The Washington Commanders made history in 2020 by making Jason Wright the first Black team president in the NFL. It served as a monumental moment for the franchise and league, with many hoping that Wright would play a central role in repairing the culture.
Wright, alongside head coach Ron Rivera, was brought in to help turn around an organization with countless problems. Under owner Daniel Snyder, the Commanders played in one of the worst NFL stadiums, perenially struggled on the field and had countless allegations of a toxic workplace that enabled sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior for decades.
The NFL fined the organization $10 million and removed Snyder from day-to-day operations in 2021, a move meant to open the door for Wright to become more involved with the franchise. However, many within the league and even those inside the Commanders’ organization reportedly believe the team president lacks true authority within the front office.
Related: Washingon Commanders schedule
Much of the focus on the in-depth reporting by ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr., Seth Wickersham and Tisha Thompson focused on Snyder’s refusal to sell the team and his willingness to damage the reputation of other owners if forced to sell. However, the story also details how Wright’s role is perceived around the league, another source of frustration from those in the NFL.
Multiple sources indicated to ESPN that they questioned how much true authority Wright has to repair the Commanders’ organization. Despite the insistence from the league office that Snyder isn’t heavily involved in day-to-day decisions, many current and former team executives indicate the Commanders’ owner remains a very active member of the organization.
The NFL reportedly offered its recommendation of Wright to become team president before it launched the investigation into the Commanders’ organizational culture, per ESPN. Multiple executives and owners around the NFL believe Wright is well-qualified, bringing the right demeanor, perspective and character to lead a team.
While the Commanders have praised Wright publicly for bringing more diversity into the front office and creating a more positive and respectable culture, the feelings around the NFL about what is going on in Washington is very different.
Jason Wright’s role with Washington Commanders and involvement of Daniel Snyder
NFL owners, team executives and league officials all told ESPN that they doubt the Commanders’ organization can be fixed as long as Snyder remains the owner. Part of the rationale for that thinking is Snyder’s continued involvement in so many aspects of team operations with the Commanders’ owner reportedly using a landline from inside his mansion to make decisions even when he isn’t at the facility.
When Wright took over the position, he was tasked to help accelerate plans for a new stadium to replace FedEx Field. However, per ESPN, Snyder became directly involved in the effort after the NFL disciplined him with the $10 million fine and required him to not be directly involved with the franchise.
One of the figures involved at the time, former COO Greg Resh, reportedly told executives at a league meeting that he was in charge of the stadium project and Wright was nothing more than a figurehead.
Long before the DEA raided the Commanders’ facility in October 2021 as part of a federal investigation into former head trainer Ryan Vermillion, Wright and chief people officer Andre Chambers reportedly wanted Vermillion removed before training camp even started. At the time, former head team physician Robin West alleged that Vermillion was verbally abusive towards her and other staff.
However, Rivera refused to fire Vermillion after working with him for several years with the Carolina Panthers. Rivera had the authority to make those decisions thanks to Snyder. In August, Vermillion agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement after being accused of unlawfully obtaining and dispensing oxycodone.
Wright has reportedly told associates that he doesn’t feel like he can make meaningful and necessary changes within the organization until the ownership situation is addressed. After hiring people to help fix the culture, Wright has now seen multiple executives leave within the past year.