If you’ve been following the trends of Daniel Snyder’s team, well, since he’s owned it, you’ve seen this possibility coming. The Post’s Jonathan O’Connell and John Woodrow Cox report that Virginia is a front runner in the so-called sweepstakes to land the Redskins’ next stadium, with Loudoun County specifically in the crosshairs. Of course, any move would be nearly two decades away, but the shift westward started long ago.
Back in 1995, the team moved from their longtime training camp home in Carlisle, Pa., to Frostburg, Md. It was prompted by the late Jack Kent Cooke after his contract with Dickinson College was up, and Cooke was looking for a new home for the team. The internecine politics that have surrounded stadium talk over the past 30 years are not necessary to detail now, except to note this: The first talk of the team moving to Virginia came in 1987, according to The Post archives. Most of the current players on the roster were probably just born at that time.
But the specific actions of Snyder are worth a look. In one of his early power grabs, the owner decided he was done with Frostburg State University and broke their ten-year contract. He did it with a a nearly $1 million lump-sum payout. Fans and residents in Western Maryland, if nowhere else, certainly felt slighted. He moved training camp back to Ashburn, started charging money all over the place and generally just made people upset. There was then a brief flirtation period back in Carlisle in 2001-2002, before bringing the preseason back to Loudoun County, presumably to stay.
Some people will tell you this has been Virginia’s franchise for some time. Then the move of training camp to Richmond only solidified that, if hiring the brother of a former Virginia congressman and governor as team president didn’t already tip you off. It was only a matter of time before the entire operation took more root in Virginia, as current governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, became one of few elected officials to say publicly that he had no problem with the squad’s controversial name. Lest we not forget that Snyder donated $25,000 to McAuliffe’s campaign.
All this is to say that a move to the Commonwealth makes obvious sense for the franchise at this point. The mythical link of civic pride in the name “Washington” to being located within actual city limits died long ago for this football team. The political priority of keeping an NFL team is drastically lower when the pro baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer teams all now play here. Would it alienate Maryland fans? Maybe, but no more so than the current situation already does for fans on the other side of the Potomac River.
Two years ago, then-D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said that the team name would have to come up if moving back into the city were to be discussed. ““I think that if they get serious with the team coming back to Washington, there’s no doubt there’s going to have to be a discussion about that,” he told The Post in January 2013, “and of course the team is going to have to work with us around that issue.” A scenario in which current Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council cave to Snyder for the sake of 8-10 games a year and some sense of renewed pride, would be a far bigger political blow than just letting a rather unpopular owner simply do business elsewhere.
If Snyder wants the path of least resistance and headache, and to keep up the status quo of institutional insulation, Virginia is the perfect place to be.