In an appearance on 106.7 The Fan, State Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) expanded comments on his opposition to a Washington Commanders stadium authority bill. In a Wednesday press release, Petersen said he was concerned by traffic problems at a proposed Woodbridge site, but focused on the team’s recent move away from its controversial former name “Washington Redskins.”
“It’s not that I don’t like the new name,” Petersen told BMitch and Finlay Thursday. “I mean, I don’t care. The problem is the team has no brand, it has no identity. And you’re asking the Commonwealth of Virginia to enter a long-term economic relationship with a team that effectively has no brand.”
Petersen said he issued the press release to avoid surprising anyone with his potential vote when the legislature reconvenes June 1.
He said that the team can’t show metrics of its popularity in television ratings, season ticket sales, or attendance.
“I just haven’t seen the evidence of it. So when I say this team, you know, they don’t have the history of the Washington Redskins. They don’t have the tradition of the Washington Redskins, they don’t. I mean, granted, that’s my opinion, but I think it’s a pretty, pretty solid opinion,” he said.
He explained, “When I say viable, I look at a team that has, you know, been losing attendance. I look at a team that’s been losing market share. I look at a team that’s been TV ratings tracking down for years. And I look at a team that does not, in my opinion have a recognizable brand.”
Petersen said he had held season tickets for 22 years and his law firm had club seats in his last year as a season ticket holder. He said the team has lost the Redskins legacy.
“I’ve made a couple of nickels in my career and I loved taking people to Redskins games, and that was kind of our identity, and people like that you don’t just find much anymore,” he said. “And people have sort of moved on and nobody really wants to talk about it.”
Exact details of the final compromise on the stadium authority bill haven’t been revealed yet, but earlier drafts of the legislation would create some incentives to attract the franchise to Virginia – for example, allowing the team to use some tax revenue from the stadium itself to pay off construction financing, with the idea that associated businesses would generate increased tax revenues to make up for the loss.
Powerful politicians and lobbyists have been working on the legislation.
The franchise has been seeking to leave its current location and has been looking at options in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. The original version of the bill was drafted by team representatives, but House Finance Chairman Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) has warned that he’ll only move forward with legislation that’s a good deal for Virginia.
Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) has been an avid proponent of the legislation, and said in February, “This bill does not create any debt backed by the commonwealth.”
Governor Glenn Youngkin has seemed enthusiastic about the idea of bringing the team to Virginia, but in comments made in February he acknowledged that his first responsibility is to the taxpayers.
“I do think that how we creatively use tax receipts from a new development is a very creative way to how to finance a football stadium, but also the development around it. And so that’s something that I will look forward to discussing with both the Senate leadership and the House leadership. Because in order for us to actually have tax receipts, we need to have a football team,” Youngkin said at the time.
Some legislators have opposed the legislation because of allegations of sexual harassment surrounding team owner Dan Snyder and top team officials. Federally, legislators including Representative Don Beyer (D-VA-08) and Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA-14) have introduced a bill to block using federal tax exemptions to support stadium projects.
“The NFL has proven once again that it can’t play by the rules. As such, taxpayers-subsidized municipal bonds should no longer be a reward for the Washington Commanders and other teams that continue to operate workplaces that are dens of sexual harassment and sexual abuse,” Speier said in a February press release.
Traffic issues related to the team’s potential location are also a concern.
“The entire concept of putting a stadium off of I/95 without existing Metro service to support it is a non-starter for me. I can’t look at the debacle we had on I-95 and in good conscience vote to defund transportation and add tens of thousands of vehicles to that corridor,” Delegate Danica Roem (D-Prince William) tweeted in March.
For Petersen, the big problem is the team’s declining support.
“It just lacks, in my opinion, the community support that an NFL team needs to be successful,” Petersen told BMitch and Finlay.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Chap Peterson” by Chap Peterson. Background Photo “Washington Commanders Uniform” by All-Pro Reels. CC BY-SA 2.0.