Wednesday October 4, 2023

Passage of Commanders Stadium Bill Looks Increasingly Unlikely

  • The stadium legislation in Virginia could be shelved as it appears it may not garner enough votes for passage, sources told FOS.
  • Comments made by Commanders coordinator Jack Del Rio about Jan. 6 led two state lawmakers to oppose the bill.
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Lobbyists working on behalf of the Washington Commanders have been “counting votes” among Virginia lawmakers this week, sources with knowledge of the situation told Front Office Sports. 

Sources told FOS that the count appears to show there isn’t enough support to ensure passage of the bill that would create the Virginia Football Stadium Authority, a body that would help determine the best spot for the $3 billion domed stadium project.

The final bill has been negotiated in private among a six-member conference committee composed of three state senators and three state delegates since March. 

“If the conference [committee] can’t come to an agreement, it dies a quiet death,” the source told FOS. 

Another source with knowledge of the lobbying efforts told FOS that there may not be enough votes and the bill’s backers could put the effort on hold to avoid it getting voted down by the legislature.

The current session ends in January, but one source told FOS that a decision on the future of the bill could be announced within the week.

Bills proposed in the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates had faced headwinds since they were introduced in January. Investigations into the team and, most recently, comments by defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio about the Jan. 6 insurrection have hampered the quest to get the legislation passed. 

Del Rio described Jan. 6 to reporters Wednesday as “a dust-up at the Capitol, nothing burned down and we’re gonna make that a major deal.”

He issued an apology on Twitter later Wednesday, but not before two Virginia state senators said they won’t back the stadium bill. 

Sen. Jeremy McPike wrote that Del Rio’s comments “sealed the deal to cast my vote as a ‘NO.’” State Sen. Scott Surovell, a major backer of the early legislation, wrote on Twitter that Del Rio’s take on Jan. 6 “makes clear to me that we won’t be seeing any more votes on stadium bills this year.”

Sources previously told FOS that the amount of public funding was cut down to about $300 million. It’s unclear if that figure was further reduced since few people outside the six-member conference committee have seen the bill in its current form. 

Since the original bills were introduced, Commanders owner Dan Snyder was accused of placing his hand on then-team employee Tiffani Johnston at a networking event. Snyder called that allegation that came at a Congressional roundtable in February “outright lies.” 

The House Oversight Committee, the same body that held the hearing, has been investigating the Commanders since October, a probe that focused on allegations the team fostered a hostile workplace environment. 

The scope of that investigation expanded to allegations of financial irregularities, which FOS reported claims the Commanders held back ticket revenue from the league. 

The Oversight Committee asked the Federal Trade Commission to review “troubling financial conduct and determine whether further action is necessary” in a letter to the FTC in April

A lawyer for the Commanders described the allegations as “uncorroborated and implausible.”

The NFL tapped former SEC chief Mary Jo White to lead an investigation into the latest allegation into Snyder, and White’s ongoing probe will also look into the financial allegations made against the team.

The attorneys general in DC and Virginia are also investigating the Commanders.

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