Sen. Petersen Opposes Washington Commanders Stadium Deal Amid Concerns over Dropping ‘Redskins’ Name

State Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) is opposed to efforts to bring the Washington Commanders football team to Virginia, in part due to concerns over the team’s recent name change.

“I have two concerns. One is that the development is too far removed from an urban setting, unlike Nats Park at The Navy Yard, which will make it solely dependent on vehicle traffic for access. More importantly, I don’t have confidence in the Washington Commanders as a viable NFL franchise,” Petersen said in Wednesday press release.

“I grew up a Washington Redskins fan and was a season ticket holder for 22 years. That team defined our community for multiple generations. The Washington Commanders are not that team. They have no history, no tradition, and no fan base. I do not consider them an appropriate economic partner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, because I don’t think they have the community support to survive,” he said.

Legislation to create a football stadium authority with some tax breaks is among the list of bills that is waiting for a compromise alongside the budget bills, expected to be voted on next week. There isn’t clear partisan division or support over the legislation, so the actual details of the compromise will be important to win over skeptical legislators.

Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) is among the chief proponents of the legislation, but Representative Don Beyer (D-VA-08) is working federally to block giving federal tax incentives to sports teams.

Republicans are mixed about the legislation; House Finance Chair Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) is piloting the legislation through the House, but has said he’s only interested in the bill going forward if it’s a good deal for Virginia – if tax revenues from a stadium and associated businesses are greater than other potential uses for the land. Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City) has seemed mildly skeptical about the proposal in interviews, but noted that it did get Republican votes in the House.

Other legislators have expressed concerns about the team and owner Dan Snyder’s scandals, potential traffic impacts to the I-95 corridor, and whether or not a stadium deal would really benefit the Commonwealth.

Governor Glenn Youngkin has expressed enthusiasm about bringing a professional sports team to Virginia, while still wanting it to be a good deal.

“I would love to have a professional sports team and a football team in Virginia,” Governor Glenn Youngkin told The Virginia Star in February. “We’ve got a Senate group and a House group in discussions in order to bring a very thoughtful bill to me. I believe that my job is to represent Virginia taxpayers, and so we’ll do a good deal.”

With the General Assembly divided on the issue, it’s not clear the bill will make it to Youngkin’s desk. Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears expressed skepticism about earlier versions of the bill.

“VA is now working to bring her own teams here, and I support that – but not at any cost. I’m hoping legislators can work out the details to consider the taxpayers more” Earle-Sears tweeted in February.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Chap Peterson” by Chap Peterson. Background Photo “FedEx Field” by Assaf Yekuel. CC BY-SA 3.0.

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