Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) scrapped a budget proposal this week that would have given $350 million in incentives for the NFL’s Washington Commanders to build a new stadium in Virginia.
This setback, along with a bevy of others, makes it more likely the football team will retain its home at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, beyond its contractual deadline of 2027.
Setbacks & scandals delay Commanders in Virginia
The Commanders recently purchased 200 acres of land in Woodbridge, Virginia, in anticipation of an eventual team relocation. The team is also assessing potential locations in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Ongoing team scandals, however, have caused support for the project to dwindle drastically. Back in March, one employee testified that the team had engaged in financial improprieties, including swindling season ticket holders and generating two separate bookkeeping reports to hide money intended for the NFL revenue-sharing pool.
Commanders owner Dan Snyder added more fuel to the fiery scandals engulfing his team on June 15 when his lawyers informed Congress that he would not testify in front of the House Oversight and Reform Committee at an upcoming hearing regarding allegations from 15 women who say they suffered verbal abuse and sexual harassment while working for the team.
Most recently, Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio called the Jan. 6 insurrection riot a “dust-up” compared to social justice protests following the murder of George Floyd.
Hope for a Virginia relocation dwindles
Virginia State Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) initially led the effort to bring the team to Old Dominion. But Del Rio’s insurrection comment was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In a recent Washington Post story, he said:
“There were just so many things out there that a lot of people are saying, ‘Saslaw, this thing needs to wait.’”
Saslaw announced his change of heart on June 9. Coincidentally, this was the same day that seven D.C. Council members stated they would not support an NFL stadium project on the same National Park Service site as Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. Rather, the Council urged lawmakers to make the area beneficial to D.C. residents in other ways.
FedEx Field is past its prime
Despite the seemingly never-ending line of bombshells and revelations surrounding the team, area lawmakers and team officials remain hopeful. After all, legislative efforts for a new stadium could be revived in the future.
A good deal of uncertainty surrounds those efforts, but one matter that seems quite certain — FedEx Field should be a thing of the past.
Resurrected in 1997, this aging stadium has experienced its own list of issues in recent years. During a Sept. 12, 2021 home game against the Chargers, a pipe burst, dumping liquid on every fan and attendee in the splash zone. Some said the liquid was sewage; a tweet from FedEx Field said it was merely rainwater and that all affected fans had been moved to complimentary suites.
Following a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Jan. 2, 2022, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts began high-fiving fans on the way to the locker room. Suddenly, the stadium railing broke, causing several fans who were leaning over the railing to tumble nearly six feet onto the field below. Following the game, Hurts commented:
“I’m just happy everybody is safe from it. That’s crazy stuff right there. That was a real dangerous situation. I’m just so happy everybody bounced back from it, it seemed like. Passionate Eagles fans. I love it.”
A team official said the railing wasn’t meant to bear weight of that proportion.
Commanders keep losing allies
The cases against the Commanders and FedEx Field keep adding up, leaving onlookers far less inclined to lend a helping hand.
On June 18, the Washington Post released an editorial saying that Snyder has proven he should not get taxpayer help for his stadium, writing in part:
“Even if Mr. Snyder were an exemplary team owner, which he is not, the arguments are weak for devoting public funds to help billionaire NFL owners build new stadiums, which often serve to juice their already substantial profits. And there is even less sense in earmarking public funding for a private company beset by scandal, especially when the prospects are cloudy at best for a healthy return on that investment for the surrounding community.”
Most recently, FIFA opted to omit the 82,000-person stadium from its official 2026 World Cup venue list.
FedEx Field can count on having the Commanders around until 2027 at the very least. Additional setbacks and controversies, however, may very well prove that this dilapidated venue and its struggling team are perfectly suited for each other after all.