The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion D.C. is better off without the NFL — especially if it comes with Daniel Snyder

The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium site in D.C. on March 28. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has laid the legislative groundwork for the District to acquire the 190-acre, federally owned RFK campus on the city’s Northeast riverfront. That’s great news because the city can make good use of the land. The worst option, however, would be any deal that allowed Daniel Snyder to build a glitzy new stadium so his Washington Commanders could return to town.

By all measures, the District has gotten along quite well since Snyder’s National Football League team fled to FedEx Field in Landover in 1997. The last thing D.C. needs is a professional sports franchise heavily laden with outside-the-stadium failure. That’s sure to come as long as Snyder remains in the picture.

The “No Admittance” sign was hung this week in a letter sent to Norton from a majority of the D.C. Council. “We all hope that the Washington Commanders can address its ownership’s many off-the-field failures — in particular, its failure to provide a safe working environment for women — and, secondarily, can return to its former glory on the field,” wrote council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and six other city lawmakers. They added, “One of the last large undeveloped parcels of land in the District, must be utilized in the best interest of District residents.”

Suffice to say, the District’s interests may be incompatible with Snyder’s. The last time talks turned to building a new stadium on the existing RFK site in 2018, the owner sketched out a vision of a moat-surrounded, state-of-the-art stadium anchored in a sprawling entertainment and commercial district on the banks of the Anacostia River — much of it under his control.

Oh, yes, and the city — while not expected to spend a dime on stadium construction — would have had to shell out tens of millions of dollars to pay for infrastructure development. That was then.

The Post's View: What to do with RFK Stadium? First, D.C. must take control.

Some city leaders say there are better uses for the property: parks, recreation, affordable housing, commercial opportunities — with residents fully consulted on the plans.

Tweeted Allen: “Putting tax dollars toward the bottom line of a billionaire’s team with an ugly history of racism and misogyny does not benefit District residents.”

The council’s majority, however, won’t necessarily have the last word. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has made it known that she would like to have the Commanders back on Washington soil. But she is a political realist and can count votes, too. With Snyder in the package, the Commanders are going to remain on the outside looking in.

For that, Snyder can thank himself.

His ownership record, as I wrote before, is a tale of how to run down a successful franchise, while making out like a bandit along the way.

From team management, coaching staff and player selection, to the despicable treatment of women (among other allegations, cheerleaders said they were used as escorts on a trip where stadium suite owners and sponsors were invited to observe them topless during a required photo shoot), Snyder is a top contender for the title of World’s Worst Sports Team Owner.

The team’s 2020 acquisition of Washington Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio isn’t turning out so hot, either.

Tweeted Del Rio in response to a report about the Jan. 6 hearings: “Would love to understand ‘the whole story’ about why the summer of riots, looting, burning and the destruction of personal property is never discussed but this is ???”

Leaving little doubt about what he was getting at, Del Rio said to reporters: “Why are we not looking into those things if we’re going to talk about it? Why are we not looking into those things? Because it’s kind of hard for me to say — I can realistically look at it, I see the images on TV, people’s livelihoods are being destroyed, businesses are being burned down. No problem. And then we have a dust-up at the Capitol. Nothing burned down, and we’re not going to talk about — we’re going to make that a major deal.”

It’s hard to understand how an attack on the U.S. Capitol intent on destroying our democracy, that left dead and wounded in its wake, could be reduced to a “dust-up.” Or that protests in response to police shootings of Black Americans are in any way comparable to a violent insurrection.

But that’s the way the Washington Commanders defensive coordinator sees it, although he has now said some of his words were “irresponsible and negligent.” Snyder has said nary a word.

All of which is just cause for the District to say with finality: “Yes to the RFK site; no to Daniel Snyder.”

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