Chiefs Dirty Laundry Piling Up

For an organization that prides itself on operating behind closed doors and allowing very little of the franchise’s internal operations to leak past the locked and guarded gates to their facility, an awful lot of Chiefs dirty laundry still finds its way to the public.

Just this week we had two very different, but very telling stories come from the “new Chiefs” and the way they go about doing their business:

  • Former long-time employee Brenda Sniezek filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the organization. Filed late last week, the suit includes a statement attributed to GM Scott Pioli about what the new regime planned to do – “We’re going to get rid of everyone who was with Carl Peterson, especially anyone over the age of 40.”
  • According to radio station KCSP-AM 610 Sports, an employee of the team called one of their talk show hosts to share the information that in Chicago last Saturday night, head coach Todd Haley cancelled the team meeting so he could go out to dinner with friends. Again, the report was supposedly based on information volunteered by a member of the Chiefs organization.

Let’s start on the legal side of things. Sniezek was a 29-year employee of the Chiefs and was well known around Kansas City because of her position as the team’s Director of Community Relations. That department was frequently honored not only locally, but nationally around the NFL for their efforts of connecting the team and players to the Kansas City community. It was Sniezek who spearheaded the efforts that helped both Will Shields and Brian Waters earn designation as the NFL’s Man of the Year/Walter Payton Award winners. She and a very hard working staff helped players connect all over the Midwest with various charities and causes.

Up until her final year of employment, Sniezek’s annual performance reviews were exemplary and she was considered one of the organization’s most valuable employees. But in her last year, the job review was negative in tone. Team President Mark Donovan criticized her for a publicity release from her department that included several misspelled words. All this was written out on an evaluation form prepared by Donovan’s office where Sniezek’s name was misspelled. It was all an attempt the suit says to “paper Sniezek’s file.”

The lawsuit alleges that Sniezek was fired because of her age (she was 51 at the time of her departure), and that she was replaced by a younger employee. The suit also alleges that this was a pattern of the organization under the leadership of Clark Hunt, Pioli and Donovan.

As you would expect, the Chiefs say there’s nothing to the suit, and promise to “vigorously defend” themselves.

I’ve known Brenda Sniezek since the day she was hired by the Chiefs in 1982. Like so many others fired by the organization, she was treated poorly by the new regime only because she was part of the old regime. The cleansing of the “Peterson Chiefs” flushed away countless loyal, knowledgeable and talented employees. They were treated shabbily and none more so than Sniezek who over the years also did yeoman’s work for the Hunt family with charity efforts and team affairs in Kansas City.

And there was certainly a pattern in the firings, with older employees dominating the list. There were certainly patterns in the hiring to fill those positions, all younger in age and with less experience and thus, they cost less. Under Clark Hunt’s leadership, quality employees with experience have no worth; low pay is considered priceless.

Don’t think Sniezek is just a lone ticked off former employee. There are at least two other former employees who are in the midst of filing lawsuits for age discrimination against the team. There may be more after that.

There are other patterns in hiring around the Chiefs that are being looked at closely by organizations outside the facility, especially due to the lack of African-American employees. According to the 2011 Chiefs media guide, the non-football/business side has just two black employees pictured among the staff, both men and both security guards.

The Chiefs are not a public corporation, so they have no outside shareholders to answer too. But the organization sometimes forgets that without the public, they have no business and their operations should always be above board and fair. It sounds like in these cases qualified employees were treated poorly, unfairly and without cause.

Now, on to Saturday night in Chicago – if someone in the Chiefs organization is calling up sports talk radio stations and sharing this type of news the intent is for one reason only – to make Haley look bad.

It’s been part of a pattern of behavior that has come out of the upper reaches of the organization all season long as the rift between Haley and Pioli became more and more obvious. Much as how it occurred Sniezek, situations like this are an attempt to paper the file on the head coach and make his departure a matter of cause, rather than due to the insecurity of the general manager.

Generally what happens on the evening of a Chiefs road trip is that once the team arrives at their hotel, the players have some time off. Then at some point, they generally get together as offense and defense and go through the game plans and play selection one more time with the coordinators. That’s generally followed by a team meeting where the head coach provides some final words of wisdom or direction.

