Given that the Washington Commanders have had more team nicknames than National Football League playoff victories over the last 24 years, it’s hard to argue that Dan Snyder’s soon-ending tenure as the franchise’s owner has been anything but calamitous on the field.
According to projections from incoming owner Josh Harris, however, Snyder also has been hurting the Commanders off the field—costing the team hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues and potential public subsidies.
That’s the main takeaway from a new ESPN report, which details how a 43-page prospectus prepared by Harris for potential limited partners in his pending $6.05 billion purchase of the Commanders predicts that simply by removing Snyder, the franchise will sell more tickets, attract more sponsorships, and possibly receive an absolutely astronomical amount of taxpayer money for a new stadium.
Titled “Commanders Investment Opportunity” and dated March 2023, the document makes the case—with numbers! So many inglorious numbers!—that Snyder’s penchant for scandal and remarkable unpopularity has badly eroded the team’s bottom line:
- In 2008, the prospectus says, Washington ranked first in the NFL in attendance, and in 2010 FedEx Field seated up to 84,500 fans. By 2021, however, the team was 31st in attendance—second to last in the league—and FedEx seating capacity had been cut to 58,000.
- As a result of the above, gate revenue from what the prospectus calls a “disengaged” fan base decreased by an inflation-adjusted two-thirds since 2008.
- In recent years, lawmakers in the District, Maryland, and Virginia have expressed interest in and support for helping the Commanders build a new, revenue-juicing stadium—in fact, the Virginia statehouse passed a stadium bill in 2022. However, public outrage over allegations of sexual misconduct against Snyder and former Commanders executives has made stadium funding politically toxic.
“The Commanders historically ranked top in the league across all local revenue metrics and attendance,” the prospectus reads. “However, the team has significantly spiraled as a result of allegations against current ownership. As ownership changes, we see opportunities to substantially drive local revenue and bring the team back to a top NFL market.”
First of all: Ouch! Second, substantially may be putting it mildly. Sans Snyder’s cash-hemorrhaging presence, the prospectus promises, the Commanders’ future basically looks like this:
Specifically, the prospectus estimates that by the 2031-32 season:
- The team’s annual gate revenue will jump from $58 million to $127 million.
- FedEx Stadium’s current naming rights deal, worth $7.6 million a year, could be canceled and replaced with a new deal worth at least $30 million a year.
- The team’s total annual local revenue—which includes tickets, parking, and sponsorships—will more than double from $173 million to $380 million.
- The team’s total annual overall revenue, which also includes money from national broadcast deals and other media rights, will rise from $545 million to $959 million—or even surpass $1 billion if a new stadium is built.
Speaking of a new stadium, the prospectus also predicts that Virginia will offer the Commanders more money than Maryland or DC—as much as $1.5 billion, ESPN reports, an amount that would dwarf the American-record $750 million in public money Nevada taxpayers contributed to the construction of a new stadium for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2017.
Are these numbers a wee bit optimistic, less steely-eyed insurance company actuary than Kendall Roy pitching Living+? Maybe! After all, they are meant to entice rich investors, a class of people with a deep and abiding appreciation for, well, appreciation. However, the ESPN report notes that other, high-ranking NFL sources who have evaluated Harris’ ownership bid share his belief that the Commanders are due for a relatively rapid financial renaissance, largely because locals who detest Snyder still love the team.
Among those believers, in fact, is current Commanders team president Jason Wright, who told ESPN in March that “There’s nothing but upside on the other side of this. There will be growth … because there are people choosing not to do business with us that will choose to do business with us now.” Tough thing to say publicly about your current boss—unless you’re extremely confident it’s true.