clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:


What is the ‘Redskins Rule’ and what does it mean for the 2016 election?

Every four years, an NFL phenomenon takes place so we can once again ponder just how deep the rabbit hole goes. 2016 marks the 84th anniversary of the "Redskins Rule," and history shows that it might just decide the election.

What is the "Redskins Rule"?

The "Redskins Rule" states that if Washington wins its final home game prior to a presidential election, the incumbent party will retain the White House. Since 1932 the rule has only failed twice, and just once if you strike games from the book where Washington played as the Boston Braves.

Why do we care in mid-October?

This Sunday, October 16th marks that final home game ahead of the 2016 election. Washington hosted the Eagles, and won 27-20. The long gap ahead of November 8 is due to Washington technically playing a Week 8 home game in London when they will face the Cincinnati Bengals in Wembley Stadium.

The "Redskins Rule" was first noticed in 2000 by Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau. At that time, the rule had never failed since the team played in Washington, but this was broken in 2012 when the Carolina Panthers beat Washington and President Obama went on to defeat Mitt Romney in the general election.

Recent history aside, the trend is uncanny.

Game Result
Election Result
Did Washington win?
Did incumbent win?
Rule upheld?
2012 Carolina 21
Washington 13
Obama beats Romney No Yes No
2008 Pittsburgh 23
Washington 6
Obama beats McCain No No Yes
2004 Green Bay 28
Washington 14
Bush beats Kerry No Yes Yes*
2000 Tennessee 27
Washington 21
Bush beats Gore No No Yes
1996 Washington 31
Indianapolis 16
Clinton beats Dole Yes Yes Yes
1992 New York 24
Washington 7
Clinton beats Bush No No Yes
1988 Washington 27
New Orleans 24
Bush beats Dukakis Yes Yes Yes
1984 Washington 27
Atlanta 14
Reagan beats Mondale Yes Yes Yes
1980 Minnesota 39
Washington 14
Reagan beats Carter No No Yes
1976 Dallas 20
Washington 7
Carter beats Ford No No Yes
1972 Washington 24
Dallas 20
Nixon beats McGovern Yes Yes Yes
1968 New York 13
Washington 10
Nixon beats Humphrey No No Yes
1964 Washington 27
Chicago 20
Johnson beats Goldwater Yes Yes Yes
1960 Cleveland 31
Washington 10
Kennedy beats Nixon No No Yes
1956 Washington 20
Cleveland 9
Eisenhower beats Stevenson II Yes Yes Yes
1952 Pittsburgh 24
Washington 23
Eisenhower beats Stevenson II No No Yes
1948 Washington 59
Boston 21
Truman beats Dewey Yes Yes Yes
1944 Washington 14
Cleveland 10
Roosevelt beats Dewey Yes Yes Yes
1940 Washington 37
Pittsburgh 10
Roosevelt beats Willkie Yes Yes Yes
1936 Washington 13
Chicago 10
Roosevelt beats Landon Yes Yes Yes
Boston Braves  19
Staten Island 6
Roosevelt beats Hoover Yes No No

Purists will say that 2004 proved the rule wrong. However, the "Redskins Rule" was changed following the election to add a caveat:

When the popular vote winner does not win the election, the impact of the Redskins game on the subsequent presidential election gets flipped.

So, because Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the general election in 2000 it somehow impacted the rule four years later. I know, I think it's a total stretch too.

What does this mean for Sunday?

It's really pretty simple:

If you want Hillary Clinton to win the White House in November you're happy to see Washington win.

If you want Donald Trump to win the White House in November you are saying "THIS DOESN'T COUNT!" because of the game in London.


Washington beat Philadelphia 27-20, which means ...

History and data via Wikipedia