The Redskins, the most established sports franchise in Washington, generate more negative views than the city’s less-storied baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer teams. Fewer than half of the area’s football fans — many of whom, to be sure, moved to Washington from other regions of the country — pick the Redskins as their favorite National Football League team.
Still, 55 percent of fans view the Redskins at least somewhat favorably, with longtime residents particularly supportive. “It’s more than just a football team. It’s part of the whole community,’ said Jim Hoebel, 45, a lifelong fan from Northern Virginia. “That’s why I still feel very strongly about it, and why I choose to still be a fan.”
The survey was conducted during the NFL preseason and before the Redskins opened their second regular season under Coach Mike Shanahan with an impressive 28-14 win over the New York Giants. In forums such as sports-talk radio and Internet message boards, many fans are expressing an optimism about the team’s direction not felt in recent years, and oddsmakers favor the Redskins to win their second straight game when they host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon.
Among all area sports fans, 34 percent express unfavorable views about the Redskins, compared with 26 percent for the Wizards, 12 percent for the Nationals and low single digits for the Capitals and D.C. United. Among avid sports fans, 14 percent have a “strongly” unfavorable view toward the Redskins. Among the other teams, only the Wizards, at 10 percent, have a strongly unfavorable score in double-digits.
More than two-thirds of fans who grew up in D.C., Maryland or Virginia hold favorable views of the Redskins; it’s barely four in 10 among those who grew up elsewhere. Newcomers, younger fans and upscale residents are far more enthused about the Capitals and Nationals.
Several newcomers interviewed for this story say they would like to see the Redskins succeed as a way to increase civic pride, but that the team must first improve its results.
“It’s the one team here where I feel like cheering for them is really a native D.C. thing,” said Zach Cockrum, a 25-year old from Indianapolis who described the Redskins as his second-favorite NFL team. “That’s definitely part of it, fitting in and cheering for the team in my adopted city.”
D.C. fans direct considerable ire toward the man who owns the team. A majority of all D.C. area sports fans hold unfavorable views of Snyder, with more than one in three having “strongly” negative impressions, according to the poll. The owners of the other major teams, Ted Leonsis and Ted Lerner, are far less-known than Snyder but generate dramatically fewer negative reviews. Just 3 percent express strongly negative views toward Lerner; less than 1 percent express this view toward Leonsis.