With the notion of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos buying into the Washington Redskins and a potential new stadium, the team’s faithful may have had their hopes raised by potentially good news, but the news may have been premature.
Talk of Bezos buying an NFL franchise has been bubbling for a couple months, but it’s a little unclear as to whether Bezos really wants into the NFL or whether the NFL really wants him. (Or, perhaps, both.) Bezos, also the owner of the Washington Post and an investor in several startups (including space-exploration firm Blue Origin), maintains a residence in Washington, DC and was commissioner Roger Goodell’s guest at the most recent Super Bowl. And while CBS may be overstating Bezos’ personal commitment to Washington, the fact is that the billionaire has certainly raised his presence there: besides buying and revitalizing the Post, he’s also located a second Amazon headquarters in the suburbs and renovated a residence there. His companies have also made moves into the sports world: Amazon has a deal to stream NFL “Thursday Night Football” telecasts to Prime members, and the firm invested in a purchase of the YES Network with the New York Yankees and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
There may be two NFL teams hitting the market in coming months: the Seattle Seahawks, controlled by the estate of the late Paul Allen, and the Denver Broncos, where members of the Bowlen family are fighting over control of the franchise. While it’s not been announced in either case that a sale is under consideration, it would not be surprising to anyone in the industry if both teams hit the market in 2020.
From a venue viewpoint, a Bezos purchase of the Seahawks or Broncos isn’t particularly interesting. Both teams play in above-average, newer venues, and although there are some potential development opportunities at Empower Field at Mile High, they’re not nearly as fascinating as what will come before a Redskins owner in the next decade. There is no doubt the team’s future does not lie in FedEx Field—a bad idea if there ever was one—and there are plenty of folks in the NFL who would love to see the Washington Redskins restored to their former glory. At their peak, the Redskins were truly America’s Team (sorry, Dallas fans), and any notable NFL doubleheader featured a late afternoon game at RFK Stadium. A Redskins game was a national event.
But a Redskins game today is far from a national event. Falls in the Washington, D.C. area were synonymous with the Redskins, and folks throughout the region planned their schedule around a Redskins game. Today, only the hardcore fans plan their Sundays around a Redskins game. A new Redskins stadium at the RFK Stadium site would both raise the NFL’s profile in an important market and revitalize what’s been a moribund franchise. We’ve chronicled how Snyder has already taken some steps toward the next phase of Redskins facilities, with the RFK Stadium site discussed.
Admittedly, it’s a long shot as to whether Bezos lands the Redskins or even a share of the team: Snyder is a very hands-on owner and has shown no inclination toward giving up any level of control of the team. “The franchise is not for sale and there is no truth behind the suggestion that Bezos could partner with Mr. Snyder on efforts to build a new stadium or buy a stake in the team,” a Redskins spokesman told Fox Business. “Mr. Snyder hasn’t seen Jeff Bezos in nearly a decade.” And it’s now being reported that Bezos may be more interested in buying the Seahawks. Whether or not Bezos is part of the equation, the Redskins will need to manage many, many hurdles to obtain that new stadium—hurdles that may include a rebranding of the team and a deal between the federal government and the District of Columbia to ensure long-term control of the RFK Stadium site.
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