In Chicago, the offensive and defensive meetings were held, but there was no overall team meeting. Haley said this week when asked that he decided there was no reason for a team meeting that night; that he had said all that he needed to say. He decided to go out for pizza with his wife and two of his daughters who made the trip to Chicago for the game.

Haley is not the first Chiefs head coach to not hold a Saturday night team meeting on the road. Marty Schottenheimer, Dick Vermeil and Herm Edwards all at various times changed their night before the game routines. Sometimes they too actually went out to dinner with friends and family.

It was never a story and never became known to the average person because those coaches were not forced to toil under conditions where the general manager and his minions in the organization are working against him.

The leaking of this information was an attempt to paint Haley as a slacker, someone of questionable work ethic, who has given up on his team at a time when they need him most. I can’t even begin to tell you how much those thoughts are full of crap. Haley is not a slacker, his work ethic is without question and he’s not given up on anything and anyone involving the 2011 Chiefs season.

In both situations the Chiefs front office comes across as unprepared for their roles in running the organization. What was once an organization that operated above board and with class now prefers to do business in the shadows with rumors, revisionist history and back stabbing.


20 Responses to “Chiefs Dirty Laundry Piling Up”

  • December 8, 2011  - rufus says:

    I believe one would want to look to the top for answers. Clark Hunt is not even close to a chip off the old block. I once had pity and patience for this team due to Lamar’s illness and death, not anymore and it is because of Clark.

    I don’t mind seeing the franchise “move on” by replacing employees, so long as those (former) employees have been taken care of and are not disgruntled through dismissal.

    The treatment/firing of parking attendants was what turned me to the skeptical side of Hunt.


  • December 8, 2011  - Nick says:

    Reading things like this are really frustrating and embarassing as a Chiefs fan. I would never stop being a Chiefs fan because of the win-loss record. But hearing things like this, treating people wrongly really is frustrating. In Lamar Hunt we had one of the most respected owners in football. Now it appears that in Clark we have a dishonest, disloyal owner. Still a Chiefs fan and will remain one but reading stuff like this, is far more frustrating than cheering for a team that loses more than it wins.


  • December 8, 2011  - Johnfromwichita says:

    Nick you hit this one on the head. I fully agree and nothing else needs to be said.


  • December 8, 2011  - cychief24 says:

    Bob- What do you think of the rumor that Clark is keeping The Chiefs $30 mil under the cap every year in order to cover the $150 mil the Hunt family put into the New Arrowhead?
    Under the new CBA doesn’t every team have to spend 99% of the cap starting in 2013? So Haley may have been set up as the fall guy for this policy.

    I’d also like to know if any of the press has asked Pioli/Haley about why they cut Gaither when he clearly should be starting for KC.


  • December 9, 2011  - Bobber says:

    Thanks for writing about this, Bob. I’m much more disappointed by these shameless firings than I am by the team’s record. Before every game, Mitch H. is on the radio broadcast describing that arrowhead on Chief’s helmets as “the symbol of excellence in the NFL”. The Chiefs have always had a very well respected organization, but this is shameful. Not only is it illegal, but its just mean and effects people’s lives. Why? To feed someone’s ego? I don’t know who is responsible for this mess, but Clark Hunt is in charge of this organization and its not like he didn’t know about these firings, so its his fault. Now what can he do if they lose in court? Typically, managers us US companies lose their positions if they do this kind of thing, so it seems like Clark will have to fire Pioli if the cours upholds these accusations. That means starting all over with new team management, another rebuilding program, etc. So I’m very disappointed in my team. I shouldn’t have to deal with this. I should be able to enjoy my team and I resent having to think about anything other than football relative to my beloved Chiefs.


  • December 9, 2011  - Michael says:

    “The acorn doesn’t fall from the tree.” You don’t have to be a Mythbuster to call this one, BUSTED.

    Maybe the Chiefs have become America’s team: You are appalled at what the government is doing to the nation, and all you find yourself wanting to do is support the troops.

    Clark thanks for officially bringing organized crime to Kansas City. For example; know one is allowed to know what goes on inside the family, silence is power. They are driven by money, it’s only spent to suite them personally. If anyone gets in the way, they just eliminate them. And in public they go about their business as if untouchable. But look at the bright side, if the Chiefs acted more like the east coast they might get more favorable national media coverage. Uh, just a thought.


