just a $6 billion parachute for a man who already seems to have drifted overseas to escape his problems.

It’s official, at last. Snyder has been excised as the malignant owner of the Washington Commanders. Hallelujah, he’s gone. Cleaning up after him will be laborious, but he cannot impede the recovery.

Until three years ago, it seemed Snyder, who is still just 58, would torment the team for 30 more years. NFL owners seem inevitable, untouchable. They absorb all sins, all controversies. They print money despite their mismanagement. Out of their selfish desire to evade culpability, they protect each other at all costs. Well, nearly all costs. Remarkably — dastardly — Snyder found a price his peers wouldn’t pay.

Snyder didn’t have to go because of all the wrong things he is accused of doing. He is out because he wronged the wrong people. His departure signals neither a triumph of justice for women allegedly harassed and abused on his watch nor for people who had to experience his blatant disrespect for all things, including honest reporting of the team’s finances. Ultimately, he had to sell the Commanders because he was so reckless with his invincibility that he rankled everyone else who tries to prance through life with their noses in the air.

A year-by-year look at Daniel Snyder’s ownership of Washington’s NFL team

He was bad for a business that tolerates a lot of bad. Snyder was consistent, at least. He treated everyone poorly, no matter their status. As owners, sponsors and civic leaders distanced themselves from him, as fans increased their rage, as investigations and legal headaches multiplied, Snyder found $6.05 billion to be an attractive remedy.

Consider it the most extravagant force-out in American sports history.

The transaction makes very little right. But it’s over now. Snyder is done. The pursuit of accountability for his alleged misconduct must continue, but this new day is worthy of celebration.

It’s also a day to realign authority. Josh Harris, the billionaire face of the new group overseeing the team, shouldn’t be treated as a savior. If you felt powerless during the Snyder reign, it would be imprudent to enter this relationship without dictating new terms. Fan obsession created the business model that allows owners to feel invulnerable, and that level of passion is most effective as a negotiating tool at the start of something fresh.

It is not enough that Harris isn’t Snyder. It is not enough that Harris grew up in the area and has a solid reputation as an investor in other sports franchises. This is his greatest challenge: to be a conscientious guardian of an ailing legacy NFL franchise. He and his partners will profit, but the unconditional demand must be that they serve.

Snyder didn’t serve. He abused the privilege. Still, he made tons of money every year and then sold the team for a record amount, which was nearly eight times the $800 million purchase price (then a record, too) in 1999. In almost a quarter century, Snyder may have improved a doorknob. Other than that, he thrived despite ruination. People love the team too much to see it truly fail.

The next era needs to be different. Snyder’s exit is a relief and a reason to apply pressure because the new owner is actually listening. Harris will care to make an impression. He will find broken items all over the place. But his group attached a lot of money to its aspirations and belief in the franchise. To realize those dreams, Harris must repair all of the relationships that Snyder shattered.

Perspective: Daniel Snyder destroyed a D.C. institution. Maybe now it can heal.

It gives the public more leverage than usual. The NFL may be an undefeated revenue generator, but Washington underperformed dramatically as Snyder punctured enthusiasm one diabolical act at a time. He never got better at running the team — just more arrogant, bitter and delusional. In the end, it caught up with him, but only after he alienated employees, fans, sponsors, agents, players and teams throughout the league, his partners, fellow owners, Commissioner Roger Goodell and lawmakers. The slow unraveling didn’t accelerate until a 2020 Washington Post investigation of the team’s workplace culture began a cascade of distressing revelations that left him unable to enjoy a home game at FedEx Field. Snyder’s wife, Tanya, a breast cancer survivor, received boos in October as the stadium played a “Think Pink” video.

It was an ugly, desperate moment. By then, it was the only way to be heard. Sometimes cruelty begets cruelty. Snyder had devolved from being the team owner to being considered a franchise squatter. What a miserable experience all around.

And what a low bar for Harris to clear. He doesn’t need Magic Johnson, one of his partners, to turn back the clock and jump over it. There’s no leap necessary, just common sense. As an investment, the Commanders are a low-risk venture. If the hope is to be a civic asset capable of thrilling a region again, Snyder has created danger everywhere. But shrewd business executives look for opportunity, not safety.

It’s time for everyone to be shrewd. The Snyder saga was a window through which power and corruption in sports could be seen clearly. In the beginning, the mistakes seemed comical. Then they became upsetting. By the end, they were horrifying. Now, as the parade commences, remember that morality didn’t stop the agony. It’s only over because Snyder couldn’t behave in front of the few people who mattered. And they punished him by forcing him to get richer and disappear.

This time, don’t settle for different. Demand better.

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