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Commanders’ Jason Wright praises season ticket sales, defends Twitter jab

Commanders team president Jason Wright spoke to reporters on Saturday, ahead of Washington's preseason game. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Washington Commanders team president Jason Wright says the team’s sponsorship and ticket sales are up, its rebranding has gone better than he anticipated and he will continue to weigh in on social media if he feels his players and team are “disrespected.”

In a wide-ranging interview with reporters ahead of Washington’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday at FedEx Field, Wright spoke on myriad topics about the team — including its business and marketing operations and workplace culture — as well as his recent comments on social media about a local television interview, which drew widespread attention.

Washington has already sold more tickets for this season than it did during the whole of its 2021 campaign, according to Wright.

“But a big part of that is the season-ticket member base has increased so much,” Wright said. “And that’s the foundation on which attendance is built. … We couldn’t be happier with the progress that’s been made. We feel like we’re maxing out.”

Wright, 40, declined to provide specific numbers on suite and ticket sales because he “doesn’t want to get ahead of my team being able to tell their story.” But he said the Commanders’ overall renewal rate on season tickets is up 15 percent and the renewal rate on suites is up almost 30 percent.

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Joey Colby-Begovich, Washington’s vice president of guest experience, detailed the team’s continued rebranding, including the installation at the stadium of more local food options, kiosks to improve the efficiency of ordering concessions and art. There’s a new, 44-member entertainment team, and the marching band has returned. The team also unveiled its revamped fight song Saturday and will soon hold fan voting for a new mascot, which will be revealed early next year.

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The Commanders rebrand — which saw the team evolve from its old, controversial moniker to the temporary “Washington Football Team” name to the Commanders in February — has created challenges. Wright admitted that Washington lost season-ticket holders during the first stage of that rebrand, when it operated as the Washington Football Team.

“Bit by bit, we’re grabbing those folks back, but it’s certainly not because of the new name and identity,” he said. “There are a set of fans, which I would say is probably smaller, that did come back to the team because the old name was rescinded, but if you’re talking about the balance, probably more left than came back.”

Wright said a big part of Washington’s transformation has been going back to the past and reopening its doors to alumni. The rebrand is “intentionally not meant to feel like an expansion team,” he said, so multiple alumni appearances have been scheduled to stay close to the team’s “legacy.”

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Anheuser-Busch did not renew its beer sponsorship this year, and a naming rights deal with Inova for Washington’s training facility in Ashburn expired. Yet overall sponsorship was another area Wright claimed the team has improved significantly.

“You would think with the negative public head winds that we’ve faced that we would be down in sponsorship,” he said. “But we’re up in categories, total, year over year. We’re projecting to be up double digits in overall sponsorship. It’ll be our highest sponsorship [revenue] total since 2005.”

During Wright’s tenure as team president, Washington has operated amid multiple investigations stemming from allegations of sexual harassment by former employees, as well as an ongoing investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform into the team’s workplace culture and owner Daniel Snyder.

Wright said Saturday the “ghosts of Christmas past” have added challenges to his job, but “all of us here signed up knowing that” and “all of the big issues and headlines that no longer exist in the organization.”

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He continued: “But everybody who came here had the aspiration to completely flip something on its head, and it’s really in the day-to-day interactions, because while there are the big things that have popped in headlines, the real change and change in culture in this organization is how we day-to-day interact with people. … It’s very different.”

Wright made headlines Friday when he responded to a reporter who posted a clip of an interview with Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz. The reporter asked Wentz about his trades from Philadelphia and Indianapolis, and Wright took exception.

“Thankfully, Carson demonstrated grace & class in response to this pompous, unprofessional mess,” Wright tweeted. “I recognize you have made a living on childlike provocation but it needs to be called out. Don’t expect special access and good luck building rapport with the guys.”

On Saturday, Wright said he believed it was “appropriate to defend our guy and stand up for our team in a direct and equivalent way.”

“I think the thing that you will see me doing more often is making sure that we are treating each other in a more up-and-ups way,” he said. “I think we’ve done enough work over the last two years on building a healthy culture within the organization and honest way of working with y’all, that we can take plenty of criticism. … But it needs to be done respectfully.”

Stadium progress: Wright addressed a number of other topics, including the ongoing search for a new stadium location. He said the team is closer to finding a location in either Maryland, D.C. or Virginia than it was last year, and said he expects the team to “be able to hit our timeline.” The Commanders are contractually obligated to play at FedEx Field until 2027.

Week 1 attendance projection: Wright said he is anticipating a 15 percent increase in tickets sold for Washington’s season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.