  • December 9, 2011  - ED J says:

    To me the firing of employees is none story. Anytime a company and yes Chiefs are a company much like other 31 teams in NFL billion dollar businees is ran down like Chiefs were heads are going to roll when new management comes in. IN the book War Room Pioli mentions how employees were too comfortable, employees slacked off at work, and didn’t take their jobs seriously. It also talked about how they did things that cost Hunt money. So on and so. So to me I understand the firings. Of course Bob know alot these people so he’ll be more sensitive than most media members. But understanding how business world works this how it is. Most of time when new management takes over a run down company they have about 90 to 95% turnover and rightfully so. There’s a reason teams and organizations are bad its because people aren’t doing their job. It does trickle away from the field as much as it does on it. No different with successful teams or organizations that are well run trickles away from the field as well.

    To me real story is the Haley one. It is none issue as well but Bob raised a concerning matter. Did someone leak information about Haley because Pioli told them to? Or is this the work of a rogue employee who doesn’t like Haley? I hope its the 1st one but guess time will tell because if Haley goes on to win more games which I think he will. It wouldn’t make sense to fire a guy who lost his starting Qb and 3 of his top 5 players on a team that is lacking depth at alot of positions. Guess time will tell


  • December 9, 2011  - ED J says:

    And I meant to say I hope it is the latter because GM working against his head coach is a bad pattern to set going forward and will certainly not attract any other high profile coaches to want to come here.


  • December 9, 2011  - Chuck says:

    Let me just put it to you this way. There is a definite “pattern” with these guys. A longtime college scout who I’ve had several conversations with was let go shortly after Piglioli’s arrival. (Thats what my wife calls him). Then shortly after his arrival a friend of mine in the office (Larry Green) was let go. Both of these guys were old (over 40 easily). As I’ve said before I have little respect for Piglioli. Unfortunately that has become the new modern way in american capitalism (getting rid of the old) so you don’t have to pay them the big salarys and pay for their expensive health insurance and retirement accounts. You see it all over America. The land of the great.


  • December 9, 2011  - Chuck says:

    Reference from above: The college scout was Chuck Cook.


  • December 9, 2011  - RW says:

    It matters not what any fan or scribe thinks about the Chiefs and the way they’ve elected to run their organization. It SHOULD but that’s another program.

    Flinty eyed Jr. Hunt, his trophy wife and lapdog GM can bloody do whatever they want including, it would seem, trashing longterm older employees at their whim. The only recourse for some of us, especially me, is to repudiate past loyalties to this shameful operation and find another team to follow.

    That isn’t an easy thing to do for any longterm fan and won’t be for me but this operation hasn’t felt like my old hometown team in the last several years since Jr. Hunt took over anyhow. I’m not blaming the players or the coaches.

    On the other hand, here’s a bony middle finger for Hunt Jr. Goodbye.


  • December 9, 2011  - Tim says:

    Yes, its one thing to “clean house” with a new regime. Its another to treat people poorly. Unfortunately, I believe at least some of that is happening. The reason some of this rings true is just remember what was happening with the sudden change in game day employees not being able to go into the staduim to watch the game after their duities were done. Yes, a change in policy perhaps, but certainly an indicator of how employees were being viewed. Additionally, if there wasn’t such a firestorm of criticism for cutting employees, coaches, etc. salaries during the strike that we ALL knew would end, I don’t believe for a second they would’ve gotten the raise. Those decisions emminate from the top: Hunt & Pioli. Now as for Haley, I believe the issue is a bit more murky. Weiss coming to KU basically tells us what happened: Haley has trouble in the sandbox. If that isn’t resolved, a change will need to be made, regardless of the fact that I like him. Cychief24…you may be onto someting with your theory of why we’re so far under the cap. Pioli has said he can spend whatever he wants on a player BUT he’s never said there weren’t limitations on how much under the cap he might have to stay. When we had so many clear deficiencies on the roster, and viable options available at some positions, I believe you may have hit the nail on the head. Put it all together with these three individuals & you have a boiling pot & a scarily fragile dynamic.


