Allow me to introduce you to Dan Snyder. He owns the Washington Redskins football team. Before Snyder bought the team in 1999, the Redskins were one of the most hallowed franchises in the National Football League, with a history as rich as any. Coach Joe Gibbs stalking the sidelines, quarterback Joe Theismann under center, wide receivers Art Monk, Gary Clark, and Ricky Sanders — nicknamed “the Posse” — lined up on the flanks. Super Bowl wins in ’83, ’88, and ’92. Under Dan Snyder, however, the Redskins have burned through seven head coaches in 14 years and made zero Super Bowl appearances. Snyder moved the team from Washington, D.C., to a corporate-sponsored stadium in suburban Maryland. He’s charged fans to watch team practices, raised ticket prices, and sued the local alternative weekly newspaper when it wrote an unflattering story about him. The best part? He never even read the offending article.
Dan Snyder may be the most hated man in Washington, D.C.
His latest misdeed to garner attention took place not on the gridiron but on the manicured grounds of his riverfront mansion in swanky Potomac, Maryland. In the latest issue of the Washington Monthly magazine, Tim Murphy tells the story of a “secret sweetheart deal” Snyder finagled with the help of a George W. Bush appointee to cut down some trees on nearby federal parkland so that he would have an unobstructed view of the Potomac River. “What’s clear is this,” Murphy writes, “by April of 2004, with his new home nearing completion and still no progress on the trees, Snyder was growing frustrated and [former NRA lobbyist turned National Park Service aide P. Daniel] Smith was determined to settle the matter.
“That spring, according to the inspector general’s report, Smith met with Snyder’s attorney for a business lunch at the Potomac estate, where Snyder had just completed an expansion to build a massive new ballroom, and followed it up with a phone call to the park official who dealt with land acquisitions. Over the phone, the official told the investigators, Smith seemed agitated that nothing had been done yet, and suggested an exit strategy, which he later alleged had come from the Redskins’ attorney: most of the trees in question were nonnative; why not clear-cut them and call it an exotic-plant extermination program?”
Snyder got the trees removed. When, as Murphy notes, a park ranger and devoted civil servant named Robert Danno blew the whistle on his bogus “exotic-plant extermination program,” Danno was promptly intimidated, demoted, and almost thrown in jail. In the end, a National Park Service inspector general’s report vindicated Danno — but by then, of course, it was too late to save those trees and Snyder had his view.
So it goes in Dan Snyder’s Washington. Yet there may be no bigger headache for the team owner than the matter of his franchise’s name: the Redskins. It’s offensive, and a growing number of activists and commentators want it changed. But as TomDispatch contributor Jeremiah Goulka writes, there is at least one bloc of public figures that fully supports the name — and that is the Republican Party. Allow Goulka, a TomDispatch regular and former Republican himself, to explain why.