Could Washington's Dan Snyder be persuaded to change the name of his football team if such a decision came with a brand new stadium for said team? That's what Vinny Cerrato, former general manager of the team, said in an interview with CBS Sports back in June, via the Washington Post.
Cerrato claims Snyder's motivations for keeping the controversial team name are not motivated by money, but have more to do with his bond with his father. "It goes back to his childhood. It goes back to his dad," Cerrato said, "It is deep with him, why that name means so much."
Of course, Cerrato goes on to suggest that the only way Snyder would change the name is if he gets a new stadium built downtown, near where the previous stadium (before FedEx Field) was. That includes land, permits and all of that which requires a whole lot of time and money to acquire. Cerrato does say that Snyder would "build a stadium bigger than [Jerry Jones']," eluding to the new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys, which cost over $1 billion.
Why This Makes Sense
There's multiple aspects to this story that definitely make sense. We'll start with the current stadium, FedEx Field, which opened on Sept. 14 of 1997. It's not the oldest stadium in the NFL, nor the one that's most in need of a replacement, but it's also not exactly state of the art. In addition to the fact that Washington fans have never thought FedEx Field lived up to the expectations set by the previous stadium, the fan experience has dwindled in recent years.
Washington routinely removes sections of seats due to a lack of demand. In December of last season, Washington announced the lowest attendance numbers in the stadium's history, at just 56,247 -- the only time it ever dropped below 61,000. When the stadium opened, it had a capacity of 85,000.
But on the field, the stadium is notorious as well. In recent years, we've heard a lot of talk about how awful the actual field is there, with multiple players sustaining injuries due to the loose and muddy conditions. Robert Griffin III was one such casualty, and other players have complained about it as well. It's been called a health hazard. Washington claims they'll improve conditions of the field, it's just another aspect of the stadium that's run-down.
Another aspect of Cerrato's interview makes sense as well: Snyder probably isn't worried about the money ... until big sponsors drop out. Due to the NFL's revenue sharing model, Snyder doesn't have to worry too much about how re-branding might effect jersey sales and the like, but if sponsors start dropping out due to a lack of a name change, then other owners would take interest in the issue and attempt to force a change. He couldn't hold out for a new stadium if sponsors start fleeing.
Why This Doesn't Make Sense
Much like the "making sense" category, there's a lot to take issue with here as well. For one, Cerrato talks about the bond with Snyder's father as the driving reason, and then makes it clear that the stadium talk would be key. It's possible that a new stadium in a better location would be doing right by his father or something along those lines, but there's clearly two separate motivations there.
We also haven't heard Snyder suggest that a stadium is at all part of it. Maybe there's discussions behind closed doors and things of that nature though, since I doubt you can come out and say "I'm going to be as racist as possible until you give in to my demands!" Not much of a noble cause to champion.
Then there's the actual feasibility about a stadium being used as a bargaining chip here. What possible incentive would the city have in helping Snyder build a new stadium in exchange for changing the team's name?
It's much more likely for the current campaign against the nickname and the legal fight over the trademark to influence a name change than any sort of quid pro quo. It's already making a lot of headway, certainly with the Patent Office. The potential for other owners or Roger Goodell to actually get involved could be increasing behind the scenes as well. Owners aren't likely to wake up tomorrow, call for a vote and force Snyder to make a change, but again, if it comes down to sponsors, something would happen rather quickly.
The likelihood of Snyder being given a stadium, or the means to build one, in exchange for changing a racist team name? That doesn't seem likely by any stretch of the imagination. Public outrage, owner intervention, league intervention or any number of things would likely prevail far before that happens.
Cerrato's history with Snyder is well established, but it sounds like he's out of the loop here.