Aug 2, 2023 - Sports
Town Talker

"Everything's on the table": Football fever is back in Washington

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

What a difference two weeks — and 1,000 free beers for fans — makes. Football is the talk of the town again in Washington.

What I'm hearing: Local son Josh Harris' purchase of the Commanders has the city humming with anticipation for the gridiron. Suddenly, a new stadium sweepstakes is unfolding. The name could change — yes, again!

  • Thirty-six days away from Week 1, fans are giddy and pols are peacocking.

What they're saying: "There's really only one place for the team," Mayor Bowser gushed last Thursday, hours after Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) unveiled a bipartisan bill to make a new stadium possible at the RFK site.

  • Yes, you read that right: Comer, chair of the House Oversight Committee who spent most of the year attacking D.C. self-governance and city laws, is simpatico with Bowser and her Dem ally on the Hill, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The intrigue: It's the kind of deal that can immortalize a politician.

  • Comer could cement his name in Washington, becoming known in luxury boxes and power corridors as the southern lawmaker who greased the transformation of 180 acres in prime real estate in the nation's capital.
  • And think of the possible grandeur for Bowser. She'd be the mayor who brought football back to town. What if the burgundy and gold once again became Washington's great unifier — smoothing over race, class, and even federal and local divides?

State of play: RFK has the momentum. Harris called Bowser after the purchase, and last Wednesday they met in her office.

  • Herroner just assembled a crew of economic development officials dedicated to building a stadium. Developers hope to strike gold.

Not to be outdone, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin trekked over to training camp in Ashburn last week, huddling with Harris on the sidelines.

  • On a possible stadium, Youngkin said afterward: Virginia has a "brand new commitment to Washington football."
  • Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has previously said he supports spending some taxpayer dollars on a stadium.

Reality check: Of course, a return to the legendary 1970s-1990s — the era when Harris witnessed RFK Stadium glory — can only be revived with gridiron success. A winning season and stadium talk will ratchet up into overdrive.

Between the lines: In this honeymoon moment, Harris and his 20 or so ownership partners — like an ever-expanding cast out of "Ocean's Thirteen" — are happy to feed the impossible-is-nothing frenzy.

  • New stadium, where? "No idea," said Potomac billionaire Mitchell Rales.
  • New name? "I think everything's on the table, especially after this year," said Magic Johnson, who has a stake. "We'll see what we are with the name, but I can't say that right now."

Big boss, yay or nay on "Commanders"? "It's not important what I like; it's important what the fans in the city like," Harris told a podcast.

✍🏼 Dan Snyder, who? Town Talker is a weekly column on local politics and power. Drop me a line about the talk of the town: [email protected].


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