Yet, Mr. Snyder salivates at the possibility of returning the team to the old RFK site, the location he remembers fondly watching games as a kid. Mayor Bowser likewise sees enticing the team back to the District as her legacy.
The fairest approach is to have an inclusive process that allows residents of the District of Columbia, particularly residents in neighborhoods adjacent to RFK, an opportunity to make their views known through ample public hearings in neighborhoods and before the Council. It is our bet that they would not favor a new football stadium, particularly at taxpayer expense. The stadium does not maximize the public value and use of the land since it is used perhaps less than a dozen times a year for the team’s games.
Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who represents the area near RFK, declares that “Building a stadium for a billionaire is just a horrible waste of taxpayer dollars. Build more housing. Recruit more jobs. More parks that could connect to Anacostia neighborhoods.”
We could not agree more. The District of Columbia faces an affordable housing crisis. This past week, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) released a report on gentrification. Of all the cities studied, Washington DC has the most intense gentrification with 40 percent of its census tracts gentrifying over the last thirteen years. Incredibly, 20,000 African-Americans moved out of these neighborhoods. Mayor Bowser recognizes the affordable housing crisis and has asked for more funding in her budget for affordable housing.
The current status of the abandoned stadium and land is untenable considering housing and job needs in the District of Columbia. Perhaps, Norton’s bill should be amended to either donate the land to the District or sell it at a substantial discount if the land is not used for a stadium but instead employed for housing, small business development, recreation, and other neighborhood needs. We recognize the imperative of local decision-making, especially for a city that remains a colony of the federal government without voting representation in Congress in 2019! However, Congress can certainly impose sensible conditions such as telling the city that it will charge full price for the land if the city contemplates using it for a team with a name that is a dictionary defined racial slur.
Would Congress be up to such an approach? Key decision-makers remain steadfast in their opposition to the name. The chief of staff to Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn) who leads the House Appropriations subcommittee on the interior maintains, “This (the Norton bill) does not change her perspective on the team name. She remains adamantly opposed to the team name.” Similarly, a spokesman for Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) who is on the Senate Appropriations Committee, declares, “I firmly believe that Congress should not send any message that we support or give our stamp of approval to the Washington football team’s racist name.”
An overwhelming number of policy, civil rights, and human rights considerations combine to oppose any Dan Snyder acquisition of the old RFK stadium. As columnist Colbert I. King puts it, acquiring the land is the right goal, but giving it to Snyder would be the wrong reason for the acquisition. If the process for deciding the fate of the land is fair and public, we are confident that the land will be employed for important neighborhood purposes other than buttressing racial stereotypes and slurs.