- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Dear Mayor Vincent C. Gray: Now that the Washington Redskins cat is finally out of the bag and there no longer is a need for me to hide my sources or speak in hushed tones, it’s time for me to reveal my hand and for you to play yours. And if you’re the gambling man that stakeholders in the nation’s capital suspect you to be, you’ll appreciate what I’m about to say.

Go all in with the hand you have been dealt.

You and at least two other D.C. Council members, Jack Evans and Michael A. Brown, want to lure the Redskins back to Washington by helping them build a practice facility near their old stomping grounds at RFK Stadium. It’s a win-win proposition for the team, taxpayers and your own political hinds, but only if you get rid of that annoying how-dare-you expression you display when your judgment is being questioned.

Now, having said that, here’s a look at the upcoming pros-and-cons list the opposition is preparing to exploit.

1) Do not bluff. Typically, mayors and other supporters of proposed publicly financed sports arenas spin the debate around future economic benefits.

But you must keep in mind three things: You and other city leaders are already committed to spending money to keep the soccer team in the city; the ballpark for the Nationals baseball team has yet to deliver the cultural and economic promises for the average Washingtonian; the Redskins plan would be easier to sell if it closely mimics the Abe Pollin-Gallery Place deal, in which taxpayers paid for infrastructure for Verizon Center.

Remember this too: Smart-growth, environmental and anti-car activists surely will coalesce against building a facility for the Redskins, so they are natural opponents. The key is not to cede territory, which anyone who plays or ever played team sports knows is key to winning the game.

They will call the proposition a heist of land and tax dollars, and so it is.

But so are the land deals and tax breaks and credits the city gives to the Nationals; Wizards; Mystics; Capitals; D.C. United; hotels and motels; big-box retailers, churches and small storefronts; Daughters of the American Revolution and other historic sites; the IRS and other federal entities; Fannie Mae; and businesses and nonprofits small and large that use D.C. zip codes.

2) Politics is a team sport. You, your legislative counterpart, Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, and, quite frankly, the other lawmakers, have yet to propose signature legislation that has excited the denizens this capital.

And while no single neighborhood — not River Terrace, not Hill East, not Kingman Park — should have more say than another, they all should have their say.

It is your job to gin up support, to get residents and businesses across the city to rally ‘round the Redskins plan, get them to imagine a capital whose alluring springtime attractions reach beyond the national museums, monuments and cherry blossoms along the Mall and truly understand that the boys of summer ain’t got nothin’ on the Redskins.

(I know you’re a baseball guy, Mr. Mayor, but I wear my badge of Redskins fanaticism with honor.) In other words, show residents that you and the city are major-league political players in a major media market that gets short shrift from the entertainment industry.

3) Be yourself. When I’ve bumped into you at a ‘Skins game or we’ve chatted about quarterback Rex Grossman, D.C. high school sports or the records of the Washington Wizards vs. the Washington Bullets, your face exudes the confidence of a true fan who looks beyond the box scores.

That’s the face you should reveal when discussing your Redskins proposition. Leave the pecuniary details to the bean counters and other D.C. employees we pay six-figure salaries to wear green eyeshades.

Tell them the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so get busy.

You’ve expended much of your political capital to date on statehood and abortion rights, Mr. Mayor, issues that do nothing to raise the cache of the District of Columbia or put the nation’s capital on the entertainment industry’s radar screen.

Bringing the Redskins home, if only to train with and scrimmage against themselves, would give you something to add to your list of accomplishments come 2014.

Team D.C. needs you to be it’s No. 1 cheerleader on this, sans a skimpy uniform, of course.

Don’t blow it.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmonsATwashingtontimes.com

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