How the NFL’s ‘Worst-Ever’ Owner is Blocking Movie Showing ‘Rapist’ Trump

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Scythia Films
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Scythia Films

The billionaire former owner of the Washington Commanders is blocking the release of a biopic of Donald Trump which portrays the former president as a rapist.

Dan Snyder, once described as the NFL’s worst franchise owner, might be able to stop The Apprentice hitting screens thanks to a bizarre twist: He helped finance the movie.

The Apprentice portrays a young Trump and his relentless rise in New York where he is tutored and advised by the amoral attorney Roy Cohn. In the film Trump, played by Sebastian Stan, is shown appearing to rape his first wife Ivana—an allegation she made during their divorce and later disowned.

It was shown at the Cannes film festival, where The Daily Beast’s critic Esther Zuckerman described Jeremy Strong’s portrayal of Cohn as Oscar-worthy.

But the fate of the movie lies in the hands of Snyder, who Trumpworld sources said is acting on his own initiative to stand in the way of its release. The sources were “thrilled” at Snyder’s act of obeisance to his fellow billionaire.

“Obviously anything that depicts Trump negatively is not well received,” a Trumpworld strategist said.

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Snyder, who did not return a request for comment, is not directly involved in the film’s production. He has a financial stake in his son-in-law Mark Rapaport’s production company, Kinematics, which was the main financier of the film, essentially giving the billionaire veto power over a stateside distribution deal.

Now he is doing exactly that: preventing the film’s production company from cutting a deal with Briarcliff, an independent distributor which has previously run films such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and Spotlight. His maneuvers were first reported by Puck News’ Matthew Belloni.

The billionaire saw a cut of the movie before it hit the Cannes Film Festival and was said not to have liked it at all, according to both Puck and Variety.

Sources in Trumpworld who spoke to The Daily Beast said Snyder does not currently have any kind of special standing in the former president’s orbit, but they see the move as a way for the billionaire to maneuver himself into their good graces should Trump emerge victorious in November.

Snyder has previously been a Trump donor—although only in the six-figure range, which is not a level that usually engages the former president—and fits the bill for the former president’s kitchen cabinet of billionaire buddies. His tumultuous ownership of the Commanders, the NFL franchise formerly known as the Washington Redskins, saw him accused of running a toxic culture rampant with sexual harassment and workplace discrimination. It was so bad the NFL ran their own special investigation.

Following the investigation and another 14-month probe from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which found Snyder gave “misleading” testimony and accused him of making “hush money” payments to keep accusers quiet, he sold the team in 2023 for $6.05 billion—the highest sale for any global sports franchise, ever.

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While he may not be one of the bigtime billionaires involved in the Trump veepstakes and other machinations of the campaign, Snyder may well have found his next way in with the 45th president.

Another factor making The Apprentice a target of scorn in Trumpworld is its screenwriter, longtime reporter Gabriel Sherman, who previously wrote a biography on the late Fox News founder Roger Ailes. Sherman declined to comment.

Some in Trump’s circle tried to play down the impact such a movie could have in an election year, which is when director Ali Abbasi has suggested he would like to see it released.

“This is not Barbenheimer,” another Trumpworld strategist said, requesting anonymity to speak candidly. “The idea that a movie would have any impact on the 2024 election is laughable.” The use of anonymity speaks to just how nervous those in Trump’s orbit are of him feeling attacked by the movie.

It is hardly the first time Trump has proven extraordinarily thin-skinned about his portrayal in books, but this is also the first semi-fictional movie or TV show to be made about him.

Abbasi secured deals for it to be shown in the U.K. and Ireland even before its Cannes premiere, according to the Hollywood Reporter, but is now in a race against the clock for his pre-November target date.

The intention to release a portrayal of Trump as a rapist—and a user of amphetamines—as a form of October surprise is likely to draw comparisons to 2020’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, whose creator and lead actor Sacha Baron Cohen insisted it must be out before the presidential election. Whether it moved votes was unclear, but its scene showing Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani lying on a bed with his hands down his pants while speaking to what he thought was a teenage girl became a symbol of the state of Trump’s inner circle.

This time Trump has apparent hope that American audiences will not see another movie raising questions about him and his choice of legal adviser.

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