By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Columnist
Welcome, Dan Snyder, to the Owners Hall of Infamy.
You’ll feel right at home with this band of scoundrels, incompetents and reprobates — all of whom proved that being the richest guy in the room does not make you the wisest.
After running the Washington Racist Nickname-slash-Football Team-slash-Commanders into the ground over the last two-plus decades, Snyder is exiting the NFL with a $6 billion consolation prize.
Hard to call him a loser in this sordid affair given all those zeros on the check, but it doesn’t erase his legacy as one of the worst team owners in the history of the NFL.
Any sport, for that matter.
Snyder will surrender the Commanders after a truly impressive array of missteps, misdeeds and malaprops at the helm of a once-storied franchise in the nation’s capital — or, as it’s known to younger fans, the bumbling team that plays in a crumbling, hard-to-reach mausoleum of a stadium in D.C.’s sprawling suburbs.
Snyder made some truly wretched decisions when it came to the players he signed (Albert Haynesworth, anyone?), the coaches he hired (Jim Zorn, anyone?) and the executives he employed (Vinny Cerrato, anyone?), but he never did anything quite as notorious as trading away Babe Ruth heading into the prime of his career.
That dishonor belongs to one of the Hall of Infamy’s inaugural members, Harry Frazee, who showed just how destructive an owner could be if he really put his mind to it.
Frazee purchased the Boston Red Sox in 1916 when they were coming off a World Series title, and presided over another championship two years later. Then, as the story goes, he needed a quick influx of cash after financing a Broadway flop, so he sold his most valuable player to the New York Yankees for $100,000.
Ruth went on to become perhaps the most famous athlete in American sports history, the guy who changed the very way the national pastime is played by smashing one ball after another over the fence.
With the Babe in the middle of their lineup, the Yankees moved into a massive stadium known as “The House That Ruth Built” and captured the first four of what has become a record 27 World Series titles.
The Red Sox? Frazee would sell the team a short time later, but the “Curse of the Bambino” lingered far beyond his devastating tenure. It wouldn’t be until 2004 — after an 86-year drought — that Beantown finally got to celebrate another World Series title.
Snyder was a curse on Washington’s fortunes, for sure.
He doled out enormous amounts of money to players whose best days were behind them — most notably his $100 million signing of Haynesworth. Not even the most free-spending member of Congress could justify that expenditure, which is still regarded as one of the worst free-agent acquisitions in NFL history.
But Snyder has some impressive company in the Hall of Infamy.
Be sure to stop by the exhibit dedicated to Ted Stepien, the Cleveland Cavaliers owner from the early 1980s who purged first-round picks like they were disco records that had gone out of style.
In the laughable quest to build an instant playoff contender, Stepien traded away five consecutive first-round picks, forcing the NBA to impose a rule that prevented such foolishness. For good measure, he fired head coaches like he was George Steinbrenner Lite and, when the fans justifiably stopped showing up for a team that became known as the “Cadavers,” threatened to move them to Toronto.
Thankfully, Stepien was forced out after a tenure that nearly killed the NBA for the good folks along Lake Erie.
Hey, at least Snyder’s teams made the playoffs six times over his nearly quarter-century as owner. Of course, they haven’t won a postseason game since 2005, a far cry from the powerhouse team that claimed three Super Bowl titles in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Now, let’s move to Snyder’s behavior beyond the gridiron, which is where he really left an abhorrent mark.
Former female employees accused the team of a toxic workplace culture, with some of the charges leveled directly at Snyder. Despite his repeated denials and the league’s best efforts to shield their bad boy owner, he was assessed a $10 million fine and agreed to step away from the team’s day-to-day operations for a while.
Snyder also settled with the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland over complaints that he improperly kept the security deposits of season-ticket holders, showing he cared no more for his fans than he did his employees.
In some ways, Snyder followed in the footsteps of another prominent Hall of Infamy member — longtime Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who faced lawsuits for housing discrimination and sexual harassment before he finally sealed his NBA fate with racist comments in 2014.
He was forced to sell the Clippers or risk being stripped of his franchise. Like Snyder, Sterling made out just fine financially by collecting a then-record $2 billion for a team that has never won a championship and long languished in the shadow of the other L.A. team, the Lakers.
With Sterling in the rear-view mirror, any hard feelings toward the Clippers quickly faded away. They still haven’t won a championship, but next year they will move into a Clip Joint of their own — the $1.8 billion Intuit Dome — after sharing a downtown arena with the Lakers.
The Commanders are likely headed for a similar fate when their new ownership group, headed by Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris and Washington-area billionaire Mitchell Rales, takes over.
The quest for a new stadium to replace FedEx Field, which understandably stalled out under Snyder, will quickly return to the forefront and surely be met by a more accommodating political atmosphere.
There’s no reason the Commanders can’t recapture at least some of their former glory. We’re not picking them to win the Super Bowl right away, but it’s not nearly as difficult to move up in the NFL as it is in other leagues, with the leveling effects of the draft and salary cap.
Harris and Rales merely need to be competent, something that eluded Snyder throughout his tenure.
He might not have been quite as bad as Frazee, or Stepien, or Sterling.
But Snyder has found a place that fits his legacy just fine.
The Owners Hall of Infamy.
Paul Newberry is the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL