- - Thursday, December 6, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Redskins’ long-term future — specifically, where they will play — we don’t know. But we do know that there will be a football team playing in 2020, in the District of Columbia, at Audi Field, a stadium the city helped build.

That much we know.

And it ought to be enough to worry those who thought the District had a shot at bringing the Redskins back into the city from the Maryland suburbs.

The XFLVince McMahon’s white whale — officially announced Wednesday that Washington will be the home of one of the eight teams to play in his revived football league when it begins play in 2020.

The word came down in a live-streamed press conference from East Rutherford, New Jersey, and featured McMahon, whose previous attempt in 2001 to start the XFL failed miserably. He insisted this time will be different, that his vision of football was ahead of its time.

“So much has changed in terms of the use of digital — social media didn’t even exist 20 years ago — in ways of distributing, in ways of interest, in terms of the various devices which were not there either,” McMahon said. “But what has not changed is the love of football.”

Look, I think McMahon is perhaps the most influential figure in American culture in the last 30 years. I respect his business acumen and his vision for what will sell, even if I don’t like all the results of that influence. In WWE, he has built one of the most successful media companies in the world.

But I think starting a football league in 2020 is like starting a tobacco farm in Virginia today. The needle, despite what McMahon says, appears to be going in the opposite direction.

Then again, he is right about media and distribution, and the insatiable appetite for content — any content. He is reportedly investing more than $500 million of his money in the new XFL — an enterprise solely owned by him. No franchises, no owners.

And it would make sense that McMahon would want a team in the nation’s capital, with the profile and influence that comes with it — within walking distance of the White House.

What doesn’t make sense is why the District would get into the professional football business with anyone else while they are wooing the Redskins.

“Washington, D.C. — as our mayor would say, the sports capital of the United States — is ready for the XFL, and we can’t wait for the inaugural season to get started,” Erik Moses, senior vice president and managing director of Events DC, said during the press conference.

You think the Redskins want to share the city with Vince McMahon’s new league? Don’t underestimate the pettiness of Washington owner Dan Snyder when it comes to slights, both real and imagined. It’s what fuels petty people, and Snyder puts the “P” in petty.

The city’s Major League Soccer franchise, D.C. United, negotiated this deal. Presumably the city, which paid for at least half or more of the $500 million stadium, in addition to at least $43 million property tax credits granted to D.C. United, would have a say in its use. It makes good business sense to have more paying tenants use the stadium than just D.C. United 16 times a season.

But that may be shortsighted if the city is serious about its attempts to bring the Redskins back in from FedEx Field in Prince George’s County (where the lease expires in 2027).

D.C Councilman Jack Evans, who chairs the council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue and has been vocal in his quest to bring the Redskins back to the city, doesn’t believe the presence of the XFL will affect that campaign. “No, I don’t think it matters,” Evans said.

Maybe he’s right. Business is business. But for Snyder, the business of football is often personal.

I get the XFL is not the NFL, but McMahon doesn’t get into a business venture to be a stepchild. His vision is not to be some sort of supplemental feeder system for the NFL. And when he first announced the return of the XFL in January, he took aim at the NFL by declaring that his league would be everything the NFL is not right now.

“We will present a shorter, faster-paced, family friendly and easier to understand game,” McMahon said. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s still football, but it’s professional football re-imagined.”

And then there was this:

“We want someone who does not have any criminality associated with them whatsoever,” McMahon said. “In the XFL, even if you have a DUI, you will not play in the XFL.”

Reuben Foster, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

It’s been quiet of late on the new stadium front for the Redskins.

Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe made a lot of noise about building a new Redskins stadium in Virginia, but nothing came out it, and it’s unlikely that will ever come to pass.

No, this is a horse race between the District and Maryland, which is where I believe the new stadium will wind up — adjacent to the MGM National Harbor casino. And I think the District added some weight to their ride with the deal to bring the XFL to the city.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.


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