WASHINGTON — The Washington Redskins are a mess. That’s no secret even after the team got its second win of the season against the Detroit Lions. In fact, things have gotten so bad there is a growing chorus of fans calling on owner Dan Snyder to sell the team.
“Sell the team” chants were caught on video in the stands of FedEx Field in November during another blowout loss, this one to the New York Jets.
Other fans held signs and even wore bags over their heads with the phrase “sell the team” written on them.
But could that ever really happen?
Redskins owner Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999, and data analyzed by WUSA9 reveals he has all but run it into the ground ever since.
The team's record under Snyder is 149 wins, 189 losses and one tie. The team's now decades-long struggle has led to a fan exodus.
The Redskins led the league in home attendance in 2008. 10 years later, in 2018, they were 27th out of 32 NFL teams. Fifth (5th) from last.
The stands are so empty these days television networks don’t take overhead shots of FedEx Field anymore, likely to avoid showing all the unfilled seats.
Some would argue that shouldn’t be a huge concern since not many people are watching at home anymore either. Nielsen ratings for Redskins games in the DC market on Fox, which carries the majority of Redskins games, are down a staggering 42% since 2013.
On November 17, more people in the DC market watched the Patriots/Eagles broadcast than that Redskins/Jets debacle.
In a city once dominated by the Redskins, a new Washington Post poll found just 13% of Washingtonians now call the Redskins their favorite local sports team.
“If the Redskins don’t give you as a fan a good feeling at the end of the day then why would you invest your time and your money and your emotions,” said Washington Post Sports Columnist Barry Svrluga, who has reported on the teams eroding fan base and diminishing profits.
Those financial losses aren't just eating into Dan Snyder’s wallet. They are eating into Snyder’s fellow owners’ pockets too.
NFL franchises share revenue from television rights, ticket and merchandise sales. So, the more each team earns, the more everyone makes.
But experts tell WUSA9 that’s still only a drop in the bucket compared to how much the NFL is raking in league wide.
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“This market is damaged. This franchise is damaged,” Svrluga said. “That’s important to the NFL. I don’t think it’s reaching to the point where the other 31 owners say you have to sell.”
Amazon’s billionaire owner and soon to be newest Washingtonian, Jeff Bezos, recently raised hopes locally after CBS Sports reported he wanted to buy an NFL franchise. The report didn’t specify which one, but the Redskins would make sense. After all he already owns the Washington Post.
Snyder would still have to be willing to sell. Something he has shown no indication he’d do.
But WUSA9 did discover one way a Redskins sale could happen in spite of that.
A little-known clause in the NFL’s bylaws gives league commissioner Roger Goodell the power to order the sale of a team if an owner “is guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the league or professional football.” Usually that means personal misconduct.
So, could Snyder’s business struggles as Redskins owner force the league to step in? Lisa Neirotti, Associate Professor of Sports Management, George Washington University School of Business, says don’t count on it.
“The fandom for NFL is still very strong,” Neirotti said. “And if they stop watching the Redskins, they’ll just watch another team.”
Unlike many of those beleaguered Redskins fans calling on Snyder to sell the team, Neirotti believes the Redskins will return to prominence, one day.
“Sooner or later, someone is going to make this team a winning franchise again.”
WUSA9 requested an interview with Dan Snyder, or a statement from the team about whether or not he would ever sell. A Redskins spokesperson has not responded to those requests.