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For the two dismally distressing decades that Daniel Snyder has owned Washington’s NFL team, it’s been blunder after blunder along the way. But with the 20th anniversary behind us, perhaps it’s a good time to consider the team’s potential. In the spirit of team president Bruce Allen’s late father, George Allen, let’s just say the future is now and offer some suggestions, ways Snyder and his team can get back to eras of good feelings that George Allen and Joe Gibbs led.
Snyder officially bought the team and its erector set-like stadium on May 25, 1999 for $800 million—a combination of his own cash, loans, and funding from minority partners. Now, according to Forbes, it’s worth $3.1 billion. Its $491 million revenue increased by $150 million in the last ten years.
Regardless of what happens on the field, every NFL team makes substantial profits from the billions paid out annually by the various broadcast networks that own their pricey television rights. And Snyder’s initial investment has appreciated by more than $2.5 billion. How much money does Snyder really need? For heavens sake, the guy just bought a $100 million superyacht!
He could do his frustrated and often fuming fan base a favor and show a little largesse. How about lowering ticket prices across the board and setting aside a majority of seats that would cost, say, $25 each, instead of the $500-plus average freight it now costs a family of four to get inside the ball park?
Concessions could also be cheaper. Sell hot dogs and sodas for $2 each, sort of the way they do it at the Masters golf tournament, and charge $4 for a beer. Drop the price of parking to a manageable $10 a game—first come, first parked.
Wouldn’t it also be nice if Snyder himself announced all those changes at a press conference in Ashburn?
When he first purchased the team, Snyder actually had a few of those sessions—routine for just about every other owner in the NFL. But as the losses and coaching changes began to mount—the 20-year record is 139-180-1, with eight different coaches and only two wild card playoff appearances in the last ten years, both losses—he has shamefully retreated into the shadows.
He rarely grants one-on-one interviews to the publications or local broadcasting outlets who cover his team on a regular basis. To paraphrase John Riggins’ instructions to former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, maybe it’s time to loosen up, Danny baby, and take some responsibility. He’s a billionaire and a business man. Surely he can also take a bit of media heat every now and then.
Here’s another idea. Stop bringing bad actors to Washington. Specifically, stay away from people like linebacker Reuben Foster, accused of abusing his girlfriend and cut by the San Francisco 49ers last year before Washington signed him.
The charges were dropped, but anyone who saw the photos of his significant other with a badly bruised face, not to mention her talking about “months of abuse” knows full well this guy needs help, not a rich contract. Send a message that the franchise will never tolerate this sort of behavior.
Snyder and Bruce Allen tried to shift the blame for signing Foster mostly on Doug Williams, who made some foolishly insensitive remarks on the radio while trying to play the good soldier. But here’s a better idea. Why not elevate Williams to general manager, make him the first African-American GM in team history, and leave him alone to make the big decisions on personnel, with no meddling from the owner or the team president.
As for Bruce Allen, I know the fans are calling for his head. I’ve also known Bruce since he was a punter at Langley High School back in the 1970s. Personally, I’ve always liked him, just not his ability to evaluate talent at the highest level of the game. As long as he deals with salary cap issues, the business side, and non-football personnel, he can remain as team president. Just don’t make anymore remarks about “winning off the field.”
I get Snyder’s loyalty to him. The owner grew up during Allen’s father’s time as head coach in the 1970s, and any link to the team’s storied past is always welcome. Now, if he’d just also do the right thing and maybe invite John Kent Cooke, the son of the previous owner who once served as team president himself, to sit in the owner’s box.
And finally, Snyder would do well to go look up the team’s name in Webster’s unabridged dictionary. The first three letters read der., as in derogatory. It’s worse than that. The team’s name is racist.
I wonder if Snyder knows that Jack Kent Cooke actually was thinking about making a name change less than a year before he died in 1997. With his health declining, he never pulled the trigger.
A few years ago, one of his top advisers told me Cooke was getting tired of the heat he was taking back then. Just as significantly, he also was motivated by the knowledge that team revenues would rocket sky-high with all the new merchandise the club would collect from all those newly branded jerseys, shirts, mugs, and other random paraphernalia.
Snyder should also know that the daughter of George Preston Marshall, who founded the team and named it after he moved the franchise from Boston in 1933, also believes the name is racist and should be changed. She told me so herself, and surely would tell Snyder the very same thing.
So there you have it—some ways to get back in the good graces of a depressed fan base that has obviously dwindled, to the point of no more season ticket waiting list, embarrassing swaths of empty seats, and good tickets always available at the stadium on game day.
Twenty years after he purchased this once storied football team, wouldn’t this be a good time to do some right things and start his next decade of ownership with some positive publicity. Then again, considering his previous reign of error, Snyder can almost always be counted on to do the wrong thing. He always has.
Leonard Shapiro retired in 2011 after 41 years as a sports reporter, editor, and columnist at The Washington Post.