NEW YORK – The focus of the NFL’s fall owners’ meetings took a dramatic turn Tuesday afternoon when Jim Irsay went against the norm and spoke out against one of his colleagues.
The Indianapolis Colts’ owner’s bombshell: There’s “merit’’ to removing Daniel Snyder as owner of the Washington Commanders.
Irsay wants to see all of the evidence regarding workplace misconduct and financial improprieties under Snyder’s leadership in Washington, but made it clear things he’s heard are “gravely concerning’’ and removing Snyder “has to be given serious consideration.’’
Irsay is one of the league’s more influential owners, and the best interest of the NFL has always directed his actions. He’s frequently mentioned the influences of the Rooney family in Pittsburgh, the Mara family with the New York Giants and the Hunt family with the Kansas City Chiefs in how he runs the Colts and handles league-related activities.
That’s one of the reasons Irsay felt it necessary to speak out against the controversies swirling around Snyder.
“Some of the things I’ve heard doesn’t represent us at all,’’ he said. “I want the American public and the world to know what we’re about as owners.
“I’ve known Dan; we’re not close or anything like that. It’s a regrettable situation. It pains me. The founders of this league taught me we have to protect the game and protect what we’re about.
“This isn’t what we’re about.’’
The improprieties in the workplace strike a chord with Irsay.
“What’s happened in the workplace, having three daughters, seven granddaughters, that’s just not . . . you can’t shy away from the fact it’s an unfortunate situation, but I believe it’s in the best interest of the National Football League that we look it squarely in the eye,’’ he said.
“It’s greatly concerning to me the things that have occurred there over the last 20 years.’’
In a recent ESPN story, it was reported Snyder has “dirt’’ on other owners, and might use that information as a deterrent if there was a concerted effort to remove him.
Irsay’s troubled past is well known. In September 2014, he pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated following a March incident during which he was charged with DWI and four counts of possession of a controlled substance.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell subsequently suspended Irsay six games and fined him $500,000, the stiffest fine allowed by the league.
“I don’t know about that. I could care less,’’ Irsay said of Snyder’s alleged threat. “You can investigate me until the cows come home, that’s not going to back me off.
“To me, I shrug it off. It’s irrelevant to me. I just focus on the issue of what’s happened in Washington and to me it’s gravely concerning.’’
The Mary Jo White investigation into Washington’s years of alleged misconduct is at the root of the issue.
It would take 24 of 32 owners to vote for Snyder’s removal. That vote isn’t imminent, but Irsay believes there would be sufficient support if the thorough investigation offered damning evidence.
Washington was quick to react to Irsay’s comments.
“It is highly inappropriate, but not surprising, that Mr. Irsay opted to make statements publicly based on falsehoods in the media,’’ a team spokesman said via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Irsay decided to go public with his statements today, while an investigation is in process, and the team has had no opportunity to formally respond to allegations.
“The Commanders have made remarkable progress over the past two years. We are confident that, when he has an opportunity to see the actual evidence in this case, Mr. Irsay will conclude that there is no reason for the Snyders to consider selling the franchise. And they won’t.’’
It’s doubtful the Commanders’ response will quiet Irsay.
“When we look at the evidence going forward, we’ll have to determine what the situation is,’’ he said. “But I just believe in the workplace today, the standard that the shield stands for in the NFL that you have to stand for that and protect that.
“I just think once owners talk amongst each other, they’ll arrive at the right decision. Unfortunately, I believe that that’s the road we probably need to go down and we just need to finish the investigation.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.