Virginia General Assembly tables Washington Commanders stadium bill

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Commanders must wait at least until next year to learn whether they'll receive any funding for a new stadium in Virginia.

The Commonwealth's General Assembly tabled legislation that would have determined the amount of support offered by Virginia. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw told The Associated Press that too many issues needed to be resolved and also blamed the franchise's off-the-field controversies.

However, he told the AP, they could vote on it next year. The move was expected.

"The vote got tabled because there wasn't support for the stadium for a panoply of reasons," said Sen. Chap Petersen, a Democrat who had been a longtime fan of the franchise. He also said recently that after initially supporting the stadium, he would have been a "no" vote. "For some people there are some systemic issues. I don't believe the team has the type of community backing I would expect from a major pro sports franchise and then all the issues with the owner."

In a statement, the Commanders said they support the decision to postpone the vote and further examine the situation because of the "complexity of this endeavor, coupled with the remarkable economic development opportunity that we believe our new venue project represents."

The Commanders also said they look "forward to continued engagement and open dialogue with stakeholders across the Commonwealth to share our vision and hear directly from communities on their economic development objectives and how we can be a trusted, reliable partner to realize those outcomes."

Washington recently purchased 200 acres of land in Woodbridge, Virginia, with the option of backing out -- if it doesn't get help from the state and Prince William County. The Commanders want to build a 55,000-seat domed stadium along with an outdoor amphitheater that could hold around 15,000 to 20,000 people as well as high-end shops, restaurants, bars and residential living. They also would move their practice facility to the site. The project would cost approximately $3 billion.

The Commanders also have attempted to purchase land near their current facility in Loudoun County and may still do so.

They own the stadium and land at their current stadium in Landover, Maryland, where they have played since 1997. Their agreement with Prince George's County expires in September 2026, but it can be renewed. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the state would issue bonds up to $400 million to build up the area around the current stadium, but would not help them pay for the stadium.

The Commanders wanted to move to their former home at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., but it's federally owned land, and there is disagreement between the D.C. City Council and the mayor's office about how to use that land -- if Congress allowed them to buy it.

In February, the Virginia Senate approved its bill -- sponsored by Saslaw -- by a 32-8 vote. The House passed its version by a 62-37 vote.

Washington's numerous off-field controversies haven't helped. Congress continues to investigate the team and owner Dan Snyder in particular. Congress invited Snyder to testify at a June 22 hearing, though he has yet to say whether he'll attend. Congress also sent a 25-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission alleging financial improprieties committed by the team under Snyder. The Commanders responded with a 105-page letter to the FTC detailing why they're innocent. The attorney generals in both Virginia and Washington, D.C., are investigating the financial claims.

On Wednesday, Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio created headlines while discussing his tweet in which he wondered why there wasn't as much energy devoted to the "rioters and looters" in the summer of 2020 as there was to the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. During his explanation he called the Jan. 6 event a "dustup," for which he later apologized.

Some senators tweeted Wednesday that his comments were not helpful. Meanwhile, on Thursday, NAACP president Derrick Johnson called for Del Rio to "resign or be terminated" because of his comments.

"It is time for Jack Del Rio to resign or be terminated. His comments could not have been more offensive and ignorant," Johnson said in a statement. "The January 6th insurrection -- an attempted coup -- was far from a 'dust-up'. Each day we learn more and more on just how close our democracy came to autocracy. Downplaying the insurrection by comparing it to nationwide protests, which were in response to a public lynching, is twisted. You can't coach a majority Black team while turning your back on the Black community. It's time for you to pack up and step off the field."

But the stadium bill had lost support before Del Rio said anything. Other issues exist.

Sen. Scott Surovell, who tweeted Wednesday that Del Rio's comments would end up postponing the vote, represents the site of the desired location. He said with 140 members, there's no single issue.

"They need more time to rework the project," Surovell said. "They have to deal with a lot of questions, mainly about transportation. They're proposing to locate the project in the worst bottleneck of the East Coast, and if you're going to have a lot of people, you have to have a way to get people in and out.

"I hope after six months we can get some better clarity on some of these issues that have bubbled up -- the various allegations and being looked at by different bodies."

Sen. Bryce Reeves, a Republican, also tweeted his opposition to the bill on Wednesday: "The Washington Commanders stadium deal should have been dead on arrival from the start. I voted no on this back in January. Dan Snyder doesn't need our tax subsidies and gov't funded stadiums have proven to benefit the rich and not the average hard working Virginian."