New Reality: Redskins are a 'franchise that is now damaged'

Ben Krimmel
September 20, 2018 - 3:06 pm

The many follies of owner Dan Snyder are a root cause of Redskins fan apathy and a sea of empty seats last Sunday, says Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga.

“I think that crowd of 57,000 people on Sunday was death by pin prick,” Svrluga said. “It was two decades of (fan) frustration that showed up in a bunch of empty seats for the home opener.”

The low turnout on a pleasant afternoon following a Week 1 victory marked the official end of the Redskins 50-year sellout streak, a record many claim to be dubious.  

For Svrluga, the love affair with the team that was built during the heyday of the franchise in the 1980s has grown stale. And many who became lifelong dedicated fans during the highs of John Riggins and Joe Theismann have become disillusioned.

“Then ownership changes, the stadium changes, and for essentially two decades a large portion of this fan base, in my view, has kind of felt pecked to death,” Svrluga said.

“If it is not charging for parking at fan appreciation day, it’s kind of getting the idea that Dan Snyder, the owner of the team, is more interested in selling merchandise than he is putting a winning product on the field,” Svrluga said. “If it is not Scot McCloughan being publicly humiliated, it’s Kirk Cousins being dangled in front of the fan base for three consecutive years – is he staying, is he going?”

Svrluga argues the biggest story this off season wasn’t Cousins leaving or trading for Alex Smith, but the franchise admitting the tens-of-thousands-of-people-long season ticket list was fraudulent, a sign that fan disinterest had been a problem simmering under the surface for some time.

When taking it all together, Svrluga says, this is a sign of “a franchise that is now damaged," and while some fans may be enticed to return with a winning team, others have become thoroughly repulsed by the organization.

“People don’t like the ownership of this franchise and it gives them pause when they think about investing financially, investing their time, and investing emotionally. Because for 20 years they haven’t found a consistent direction and I don’t think that would be offset by a 4-1 start for a lot of people,” Svrluga said.

The next step for the franchise to repair the tenuous relationship with fans would be a new stadium, smaller than FedEx Field, to be built on the RFK Stadium site. 

“The people who grew up with the romance of that place can reinvest in the romance,” Svrluga said. “And it just would feel like the Redskins came back home.”

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