Football fans in the nation’s capital are enjoying their biggest victory since Joe Gibbs’ Hogs won their third Super Bowl 31 years ago.
It might take a while before Washington celebrates similar on-field success.
Getting rid of owner Dan Snyder is the first step toward rebuilding a once-proud franchise, but it won’t be easy after decades of decline.
The Commanders’ new ownership led by Josh Harris and including Magic Johnson has plenty of major challenges ahead. Harris outlined his priorities Friday.
“I’m stressed. Training camp is next week, and the first game is six weeks away,” said Harris, who also co-owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. “We’ve got to get the team ready to win football games. We’ve got to get out in the community and start to pay it forward, as Magic said, and we’ve got to change the fan experience.”
Snyder’s 24-year tenure was filled with futility and disgrace. The team won just two playoff games in only six postseason appearances, and its stadium has aged poorly, causing fans to stay away.
Snyder’s behavior that ultimately led to his departure — the NFL fined him $60 million for improprieties corroborated by its investigation into workplace culture and business dealings — will remain a stain on the organization for the foreseeable future while the new regime works to build a winner and fulfill its goals.
Changing the team’s name again could eventually be part of the clean-slate process, but that may take time. Harris made it clear winning over Washington’s long-suffering fan base is the immediate goal for a group that spent a record $6.05 billion on the franchise.
During the team’s glory days, fans sang “Hail to the Redskins” — the team’s former name, which was considered a racial slur against Native Americans and was dropped in 2020 — and crammed into raucous, intimate RFK Stadium in Washington, where some seats literally shook during touchdown celebrations. That atmosphere vanished entirely at the team’s current home, FedEx Field in suburban Maryland, which was rushed to completion by Snyder’s predecessor, Jack Kent Cooke.
“We’re going to throw a party every other Sunday,” Harris said. “When you have guests in your house, you treat them well. You don’t have couches that are broken. You don’t have TVs that aren’t working. That’s what we’re focused on right now. As far as the stadium experience long run, we would love to have a stadium where opposing players fear to come and our players love to come and our players love to come and feel welcome. That’s what I experienced at RFK. Whatever happens at the stadium, that’s the kind of stadium experience I want to create.”
Considering the jubilation fans have shown since Snyder’s departure, the new owners could enjoy a longer honeymoon period than usual. Revved-up fans partied at a pep rally at the stadium Friday while the owners met the media.
“I’ve waited seven years to see the fan base like this,” defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said.
The elation over the sale of the Commanders undoubtedly was felt inside NFL headquarters. The Snyder saga has dogged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s 31 other owners for too long.
“It’s a hallmark day,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after his peers unanimously approved the sale Thursday.
However, the league’s initial handling of an independent investigation into workplace misconduct led to a congressional review and included a referral to the Federal Trade Commission for potential business improprieties by Snyder.
That’s still a black eye for the NFL. The league won’t suffer. It never does.
For now, it’s all about the Washington fans. Maybe one day they’ll be singing: “Hail to the ... Commanders or RedWolves or ...”