The Washington Redskins' lease at FedEx Field doesn't expire until after the 2027 season, but team officials are already actively searching for a new home. Politicians in the District and Virginia have been lobbying the franchise, which has played its home games in Landover, Md., since 1997, to move, while Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan would like the Redskins' next stadium to remain in his state.
"We see this decision as one of the biggest decisions this franchise is going to make," Redskins President Bruce Allen told The Washington Post earlier this year. "This is about a stadium that the Redskins will be playing at through 2050. We're on schedule. It's an exciting process."
At least one consumer interest organization is looking to prevent local sports fans from getting a raw deal when that exciting process reaches the point of deciding on a location and financing plan for the Redskins' new home.
"Whenever a football team moves, public funding is always up for grabs," Brian Hess, executive director of the member-supported Sports Fans Coalition, said this week. "That's a big problem with us, because almost every time a stadium gets built, there's no economic value to the community, let alone any type of benefit to the sports fans that paid for the stadium."
On Sunday, Hess and his colleagues published The Danifesto, a declaration that taxpayer funding never be used to fund a new stadium unless the taxpayers are guaranteed several benefits in return. Those benefits include discounted tickets and free parking, free use of the stadium by schools and youth leagues, reasonably priced concessions and ticket lotteries for veterans and low-income fans.
"Rich, greedy owners shouldn't be allowed to receive corporate welfare unless the public receives a good in exchange," the introduction to The Danifesto reads. "With the recent moves of the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers, this issue is even more prevalent for fans. These moves have been facilitated with subsidies totaling in the billions. Never have fans received something in return. The Danifesto is about changing that. The Danifesto will protect fans from Dan Snyder."
"Dan Snyder doesn't need the help, so why are you doing this without giving the fans something back?" said Hess, 25, a lifelong D.C. sports fan. "Dan Snyder has done nothing to earn goodwill with us, his business practices are continually anti-fan, and we don't trust that if he gets our tax dollars that we're going to get any return. That's what the Danifesto is trying to ensure, that the fan and the taxpayer gets something back from their funds."
Hess created three different petitions for fans to pledge their support for The Danifesto — one for D.C. residents, one for Maryland residents and one for Virginia residents. He plans to send the petitions to D.C. council members, Maryland state legislators and Virginia gubernatorial candidates Ed Gillespie and Ralph Northam.
"We're asking them to make a pledge," said Hess, who hopes to receive at least 1,000 signatures per petition. "We want the leaders of the DMV to pledge not to allow any public funds to go to Dan Snyder and the Redskins, and any other sports arena or stadium in the area, without these conditions being met."
Established in 2009, the Sports Fans Coalition has successfully advocated on behalf of sports fans before. In 2011, the organization petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to eliminate the NFL's blackout rule, which banned the broadcasting of local games that failed to sell out within 72 hours of kickoff. The FCC voted to eliminate the rule in 2014. Hess said the Danifesto relates to the organization's two main issue areas: the public financing of stadiums and owner greed.
"When it comes to financing a stadium, so many of these deals are done behind closed doors, and so we as a consumer interest group, or even just the fans as voters, don't know that their money is being bargained with until it's too late," Hess said. "Nothing has been set in stone with the Redskins' new stadium. All we know is that the lease expires in 2027. … We want to get out in front of this now. We want to be proactive rather than reactive. That's why we're targeting Dan Snyder with this particular campaign because we know it's coming."
The Danifesto's three petitions had roughly 1,000 signatures total as of Wednesday afternoon.