Oct 17, 2022 - Sports

How Dan Snyder screwed up the Virginia stadium deal

Illustration of the Washington Commanders logo falling over backwards.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Virginia lawmakers were poised to approve a big incentive package for a new Commanders stadium earlier this year. Then Dan Snyder screwed it up by being awful, per a deep-dive report by ESPN.

Why it matters: As NFL team owners prepare to convene in New York Tuesday for league meetings, many tell ESPN privately they want to see Snyder removed as owner.

  • And some see his failure to land a stadium deal as a way to force him out.

Catch up fast: The Commanders need a new stadium, but have gone from having prospects in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia to having officials in all three jurisdictions oppose any kind of incentive.

In Virginia, Snyder's stadium hopes fell apart in spectacular fashion despite support from two of the state's most powerful lawmakers and a $100,000 lobbying budget.

Zoom in: First, public support plummeted amid congressional hearings in February in which five former female employees recounted allegations of sexual misconduct by the team's senior executives and Snyder.

  • Lawmakers' inboxes were flooded with constituents denouncing Snyder as a sleaze, per ESPN.

Behind the scenes, Snyder struggled to make a coherent case for the stadium.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin, a Democrat from Alexandria, recounted his invitation to discuss the deal at Snyder's mansion.

  • The lawmaker said Snyder was unable to answer basic questions, like how much the deal would cost taxpayers or how much tax revenue he believed it would generate.
  • "It was a weird meeting," Ebbin told ESPN.

Lawmakers also chafed at what, to them, looked like a coordinated leak of the team's plan to buy property in Prince William County, where a survey by a county supervisor found 85% of residents opposed the deal.

  • The news made big headlines, but rattled lawmakers, who thought they were being used as leverage to help Snyder land a better deal in Maryland or D.C., per ESPN.

What's next: Some other NFL team owners see Snyder's stadium failure as leverage to get him out of the owner's seat because it appears likely he’ll need to take out more debt to make a deal work.

  • And for that, he'll need approval from the other owners, which might not be forthcoming.
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