LOVERRO: Commanders’ treatment of players’ families speaks to a lack of humanity

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When Nick Sundberg saw the NFL Players Association survey last week about how teams treat their players and their families, he certainly wasn’t shocked when the Washington Commanders finished at the bottom of nearly every category.

The only grade that wasn’t an embarrassment to Skipper Dan the Sailing Man’s organization was the A+ they received for strength coaches, tied for first in the NFL.

The rest of the report card was not one you would be eager to bring home — F- on team travel, locker room and training room, at the bottom of the survey; an F on treatment of families, tied for last in the league; D on training staff; D+ on food service and nutrition, and a C+ on the weight room.

The former Washington long snapper was in the organization for 11 years, from 2010 through 2020. He is among the longest-tenured players under Skipper Dan’s reign. He knows things. He’s seen some stuff.

“I wasn’t surprised, especially with the grade on treatment of families,” he said.

The treatment of families, perhaps more than any other category, speaks to the organization’s lack of humanity. We are talking about, for the most part, women and children here.

Knowing what we know about Skipper Dan, it’s hardly surprising. But what Sundberg did reveal is that he shares that indifference with his first mate and wife, Tanya.

“My wife some years ago had led an effort to get the team to try to put forth a little bit of effort with game day stuff,” Sundberg said. “One of the biggest issues was there was no changing table for babies in any of the restrooms on the lower level. All the families were in one section, but there was no place to change diapers for kids. You had to go all the way up to the club level, but if you don’t have club level passes that would be a problem.

“At a women’s luncheon, one of the wives had asked them to put one in,” Sundberg said. “Tanya Snyder told her to her face, “They are expensive, and we’re going to have a new stadium in a couple of years anyway, so why do it?’

“The wife asked how much they were,” he said. “We’re not asking for every bathroom, just the one above the section where the families sit. She [Tanya Snyder] said they are about $150. The wife said, ‘I’ll give you $150 right now if you can just put one in.’ Tanya said, ‘No, no, we’re going to have a new stadium anyway, so it’s fine.’”

A new stadium. She might as well have said a new planet.

“Anytime the women wanted anything, they went to Tanya Snyder,” he said.

Many of these players are young with families just starting out, often away from their extended families. The team is supposed to be their second family.

What a lousy family.

“My wife would hold her hands out, and they would lay a blanket over her arms,” Sundberg said. “In the stands they would change the baby while my wife was holding her hands out.”

You think this doesn’t matter to free agents with families? You think this is some sort of Washington secret no one around the league knew about?

You think the NFLPA was the first one to put out a report card on all the teams about the treatment of families?

“The wives got together and got contact information for almost every single other team,” he said. “My wife put together a spreadsheet of what every team in the league offers and doesn’t offer. Washington had zero check marks across the board.”

He saw the problems franchise-wide, like the revolving door of employees who worked under what the NFL called, in the cover-up Beth Wilkinson probe, a “toxic” workplace. “They drove a lot of good employees right out the door,” Sundberg said.

“We have changing tables in all of the family restrooms on every level, and in many other restrooms throughout the stadium,” the Commanders said in response Monday.  

The exodus has continued, despite the claims under team president and chief blunder officer Jason Wright that the culture in the building has changed.

This was the response from the Commanders last week to the NFLPA survey: “Player health and safety is our top priority and we continue to invest in our facilities, including a new practice field, new turf in the practice bubble and increased meeting room space. We know there is more to do and we regularly talk to our players about ways to improve their work environment and experience for their families.”

What, no new stadium?

Hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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