Not content with being the most racially insensitive man in sports (now that Donald Sterling has been ousted), Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder appears also to be vying to be the slimiest.
In an interview with CSN Washington, Snyder declared that the team has “started the process” of designing a new stadium, despite the fact that its current home in Maryland isn't old enough to vote or buy cigarettes.
Built in 1997, FedEx Field can only be considered old by the same guy who insists “Redskins” is a term of “honor and respect.” It turns out, those might be related: Former Washington general manager Vinny Cerrato has postulated that Snyder may be leveraging the politically charged battle over the team’s name to move the stadium back to downtown D.C. and squeeze concessions out of local legislators:
The only way I see him eventually changing the name is if -- IF -- he gets a new stadium out of it, downtown, where old RFK was. And he builds a stadium bigger than [Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones's], which he would do, bigger and better than Jerry’s. He gets a Super Bowl. All that. I said that’s the way that maybe he would change the name. Getting the property, getting the land, getting a good deal from the city to make concessions to change the name. I don’t know.
Like Sterling, Snyder “has a ton of money,” which makes his clinging to his team’s name with all his might all the more puzzling. But he’s even worse than Sterling if he’s actually choosing to prolong this battle and using it for political gain simply because he’s unsatisfied with the current stadium location.
As I’ve written in the past, politicians on both sides are using the Redskins issue for their own gain. As a heavily blue city, it would be politically expedient for D.C.’s Democratic lawmakers to “win” this highly publicized fight -- even if that means handing over millions in stadium subsidies and land grants, concessions that almost never turn into any real benefit for the city.
It’s a new twist on the old story of teams holding their cities hostage, usually using empty threats to relocate to shake down the local coffers. Businessweek has reported that the University of Colorado is the latest to join the “athletics-facilities arms race,” selling more than $300 million in tax-exempt bonds to pay for $155 million in football stadium renovations, among other things. (Apparently the university thinks that if it cannot hope to match its new Pac-12 rivals on the field, it can do so around the field.)
Public exemptions for sports complexes are hard enough to swallow given the lack of evidence that they play any role in revitalizing local neighborhoods or economies. They’re utterly reprehensible if they’re accomplished by exploiting a race war.
Snyder might not be alone, either: The exploratory committee to hold the Olympics in the District of Columbia is also interested in building a stadium on the former site of RFK. It’s unclear if the Redskins and Olympics organizers are working together, but it certainly makes sense for them to do so: Snyder has publicly professed his desire to return to downtown since 2012, while it would be easier for Olympics organizers to sell the idea of building a new stadium guaranteed to have a use beyond the 2024 Summer Games.
Of course, Snyder might deem his new stadium too old by then, but let's hope he’ll have run out of civil-rights fights with which to strong-arm legislators.
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