The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C. mayor-elect Muriel Bowser discusses a new Redskins stadium and changing the team name

(By Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP)
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D.C. mayor-elect Muriel E. Bowser said Tuesday that she could be interested in luring the Redskins back to Washington, but that she believes the team needs “a fresh start” with a new name. Asked whether the name could scuttle such a potential return, Bowser said it’s too early to even speculate about that, but that “when the time comes, I think we put it on the table.”

After discussing her hopes for a new D.C. United stadium — which she has endorsed despite her opposition to the deal’s controversial Reeves Center swap — Bowser was asked by Tony Kornheiser about the future of the RFK Stadium site.

Bowser cited the ongoing study by Events DC of redevelopment plans for the RFK site, which she said will include options with and without football stadiums.

Events DC, she said on Kornheiser’s ESPN 980 radio program, “is putting together a plan that says what  we could do with that land if there were no stadium, but also a plan that says how can we get housing and recreation space and things that will help our city as well as retail even if there was a stadium there. So we’re looking forward to those proposals, and it will guide our actions with the federal government.”

“When the Redskins played at RFK, even if it was a dump, it was thought of in such loving terms,” Kornheiser said.

“Yes, we love RFK,” Bowser agreed.

“Everybody had a good time going to Redskins games at RFK,” Kornheiser went on. “Now, the stadium that Jack Kent Cooke built … that Dan Snyder now owns, nobody likes going there. you don’t [have] anybody say ‘Boy I love going to FedEx Field.”

“Right,” Bowser again agreed.

“So A, does the city want to bring the Washington Redskins back, and B, if it does, why wouldn’t it either refurbish or build an entirely new stadium on the RFK site which was so beloved for so long?” Kornheiser asked.

“I’m always struck, no matter where I go in the city, people will have on a t-shirt or hat or something about our football team,” Bowser said. “If you try to knock on somebody’s door — as I do on a Sunday afternoon, when our team is playing — they don’t want to answer the door. People love this team, and they want them back in Washington. And so what’s important to us is that in any bill we have that involves our land, is that we work with the owners but make sure we can come together with terms that are favorable to the residents of the District of Columbia. And the site at RFK is obviously a good site for a stadium.”

Bowser here seemed to be going out of her way to call the Redskins “our football team” or “this team.” Which Kornheiser pointed out.

“Well, you know, I ran a campaign Tony based on having a fresh start,” the mayor-elect said. “And I think that our discussion in how we think about our team deserves a fresh start too.”

Kornheiser asked if this meant she favors a name change.

“Me, and about 53 percent of D.C. residents, think it’s time to change the name,” she said, referring to a recent poll commissioned by Washington City Paper and WAMU.

Kornheiser then asked if the name would be a deal-breaker for a return to D.C.

“I don’t think we’re there yet,” she said. “We’re not talking about a deal. The Redskins haven’t indicated to us that they’re ready to come back. But when the time comes, I think we put it on the table.”