The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Daniel Snyder doesn’t deserve the sweetheart deal Virginia lawmakers want to give him

Daniel Snyder on the sideline at FedEx Field in Landover. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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Virginia lawmakers, sequestered in Richmond for the winter months, have slipped into an alternate reality where subsidizing a billionaire NFL team owner — without any reciprocal guarantees tied to job creation — is deemed wise policy. In this parallel universe, up to $1 billion in potential state tax revenue would be diverted from Virginia’s coffers to help finance the cost of a new stadium for the Washington Commanders.

The big winner would be owner Daniel Snyder, one of America’s richest people. He has lobbied key legislators ferociously for the sweetheart deal, perhaps in an effort to prompt a bidding war among Virginia, Maryland and D.C. to host a new stadium. The bargain would scoop up revenue generated by the project to help pay off debt used to build the stadium.

The legislation was passed by Virginia’s General Assembly, with support from members of both parties. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, says he will sign it.

Virginia enacted a fundamentally different bill granting up to $750 million in subsidies to Amazon, in 2019, as part of a deal with the company to locate its second headquarters in Arlington County. The funds were explicitly linked and timed to Amazon creating thousands of high-paying jobs. The company, whose founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Post, would get the money only after generating the jobs, projected to yield several times more in tax revenue than the state would give the company.

By contrast, the state’s bid to attract the Commanders would even earmark a portion of taxes paid by players, coaches and staff, which would normally go to the state, for the new stadium. And the stadium would be located in Loudoun or Prince William counties, far from the urban core.

Virginia is the nation’s most populous state without a major league sports franchise. That galls some in the commonwealth, which is bracketed to the north, south and west by states, and D.C., with professional football, basketball, hockey and baseball teams. Mr. Youngkin, whose initial weeks in office have been marked by his divisive policy moves, is evidently desperate for headlines he could tout as a win.

But desperation makes poor policy. Other National Football League arenas have been built with no public subsidies, including SoFi Stadium, site of the recent Super Bowl. Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke paid $5 billion for it from his own pocket.

True, Mr. Snyder proposes to devote $2 billion of his own funds to a stadium’s construction. And advocates of the deal, including the bill’s sponsor in the state Senate, Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), cite figures that a new stadium, planned as the hub of an entertainment, commercial and residential development that would include a concert hall, would eventually generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state and localities.

But Mr. Snyder, widely regarded as a bad owner, does not deserve the state’s largesse. He has been accused of sexual harassment, triggering inquiries both by the NFL and Congress, which is probing the league’s handling of the matter. His franchise was fined $10 million by the NFL after a workplace misconduct investigation. In interviews with The Post, more than 100 current and former employees have accused him of presiding over an organization in which women were exploited and marginalized.

Virginians should reject any special treatment for Mr. Snyder.

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