Three bills introduced to try to block Washington NFL team stadium bidding war

One of the big questions in the stadium-subsidy world is “Why don’t local elected officials just get together and say, ‘Fuck those greedy sports owners, let’s agree among ourselves not to get played for subsidies in interstate bidding wars’?” (Actually, it’s the same question for non-sports bidding wars, too.) And now some legislators in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. are getting attention for trying exactly that in response to Washington NFL team owner Dan Snyder’s stadium shakedown attempt:

The liberal Democrat in Maryland, conservative Republican in Virginia and left-leaning independent District of Columbia Council member have introduced legislation to set up an interstate compact barring any public spending on incentives for a new stadium.

The idea is to prevent the jurisdictions from competing against each other with lucrative offers of public assistance for the new facility. The team’s current lease at FedEx Field in suburban Maryland ends in 2027 and it is exploring new potential locations.

This is, needless to say, a great idea for protecting the public purse, and the elected officials behind it — Virginia Republican delegate Michael Webert, Maryland Democratic delegate David Moon, and District Council member David Grosso — deserve to be cheered for their efforts.

It’s important to note, though, that these bills have a long road ahead of them. Each one has only been introduced, and there’s no indication yet of how much support they have — and each jurisdiction (man, would choosing nouns for these articles be easier if D.C. were just a state already) will no doubt be keeping a close eye on the others to make sure they don’t jump into a non-aggression pact before any of their erstwhile rivals. And then, too, even on the rare occasions when pacts like these have been enacted in the past, they haven’t held up well — non-poaching agreements between New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, and between Minneapolis and St. Paul, pretty much immediately collapsed back in the 1990s. (Though I’m not sure if those had the same legislative teeth as these bills — it’s been 20 years, my notes are in a box somewhere.)

In short: A for effort, but the devil is going to be in the political machinations necessary to get these bills passed. Everyone watch this very closely, because if D.C., Virginia, and Maryland somehow do manage to say “You’re not the boss of us” to Snyder, it could have nationwide repercussions.

12 comments on “Three bills introduced to try to block Washington NFL team stadium bidding war

  1. Why do the 3 have to interoperate. Maryland can just say no. Virigina can just say no. DC can just say no. Or any subset of the three can just say no. This should not be complicated at all.

    • Prisioner’s dilemma.

      Unless they can coordinate their responses, they run the risk of someone breaking off and ruining it for everyone, which is what the NFL team wants.

      While my hope is this pans out as a no across the board, the recent behavior of both the District, Virginia, and Maryland gives me almost no hope here, see United, DC.

      • “Ruining it for everyone” Huh? How, by putting up the money so the other jurisdictions don’t get a chance to? Sounds more like “ruining it for themselves.”

  2. They need some sort of law to protect them from themselves. That deal where Richmond paid for the entire spring practice facility and then agreed to pay the Redskins to actually use it is positively insane.

  3. Why is RFK still around? That could be a site for a new dome but I’m sure DC would demand a new name. Virginia will probably cough up the money to build a new stadium though.

  4. They haven’t been worth a crap, in like forever. You would think that a name-change, could be good for business. I mean, if that ain’t racist, what is? The Cleveland Indians have a logo that is even more racist, but that name is hard to believe really. Washington’s name.

    Could you imagine a team called, the Detroit Blackskins? Pretty much the same thing.

    It’s as stupid, as it is offensive. It used to not matter to me, but I have come around. Changing from Bullets to Wizards, didn’t harm basketball in the city. I doubt the sun would stop turning, if they changed the name of the football team.

    • I agree with you. Cleveland’s logo, like Atlanta’s former mascot, is offensive, but the names aren’t (in my view). At heart, all sports team nicknames are appropriations of one form or another (Yankees, Canadiens, Whalers, Patriots…)

      The thing I find most confusing about it is that Snyder doesn’t need to change the name for social or political reasons (which I imagine he couldn’t care less about):

      He could and should change it for financial reasons.

      Sure, some Washington fans would refuse to buy the new gear out of protest. But a large proportion would buy the new gear, and a whole subset of football fans who presently boycott the team because of the name would be first in line to spend money on new merch.

      Are we expected to believe that sports teams can change uniform styles and colours at will without any danger of damaging ‘tradition’ (and purely to generate more revenue), but a racially offensive nickname must be preserved for historical reasons?

      It’s a laughable proposition.

    • Yes, but there are details:

  5. (Virginia is a commonwealth, not a state, so three different types of jurisdictions.)

    DC has backed off their demand for the team to change the name and with Trump in office the Feds won’t insist on a change either. Biggest irony of the name change movement is that it’s being pushed by the Washington Post, named after a president who ordered the destruction of multiple Indian cities.

    Virginia won’t make a serious bid, the most that will happen here is some feigned interest to help provide the team with leverage. Maryland and DC want the team, the whole reason for these proposals is to jump out in opposition to the inevitable.

    It remains to be seen how much money Snyder can get, three of the four local sports venues were paid for by the franchises, with the taxpayers covering the significant infrastructure costs. Best case is the RFK site is transformed for multiple uses, with the team paying for the stadium itself.

    Hail to the Redskins

    • The paper is named after the city. There’s no irony at all in a newspaper being named after the city in which it conducts business.

      There are many different groups advocating the team’s name change besides the paper. Even some broadcasters refuse to use the name.

      In honour of the team’s owner, I am starting a petition to have the team renamed:

      “The Washington Honky One Percenters”

      Yes, I know most of the players aren’t Honkies, but many are one percenters based on their current income. And they aren’t American Indians either, so at worst it’s a lateral move.

      Who’s with me on this?