Feinstein: Foster Signing Reflects Poorly On Snyder

Washington signing Reuben Foster is "yet another example of Dan Snyder’s complete lack of conscience," John Feinstein says

John Feinstein
November 28, 2018 - 12:50 pm

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The first time I ever spoke with Dan Snyder was in a telephone conversation, not long after he became the principal owner of Washington’s NFL football team.

He called, allegedly to arrange a meeting so I could "understand" him better. I’d been critical of a number of things he’d done after buying the team—honestly, almost 20 years later, I don’t even remember what they were. For whatever reason, probably because I was still doing ESPN’s The Sports Reporters in those days, he thought it was worth his while to try to win me over.

This is the first thing he said to me: “So, do you have a problem with Children’s Hospital?”

I had expected a lot of possible openings, but this didn’t come from left field; it came from well beyond the left-field fence.

I think my reply was something along the lines of, “What?”

“Well, I was trying to think of a reason why you’d be so critical of me and all I could think was maybe you had a bad experience at Children’s Hospital and you know I give a lot of money to them and so…”

Now, I got it. I interrupted.

“Hang on, Dan,” I said—knowing I was undoubtedly annoying him because he preferred to be called, “Mr Snyder. “To begin with, my son DID have hernia surgery at Children’s not that long ago, and the people there were absolutely great.

“But that isn’t the point. The point is, I don’t CARE how much money you give to charity. You’re very rich. You SHOULD give a lot of money to charity.”

I thought—as I often do—of Dean Smith’s line about not being proud of doing the right thing in life but just doing the right thing. Snyder clearly didn’t subscribe to that theory. He wanted to make sure I knew he gave “a lot” of money to Children’s Hospital.

Not surprisingly, the conversation didn’t go too well from there. He kept insisting I "didn’t know him well enough" to criticize him and I insisted that the specific issues I was criticizing him for had nothing to do with Children’s Hospital or anything else in his personal life.

I thought about this again Tuesday when news broke that Snyder’s team had claimed Reuben Foster off waivers after the San Francisco 49ers cut him over the weekend.

Foster is a very talented linebacker, but a VERY troubled human being. He’s been in constant trouble since before the 49ers drafted him in 2017 and on Saturday was arrested for the third time THIS YEAR.

He was charged with domestic violence, the second time he’s been charged with that crime since April. The first time, the woman in question recanted her claims and the charges were dropped. Apparently, he was with the same woman in Tampa Saturday when he was arrested again.

Here’s a question: if someone you were involved with just flat out made up a story that you’d beaten her up, would you still be with her seven months later? Just wondering.

The 49ers could no doubt use Foster on the field. But they decided enough was enough. No other team in the league would touch Foster—except Washington. Then the team put out a statement over Doug Williams’ name saying that, while it was understood that the charges against Foster were serious and had to be investigated, the team had done due diligence on Foster and he’d gotten high marks.

Sure he did. As a linebacker.

Williams’ name was on the statement for one reason: he’s the only person with any power in the team’s front office who engenders public respect. There is no way a decision like this was made without Snyder’s approval and with the approval of his usual out-front stooge, team president Bruce Allen.

I happen to know Williams pretty well, having worked closely with him in the last year on the book I wrote on playing quarterback in the NFL. He is a stand-up guy, a very good man and I don’t think for one second it would be his idea to try to sign someone like Foster.

No, this was a Snyder/Allen production.

In recent years, Snyder has made Allen the front man for many of his terrible decisions. Allen was the guy who kept referring to quarterback Kirk Cousins as “Kurt,” while the team was allegedly negotiating a long-term contract that everyone knew was never going to happen.

This is a classic Snyder ploy: find a way to insult someone you don’t think is going to be able to help you in the future.

Snyder did tell a reporter a couple of years ago that the team’s nickname—which the dictionary defines as a pejorative directed at American Indians—would NEVER change. Why? Because he doesn’t want it to. The team has leaned on a couple of polls showing that many American Indians "don’t care" about the nickname. That’s probably true; they have far more important things to worry about.

There are also African-Americans who say they aren’t offended by the n-word and it appears often in rap lyrics. That doesn’t make it right or any less insulting. Snyder surrounds himself with yes-men who tell him he’s never wrong and cheer, cheer, cheer for the home team. Then he tells himself he’s a good guy because he gives money to charity.

He’s not a good guy. He’s a bad guy. And I DO know him well enough to say that. I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating: Several years ago, my wife and I were in a little Italian restaurant not far from where we live—and not far from the estate Snyder currently has on sale for something like $50 million.

We were sitting in the back of the restaurant when Snyder and his wife came in with another couple: Bennett Zier and his wife; Zier was running Snyder’s radio stations at that point.
The manager approached, saying Mr. Snyder had seen us and wanted to buy us a bottle of wine. I sensed some sort of trap. My wife said, “If you say no, he’ll tell people he put out an olive branch and you refused it.”

She was right. I told the manager to thank Snyder and tell him I’d like to buy his table dessert. Keep the score even, I figured.

As we were leaving, we had to pass the Snyder group’s table. I stopped, put out my hand and said, “Dan, thanks for the wine. That was very gracious. I hope you all enjoy dessert.”

Snyder stared at my hand and then said: “Yeah, it was great buying a bottle of wine for someone who has been s----- on me for years.”

I had been right. It was a trap. He wanted a confrontation in the middle of a crowded restaurant.

I smiled. “Dan, if you have a problem with anything I’ve written or said, let’s have lunch and talk about it. Right here. I’ll buy. But we’re all with our wives right now and this isn’t the time or the place for an argument.”

Snyder turned to my wife—who was edging as quickly as possible towards the exit, pointed a finger at HER and said, “How does your husband sleep at night? Doesn’t he have a conscience? How do you let him write the things he writes?”

My wife smiled. “He sleeps fine,” she said.

At that point, Zier—a good guy who was clearly embarrassed by the scene—jumped in to introduce the wives and bring up a mutual friend. He was trying to break the tension and end the argument.

Not good enough. “You have no right to criticize me,” Snyder said. “You don’t know all the work I do for charity.”

Back to that again. I put up my hand. “Dan. Not here. Not now. Call me. We’ll talk.”

Snyder turned away. “I don’t talk to the media during the season,” he said.

“You just did,” I said.

I handed the bottle of wine back to the manager on the way out. “Tell Mr. Snyder to keep it,” I said. “And I hope he enjoys dessert.”

Snyder doesn’t speak to the media at all nowadays—which is hardly a loss for any of us. He trots out Allen and, occasionally when the team needs someone who is respected, Williams.

The Foster signing is yet another example of Snyder’s complete lack of conscience on any level. If he’s offending people with his team’s nickname, he doesn’t care. If he mistreats people who work for him because he’s “Mr. Snyder,” he doesn’t care. If he signs someone who appears to think hitting women is okay, he doesn’t care.

Snyder is about as prime an example of a narcissist as you’ll find anywhere. Which may explain why he’s supporter of Donald Trump. The two men have a lot in common.
John Feinstein’s new book is, “Quarterback—Inside the Most Important Position in the National Football League.” His most recent novel is, “The Prodigy,”—the story of a 17-year-old who finds himself in contention at the Masters surrounded by people tugging at him in all directions because they want HIM to make THEM rich. His website is: JFeinsteinbooks.com