- The Washington Times
Sunday, November 6, 2022

LANDOVER — Laura Clarke and her family, like most of the Washington Commanders fans on hand for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, say they’d be happy if owner Dan Snyder were to sell the team.

“We deserve a fresh start,” she said while tailgating outside FedEx Field before the game.

The news last week that Snyder is considering “potential transactions” of the NFL franchise he’s controlled since 1999 reinvigorated fans who say they have long dreamed of a new owner. Littered among the purple Vikings jerseys and the burgundy Commanders gear were fans wearing “sell the team” t-shirts and others holding signs with the slogan. 

“Finally,” was Commanders fan Will Lippincott’s first reaction when he heard Snyder could be selling. “Long overdue,” was John Booze’s first thought. 

Along with the excitement, there was a hint of caution.

“I was skeptical,” said Jarret Brightbill, a 23-year-old Commanders fan who flew up from Clearwater, Florida, for the game against Minnesota. “But as it sunk in, it felt real. You started to think that maybe we can finally be set free.”

But Booze, a season-ticket holder since 1997, isn’t concerned. The 65-year-old from Oakton, Virginia, isn’t “cautiously optimistic” like Clarke is; he’s convinced the sale is soon on its way. 

“I think it took him so long to get to this point that he can’t keep going now,” said Booze, who added, as Lippincott did, that if he wins the $1.9 billion Powerball that he will offer to be a minority partner with the new owner. 

“Everybody wants him out,” Lippincott said. “We’ve got the worst stadium in the [expletive deleted] league, we’ve got the worst beer prices. Our stadium is two hours from the city. Our team has been terrible or mediocre for most of my lifetime.”

Snyder has long been blamed for the team’s dysfunction and poor performance. Since he bought the team for $800 million in 1999 (far less than the $5.6 billion Forbes values the team now), the Commanders haven’t just been one of the worst teams on the field. 

Attendance at FedEx Field, widely regarded as one of the worst stadiums in American professional sports, has plummeted. Before Sunday, the Commanders ranked last in the NFL in average attendance at 58,720 — almost 3,000 fewer than any other team. 

“Going out to see a football game is an expensive investment financially and emotionally,” said Philip Indorf, 36 of Arlington. “If we didn’t have those distractions, it would make it much easier to join in.”

Season-ticket holders have also been on the decline during Snyder’s tenure. What once took a generation on a waitlist to achieve is now something many fans aren’t even interested in.

“They don’t want to give their money to Dan Snyder,” Brightbill said.

Clarke’s family has owned season tickets since the team played at Griffith Stadium, but they’ve considered stopping multiple times during Snyder’s reign. They once even wrote to Snyder about their displeasure, and he responded and upgraded their seats. 

“We were very close to giving our tickets up, but it’s part of our fabric as a family,” said Clarke, 62 of Laytonsville, Maryland. “I’m betwixt, because he took very nice care of my family, but at the same time, I think it’s time. … I really do think he wanted a good team, but he’s lost the fanbase.”

In fact, just hours after the news Wednesday, Clarke was so excited that she called to get more season tickets for her daughters who are moving back to the area. 

Clarke isn’t the only one. Tyneal Bost, who was attending his first regular season game of the year, said he would become a season-ticket holder if Snyder sells.

“If he sells, I’m in,” said Bost, 22 of Capitol Heights, Maryland. “A lot of fans will become season-ticket holders again. He’s the reason they stopped.”

The next question, if Snyder does sell, is which billionaire will be his successor. Of course, there’s no guarantee that a new owner can turn around the franchise, but Lippincott doesn’t care. 

“Personally, we’re rooting for Trump,” he joked as one of his buddies shouted “Make the Redskins Great Again.” 

“If he wants to buy the team, we’re all about it. Or Obama. Or Elon. But we’ll take any old billionaire, as long as it’s not Snyder.”

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.