Dan Snyder has been an NFL owner for 15 years. In that time, Snyder’s team has sued a grandmother for failing to make her season ticket payments, charged $25 for parking at Fan Appreciation Day, sold expired peanuts at FedEx Field, and persisted in using a racial epithet as his team’s nickname, with Snyder himself explaining that “the name really means honor, respect.”
The one thing Snyder hasn’t accomplished during his tenure is getting bushels of taxpayer money for a new stadium. But it’s only a matter of time before the cash-grabbingest jerk in sports succeeds in pulling off the sports world’s jerkiest cash-grabbing maneuver. If Snyder gets away with it—if any government, anywhere, gives him public money to build a new football palace—then it’s time for pro sports to be put out of its misery.
Snyder put his hands out last week, in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. “Whether it’s Washington, D.C., whether it’s another stadium in Maryland, whether it’s a stadium in Virginia, we’ve started the process,” Snyder told CSN, explaining that it’s time for a change because FedEx Field is “17 years old now.”
If FedEx Field were a person, it would just now be getting into R-rated movies. But as Barry Petchesky pointed out in Deadspin:
Seventeen years seems to be the new magic number in the stadium racket. The Panthers sought nearly $200 million in public money for a renovation of 17-year-old Bank of America Stadium—and received about half. The Falcons began agitating for a new stadium in 2009 to replace the then-17-year-old Georgia Dome—they received a minimum of $200 million in public funding.
Any possible public cost—and with two states and the District of Columbia likely bidding against each other for any potential stadium, there would definitely be a public cost—would on its own merits not be justified. Studies have shown that stadium subsidies of all kinds are poor investments, with the profits benefiting a small number of people and the high costs raining down on everyone else. But the fact that the bulk of those benefits would be going to Dan Snyder makes the prospect of a new D.C. stadium deal particularly revolting.
Washington’s NFL franchise moved to Landover, Maryland, from Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium in 1997, and Snyder bought the team two years later. The stadium cost $250.5 million, with $70 million coming from public funds that were directed toward roads and infrastructure costs. This was a relatively small amount of public financing by modern standards, with subsidies running closer to half the cost of private stadiums in recent years.
Snyder wanted more. Within 10 years of the stadium being built, and eight years of his purchase of the team, the Washington owner was already reportedly meeting with top D.C. officials about moving the team back to the city. In 2007 the Washington Post reported that, although the city was leery of any public financing deal after being fleeced for more than $600 million by Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals to build Nationals Park, it was considering a deal to lure Snyder’s team. At the time, officials were considering the option of giving Snyder free land—a public subsidy by any measure—in exchange for asking him to pay for the stadium himself.