David Chang is easily one of the most influential restaurateurs in the business. His Momofuku restaurant group encompasses nine restaurants in three countries, and his New York space Momofuku Ko maintains two Michelin stars. He has brought his expertise to shows such as “Top Chef” and HBO’s “Treme.”
“I’m going to try and raise $6 billion on @kickstarter to buy @redskins from Dan Snyder,” he tweeted Monday night. “I’m serious…who’s coming with me?”
In a phone conversation, the chef explained to me why he’s serious.
“I was catching up on the day’s news on my DVR when I got home, and it was just sad,” Chang said. “I couldn’t take it anymore. We recently did a project on Kickstarter and I was like, why not? Let’s see if we can do it.”
Chang, who grew up in the D.C. area and went to Georgetown Prep, says his proposal was serious, and a number of fan responses offering him contributions followed. His plan hit a bump on Tuesday morning after doing some research and learning that the fundraising site Kickstarter doesn’t allow this type of fundraising campaign.
But Chang, who is still looking for a conduit to raise the money, says it isn’t about the dollars themselves but the message those dollars would send.
“It just shows you how upset people are,” he said, of the fact that fans immediately starting pledging money. “If you live in D.C., it ruins your week. It’s all people talk about. I grew up watching Joe Gibbs, and everyone I know is just really great Redskins fans. Watching the team lately has been really tough on people, and I just think people are tired of Dan Snyder.”
Chang looks at the Packers, who are owned by the fans, as a model for what he’d like to see the Redskins ownership look like.
“If we could get ownership like the Green Bay Packers, think about how awesome that would be?” he said. “Dan’s young. He’ll probably own the team for the next 30 [years] at least, unless the fans do something.”
The $6 billion figure is just a number, and Chang knows that it would take more than a flashy sum of money to pry the team away from Snyder, who hasn’t expressed any public interest in selling it.
“The only way Snyder would sell is if he starts losing money, and the only way that can happen is if the fans take action,” he said. “If the fans stop supporting the Redskins, then change will happen. Change is good. It doesn’t have to be me. Redskins fans can empower themselves.”
The controversy he sees, from the too-close-for-some relationship between Snyder and his star quarterback to the perceived tension between Mike Shanahan and the team owner, are all detrimental to the productivity of the organization. Chang admits that nurturing talent, something that Snyder seems to struggle with, wasn’t always his own strong suit.
“It used to be if I had a cook that didn’t develop, I would get upset and petulant and childish if someone wasn’t living up to what I felt they should have done,” he admitted. “It’s taken some time and some maturity for me to realize that if something doesn’t happen the way it was supposed to happen, or if someone doesn’t act in an appropriate way or if someone doesn’t follow our cultural principles, it’s a reflection on my inability to not build a strong enough foundation.”
As far as his desire to spearhead a movement in Washington, Chang says it has nothing to do with his own business interests.
“I wouldn’t want to leverage it to benefit myself,” he said. “It has nothing to do with my business. It should be about the fans, and right now the team isn’t about the fans.”
In the absence of a fundraising plan to buy a team that isn’t for sale, Chang is proposing a drastic measure to demand change.
“I think now is the time to stop supporting the Redskins,” he said. “And I know that sounds like a fair-weather fan, but it’s only temporary. If we all do that, we can change the long-term picture. It’s the same in my business, that business, any business. Customers vote with their wallets.”