By Adam Pagnucco.
The Washington National Football League franchise is perhaps the only organization in America that could make Donald Trump’s White House seem like a smoothly running model of efficiency. The club’s savage firing of its General Manager, the subsequent exodus of red chip starters like Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Chris Baker and the failure to sign star quarterback Kirk Cousins to a long-term contract have brought the franchise to its worst point in decades. But here’s the kicker, folks.
One of these days, whether you want to or not, you could be paying for all this.
Daniel M. Snyder, the current majority owner of the Washington franchise, has often been described as the worst owner in pro sports. Part of this is because of the team’s woeful performance on the field. Snyder has owned the franchise for 18 years, over which it has compiled a 125-162-1 record, six winning seasons and only two playoff wins after winning three Super Bowls under the prior ownership. The club just posted its first two consecutive winning seasons since 1991-1992 and the owner reacted by annihilating the team’s architect. But it’s the franchise’s activities outside of the stadium, characterized by team President Bruce Allen as “winning off the field,” that are truly eye opening. Consider this.
- The team sued 125 season tickets holders between 2004 and 2009 to force them to honor their purchase contracts even though many were in financial distress. One of them was a 72-year-old retiree who claimed that the team’s judgment against her would force her into bankruptcy.
- In 2005, the club required season tickets purchasers wishing to charge their payments to use “Redskins Extra Points MasterCards.” The team dropped the requirement after a threatened ticketholder revolt and pushback from MasterCard.
- In 2006, the team tried to profit from 9/11 by selling “Pentagon Flag Hats” which featured “the team’s trademark curly ‘R’ in gold with a patch in the shape of the Pentagon and the colors of the American flag sewn on the side.” The club was the only one in the NFL to try to sell such merchandise.
- Unhappy with negative coverage, Snyder has been buying up local media for years. It’s hard for journalists to criticize the team when they are on the owner’s payroll. Snyder reacted to a harsh article by the Washington City Paper’s Dave McKenna by suing the newspaper and the journalist, an action he later dropped.
- Snyder’s foundation has given millions of dollars to Native American groups to head off criticism of the team’s nickname. But some of those donations have proven controversial. One contribution provoked accusations of lying, bribery and exploitation. A native leader in Utah was found to be accepting personal gifts from the team and removed from office. Another native leader in Arizona was accused of going behind the backs of tribal leaders to cooperate with Snyder and was defeated for reelection.
We could go on and on and ON. But we know what you’re thinking. I’m not a fan of the team, you might say. Why should I care?
Because soon you could be paying for all this.
Dissatisfied with his twenty-year-old stadium in Landover, Snyder is now in the hunt for a new facility somewhere in the D.C. area. The District of Columbia, home to the franchise in its glory years, is an iffy possibility given that the current Mayor has branded the team’s nickname as “offensive.” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, an enthusiastic dealmaker, is “in a hurry” to land the team before he leaves office. And Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has said, “We will do whatever it takes to keep them.” That could lead to a bidding war, and an expensive one at that. NFL teams have extracted billions of dollars in public subsidies for their stadiums over the years. Las Vegas has offered $750 million in tax money to the Raiders to entice them to move from Oakland. And St. Louis, which just saw the Rams move out, still owes millions in bond payments on its now-empty football stadium.
Hogan loves corporate welfare, having approved millions in disbursements to Marriott and Northrop Grumman. But those companies at least employ thousands of people in Maryland. Snyder’s franchise is headquartered in Ashburn, Virginia and his millionaire players are almost all Virginia residents. NFL teams are dubious candidates for public investment at best since most of them play just ten home games a year, but the Washington team’s Virginia ties make subsidizing it even more questionable.
So what can you do about this? Snyder is only 52 years old, so he could be the team owner for decades to come. But Hogan is another matter. If the Governor insists on throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at this poor excuse for a franchise, you will have the last word in next year’s election.
Just do what Dan Snyder does and fire him!