Dan Snyder has to decide on a new name for his team and, let’s face it, he’s often not very good at making big decisions.
Since his purchase of Washington’s National Football League franchise from Jack Kent Cooke’s estate in 1999, Snyder has been beset with troubles. The once great team has gone 142–193–1 under Snyder, with just two playoff wins, and nothing seems to ever go right for Snyder or the franchise.
Last month, The Washington Post broke a story, based on allegations from 15 former female employees, about how Snyder’s organization has issues of rampant sexual harassment. While Snyder himself was not accused of harassment, he was blamed for “a sophomoric culture of verbal abuse among top executives” that played a role in how those executives treated their employees. Snyder has promised “a full, unbiased investigation” into the allegations.
In a legendary 2010 article, the Washington City Paper filled its pages with Snyder’s “hilarious and/or heinous deeds,” listing them from A to Z. Snyder responded by promptly suing the newspaper. After the City Paper piled up legal fees, Snyder just as promptly dropped the suit, making the dubious claim that he had never read the article in the first place.
The City Paper article did not even get into the problems with the team’s name, which many Native Americans consider to be a slur (this article will not use the slur, but The Washington Post has chronicled its history here). Snyder always insisted that the team name was not a slur, and throughout his 20+ year reign as team owner he stubbornly refused to consider renaming the team. In 2013, Snyder famously declared that he would never change the name. “It’s that simple,” he said. “NEVER — you can use caps.”
Something changed in July 2020. As someone who enjoys analyzing decision-making, I wish I could pinpoint exactly what that something was. Some sports writers have pointed to the outcry after George Floyd was murdered by police officers and the protests in the streets of Washington, D.C. and other cities. It was time for white men to consider their own moral character, and maybe that’s what Snyder did.
Or maybe not.
It turns out that FedEx sent Snyder a private letter demanding that he rename the team or else FedEx would remove its signage from the team’s stadium, FedEx Field. FedEx had purchased naming rights to the stadium, which was previously known as Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, from Snyder for $205 million in a deal set to expire in 6 years. In fact, it was right after receipt of that letter from FedEx (presumably the letter was delivered via FedEx) that Snyder announced that — finally — he would reconsider the team’s name. Whatever the impetus, we can conclude (to paraphrase Winston Churchill) that you can always count on Snyder doing the right thing once all other possibilities have been exhausted.
Now one might think that after years of controversy surrounding the name, Snyder and his organization had prepared for the inevitable and would have an alternative name all set for a grand unveiling prior to the 2020 season. But as the summer goes on, it has become clear that Snyder still has not come up with anything. Snyder announced that the team would be called the “Washington Football Team” until he could make a final decision. (Snyder also announced that the team would kick off the 2020 season without any fans at FedEx Field, but that just begs the question as to how 2020 will be any different from any other season under Snyder.)
The inability to come up with a new name is weird because Snyder was so decisive when renaming the stadium FedEx Field shortly after buying the team. Maybe it was the $205 million that persuaded him. Maybe all it takes for Snyder to become decisive is cash on the table. This is why I believe he will agree with my modest proposal. Here it is. Are you ready?
The Landover Land Rovers.
First I need to explain the “Landover” part of the name. You see, the Washington Football Team has not played in Washington, D.C. since 1996, when then-owner Cooke moved the team to Landover, Maryland. The stadium is not really even in Landover, it just has a Landover zip code. It’s located just off the Capital Beltway, Interstate 495/95, and is surrounded by acres and acres of parking lots. The stadium even has its very own beltway exit, Exit 16, Arena Drive.
In the old days, when the team played at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium (originally called “District of Columbia Stadium” because it’s actually in D.C.), fans would walk together to games cheering and singing fight songs. The franchise seems to have lost its joie de vivre when it moved to Maryland. FedEx Field is surrounded by endless parking lots because the organization wants everyone to drive to games. Snyder has no problem making fans spend hours in beltway traffic and then paying a ridiculous parking fee on top of the ticket price. The nearest Metro station is more than a mile a way.
The “Land Rovers,” named for the car company, seems like a good nickname for a team that is so insistent on fans driving to its games. Just as FedEx bought the naming rights to the stadium, Land Rover could buy naming rights to the team itself.
They have the money. Do you know how much a new Range Rover costs? If you’re willing to go with a stripped-down version, you may be able to spend less than $100,000. On the other hand, if you want a V8, 557 HP engine that can whip you around the beltway at speeds of up to 150 MPH, the price tag will be closer to $200K.
Snyder and Land Rover executives need to get in a room and make a deal. The Landover Land Rovers have a promising future! Well, not on the football field, but does that even matter? This is business!