NFL owners hope to resolve issues with Snyder; Goodell predicts sale approval


EAGAN, Minn. — NFL team owners are increasingly optimistic they’ll be able to resolve their remaining issues with Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder in a manner that does not significantly impede Snyder’s $6.05 billion sale of the franchise to a group led by Josh Harris, two people with direct knowledge of the league’s inner workings and the owners’ views said.

The owners believe Snyder is eager to see his deal with Harris finalized and approved so he can leave the NFL and receive the financial benefits of the sale, those people said, and thus will not hinder or greatly delay the process via deliberations related to indemnification and the NFL’s investigation being conducted by attorney Mary Jo White.

The NFL has said repeatedly that White’s findings will be released publicly. And the owners apparently want Snyder to indemnify them, in addition to Snyder dropping any attempts to be indemnified.

Josh Harris’s Commanders deal is ‘not there yet,’ but NFL owners are hopeful

The owners completed a two-day league meeting Tuesday at a Minneapolis-area hotel. Commissioner Roger Goodell said he expects owners to ultimately ratify Harris’s deal.

“I think we’ll get it to a place where it will be approved,” Goodell said at a news conference. “The [finance] committee really just had their first meeting [Monday] on the matter. We really got the documents last week. So we’re hard at work as a staff looking at that, as we do every transaction. There’s a lot of due diligence as well as compliance issues. All of that’s happening and working full speed. … And we’ll have a meeting at the appropriate time.”

Some people connected to the process have fretted that the issues related to Snyder could delay completion of the sale. But those concerns apparently are being alleviated.

“I sense that [Snyder] wants to have this done. … I do think it will get done,” one of the people familiar with the league’s inner workings and the owners’ views said.

Another person echoed that view, adding that Snyder has a strong financial incentive to have the sale finalized as soon as possible. That person estimated a resolution with Snyder on indemnification is “95 percent done” and said it does not appear deliberations over White’s investigation and report will halt the sale.

The NFL has been in discussions with Snyder’s representatives, people familiar with those conversations have said.

White is leading the NFL’s second investigation of Snyder and his franchise. Snyder has 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, according to one of those people.

The Washington Post reported in February that Snyder was seeking for the NFL to keep confidential the findings of White’s investigation. ESPN reported this month that Snyder and his attorneys are 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.

“Mary Jo White is an expert,” Goodell said Tuesday. “She’s being incredibly thorough. When she’s concluded the investigation, she’ll let me know. We have pledged to make sure we tell our ownership. And we’ve pledged to make sure that the findings are made public. So we will do that.”

It is not known to what extent, if at all, the Harris group might indemnify Snyder against legal liability and costs as part of the sale agreement. Since February, multiple people with direct knowledge of the league’s inner workings have said Snyder was seeking such indemnification from a buyer or from the league and other owners. The Commanders said then that such depictions were inaccurate.

The owners not only want to avoid indemnifying Snyder; they want Snyder to indemnify them in a manner consistent with other franchise sales, a person familiar with the process has said.

If the issues with Snyder are resolved, the timing of approval and completion of the sale would depend upon the ability of the NFL and its finance committee to work with Harris’s group on matters related to the deal’s structure. There will be a strong push over the next four to five weeks to resolve the issues with Harris, a person familiar with the situation said.

The owners were updated on the Commanders sale during their two-day meeting but did not take a vote to approve Harris’s deal. The sale must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 owners. They generally follow the recommendation of the eight-owner finance committee, which is in charge of vetting the deal.

The NFL could schedule a special meeting this summer for the owners to vote on Harris’s deal. The owners’ next scheduled meeting is in October.

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Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, a member of the finance committee, said Monday that the owners hope to ratify the sale before the start of the season in September. But Harris’s deal is “not there yet” in its compliance with league ownership rules, Irsay said.

“There’s no question there’s work to be done on it. … We’re hopeful, though, that it’ll happen,” Irsay said Tuesday.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reiterated Tuesday that he expects the deal to be ratified. “I know we’re all anxious, and especially fans,” he said. “But this thing’s on a good course.”

Jones said the approval process is “on a good time frame” and ratification of the deal is “likely to happen.”

He added of Harris: “I have met him, but I haven’t had business with him. … This is just an outstanding group, certainly one that I’d be proud to have a part of the NFL.”

Representatives of the Harris group are in discussions with the NFL about the approval process, according to two people familiar with those conversations. One of those people described the talks as constructive.

The finance committee raised issues related to the structure of Harris’s deal, according to several people familiar with its deliberations. The committee believes the deal, in its current structure, is well above the NFL’s $1.1 billion debt limit for team acquisitions, according to one of those people. But Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, the chairman of the committee, has vowed to continue to work with Harris’s deal, according to that person.

Goodell declined to provide a timetable for the approval process, saying the league and finance committee will “work as quickly as we can” and the owners will take a ratification vote “when it’s ready.” If the sale is approved, the Harris group then can focus on matters such as picking a site and securing funding for a new stadium.

“I think that’s something the new ownership is going to have to address,” Goodell said. “It is not something we’re requiring in the context of the transaction. But I know that the new ownership will be focused on it, just from the limited conversations I’ve had with them.”

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