Muriel Bowser tells Redskins to ‘bring it home’ for new stadium
Mayor Muriel Bowser made her case on Wednesday for the Washington Redskins to come back to the District when it’s time to build the team’s next stadium.
In a five-minute address at the team’s annual “Welcome Home” luncheon that was long on emotion but short on detail, Bowser said the Redskins need to “bring it home.”
The mayor dangled a financial carrot in front of the franchise’s executives, citing the city’s recent public-private development projects with the District’s other sports teams.
The Redskins’ lease for their current stadium, FedEx Field in Landover, expires in 2027.
“There’s no exaggeration to what’s happening in the sports capital in 2018,” Bowser said before citing the recent success of teams like the Washington Capitals and the Mystics. “But we think there is something missing.”
Bowser said the city was not shy about partnering with its teams and remained focused on investing “in the future of sport.”
In 2018, the District has hosted MLB All-Star Weekend, opened a new soccer stadium (Audi Field) and is preparing to open St. Elizabeths East and Entertainment Arena a 4,200-seat, $65 million public-private project located in Ward 8 that will host the Mystics and be the Wizards’ new practice facility.
But those projects would be dwarfed by the price tag for a new, modern NFL stadium something the mayor didn’t get into on Wednesday.
Nevada taxpayers, for instance, will be on the hook for $750 million to help build a $1.9 billion stadium for the Oakland Raiders, who are relocating to Las Vegas after the project is complete in 2020.
The state of Minnesota, meanwhile, shelled out $348 million and the city of Minneapolis coughed up another $150 million to help build the Vikings’ $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016.
Bowser did not indicate how much the city would be willing to spend, but said investing in sports would create an impact on the “bottom line” of the District.
“In the world capital, you invest in the arts,” Bowser said. “You invest in the restaurants and a great nightlife scene and walkable, livable communities and also in sport.”
The District’s RFK Stadium was home to the Redskins from 1961 until 1996.
But another issue in bringing the Redskins back to the city could center around the team’s logo and name. Last week, the NAACP and eight other civil rights organizations announced their opposition to the franchise locating its new stadium in the District unless the team abandons the name “Redskins,” which is considered by some to be a racial slur.
In a statement, NAACP president Derrick Johnson called on the NFL and the Redskins to “throw this dictionary-defined racial slur into the dustbin of history, where it belongs.”
The mayor, who is up for reelection in November, has been inconclusive on the matter. Five years ago, Bowser then a council member for Ward 4 co-sponsored legislation that called for the franchise to change its name, and again called the name offensive in 2015.
On Wednesday, however, Bowser used the name when discussing her desire to have the Redskins return to the city. The mayor has also used it occasionally since taking office in 2015.
Asked by The Washington Times if a deal would be contingent on the team changing its name or logo, a city spokesperson did not respond for comment.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder told the USA Today in 2013 he would “never” change the name.
A city spokesperson told Washington City Paper that the mayor did not have a plan to bring the Redskins back to the District.
The city is not alone in wanting the Redskins the NFL’s fourth-most valuable franchise, according to Forbes.
Virginia has lobbied extensively for the Redskins’ new stadium, with Gov. Ralph Northam telling the Richmond Times-Dispatch earlier this month that a site near Dulles International Airport in Loudoun County would be the likely favorite, if the team chooses the commonwealth.
In a radio interview with WMAL in 2017, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is also up for re-election in November, said his state was going to keep the Redskins and there was “no question about that.”
Still, if it were the mayor’s choice, the Redskins would return to the District.
“We want you to be home,” Bowser said. “That’s why I wanted to be here to welcome you, but also leave you with a phrase that became very popular last night in Florida from (Democratic governor nominee) Andrew Gillum: ‘Bring it home.’”