  • December 9, 2011  - James says:

    I don’t think it’s a theory the Chief’s are so far under the cap. It’s pretty obvious. To RW, don’t give up. I’ve tried to change teams and it doesn’t work. For forty years I’ve lived and died with this team. Had season tickets in the late 80′s and early 90′s before college tuition for children and the cost of a new home put an end to that. Chief fan’s deserve better. It would appear Haley is both hard to work with and for. And Piglioli, I like that Chuck, hasn’t shown me squat. Thanks for letting me vent Bob.


  • December 9, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    There are several ways to interpret Bob’s article and the subsequent comments posted. We can all cheer for the dedicated, long term and loyal employees of any company or corporation. Certainly the employees ideas and hard work allowed the company to prosper and receive accolades for their business practices & actions both locally & nationally. Their boss’s loved them & relied on them. Could count on them to get the job done in an emergency. We can all admire model employees & always wish we had more. Maybe those were the good ole days for some of these employees.
    When top new management comes to town, you know change will quickly follow. Not unlike when a new president is elected. The new guy is not too excited about inheriting the old staff. Sure, in the beginning they are helpful and informative. The new guy likes some of the old staff. Then the new guy has new ideas he wants the old staff to implement, yet the old staff was used to doing it the old way and thinks the new guy is off his rocker. Why should they comply with the new ideas & rules when the old ideas & rules were working just fine? The old saying “if it ain’t broke, why fix it”? I think my point is coming across now. It’s hard to adapt change when it has been done the same way for 20 or more years. Resentment and second guessing continues to fester until it is clear the new guy and the old employee realize it just ain’t going to work.
    Maybe cutting the head off the snake is a little premature. Maybe being what you have always been, is not condusive to what you really could be. Maybe change is good for all of us. “Old & New”
    Go Chiefs.

    in a crisis.


  • December 9, 2011  - Niblick says:

    Jimbo-Great post. I could not have said it any better.


  • December 9, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Pens.

    Scott Pioli is obsessed with making sure no one steals a pen from HQ. To save Clark money.

    People? Screw ‘em. Pens? Don’t you dare take one home.

    Haley needs to resign and go work for a better organization. He’s too good for Clark Hunt and Scott Pioli.

    Hope everyone reads Bob’s piece and passes on the information. This organization is dysfunctional and it has nothing to do with Haley. Not having the meeting was a crime? We won the game. With Tyler Palko.

    Thanks, Scott.


  • December 9, 2011  - johnfromfairfax says:

    Sad to hear this stuff. I suppose there are two sides to every story but it doesn’t make it any more palatable when long-time employees who have been both loyal and respected are let go with such acrimony on display from both sides. It does happen and I’ll reserve judgement on the business side. However, if the rift is as severe as indicated between Pioli and Haley I don’t see how both survive in the organization. I realize some people don’t like Haley but I think he has what it takes to continue to improve and develop into a very good head coach. If stories are being leaked from the iron fortress to paint the coach in a bad light and pave the way to get rid of him it is really unfortunate. I also think it’s a piss poor way to do business in both cases. Change is an inevitable result in organizations and personnel but there is a right and wrong and functional or dysfunctional way to bring about that change. I guess time will tell but if that allegations are true I suspect that the Chiefs may be headed down a path that may take a long time to reverse. I for one hope it isn’t true. I have loved them from childhood but won’t continue to support and follow them unconditionally if they become the model of inefficiency and pettiness in the 21st Century of pro football.


  • December 9, 2011  - Jesse says:

    EdJ and Jimbo are right on track. The story is Haley. New management has every right to change staff.


  • December 9, 2011  - Rowan says:

    They should read some research. It all shows older employees more valuable. Like others this stuff makes me sad squared.


  • December 10, 2011  - 3WinsSinceSBIV says:

    Clark Hunt is a disgrace to this franchise, the taxpayers who renovated the stadium, and the fans. He’s cheap. He’s thin-skinned. And he’s no Lamar Hunt!

    And now he’s alleged to be violating the law by firing employees based on their age.

    It’s unfortunate that Bob isn’t still writing for the Star so that a broader segment of the fans would know about this.




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