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Congress May Clear Way for Commanders’ Return to RFK

  • Kentucky Republican looks to submit a proposal and has consulted with D.C. Mayor.
  • Maryland and Virginia still look to have the NFL franchise within their borders.
A general view of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium Stadium.
Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Congress’ legislative authority over D.C. — and the site of RFK Stadium in particular — is arguably the largest hurdle toward the city luring the Washington Commanders back to town. 

But Rep. James Comer (R-Kentucky) is getting closer to introducing legislation that would allow Washington to be a player in what is shaping up to be a three-way race to land the Commanders, House Oversight Committee spokesperson Austin Hacker confirmed to Front Office Sports. 

Under the bill that has yet to be finalized, the options include extending the lease currently set to expire in 2038. That lease between the National Park Service and D.C. restricts the use of the site to sports and recreation, which is currently tricky given RFK is still in the process of being torn down after closing in 2019. 

Comer, the Oversight Committee chair, has talked with D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser about the legislation. Bowser has been a vocal proponent of bringing the Commanders back to the District, and had talks with soon-to-be-former owner Dan Snyder, one source with knowledge of the talks told FOS. 

However, Snyder’s turbulent 24-year run as owner will conclude later this month. Josh Harris agreed to purchase the Commanders for a record $6.05 billion in May and is slated to be approved by NFL owners at a special meeting on July 20. 

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a member of the Oversight Committee who represents the D.C. in the House, introduced legislation in years past that would have given District control over the RFK site. That legislation never made it to the floor for a vote as she’s long fought for statehood for D.C.

“Although Chairman Comer has demonstrated his enthusiasm for meddling with D.C. in his committee’s recent hearings, he is not a D.C. resident and he does not represent D.C. in Congress,” Norton said in a statement to FOS. “While I appreciate his interest in D.C., it’s time the land where RFK sits was in the hands of local officials elected by D.C. residents, since they will be most heavily impacted by decisions about use of the land.”

The Washington Post was the first outlet to report on the potential legislation. 

The Commadres departed RFK Stadium after the 1996 season for the team’s current home, FedEx Field, in Landover, Md. The Commanders’ lease to operate FedEx Field expires in 2027, although it’s likely to be renewed annually until a new home for the Commanders is completed. 

While Bouser is a proponent of a new Commanders stadium at the RFK site, DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson isn’t. In fact, Mendelson added an amendment to the city’s budget last month that extended a provision that prevents The Washington Convention and Sports Authority from using public funding for a Commanders stadium. 

Even before Harris finalized a deal to purchase the Commanders in May, FOS reported Magic Johnson — who is among 20 limited partners in the ownership group — met with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore. 

“The Commanders have called Prince George’s County home for 25 years, and Gov. Wes Moore is committed to continuing this long-standing partnership,” Carter Elliott, Moore’s press secretary, wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Virginia lawmakers are seeking not to be left behind. 

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is expected to introduce legislation to study a stadium authority this summer. However, a special session where a bill would be debated and voted on still hasn’t been scheduled. 

Virginia was the only one of the three jurisdictions serious about luring the Commanders’ next stadium with public funding. But with multiple investigations into Snyder, ongoing at the time, legislation that would have provided about $300 million in public funding was shelved in June 2022. 

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