Even a win won’t drown out Commanders fans’ refrain: Sell the team

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At the end of a week like this, the scene inside FedEx Field revealed everything NFL owners should know about the state of football in this market. Daniel Snyder is just bad for business.

He is the reason Washington Commanders team security had to patrol the stands, treating the paying customers who dared to hold up “SELL THE TEAM” signs as though they possessed some kind of illegal contraband. (A Commanders spokesperson said afterward that the fans should not have been asked to take down the signs.)

He is the overcast cloud that hangs over what should have been a pleasant Sunday. The Commanders frustrated Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, their beloved backup Taylor Heinicke added to his legend, and Washington’s progressing run game looked as whole as it has been all season — and yet, what did it matter? The weekly distraction of football for this football franchise does little to extinguish the dumpster fire that spreads through the owners’ suite, down to the spectator stands and all across social media.

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The Commanders can’t even recognize Breast Cancer Awareness month without a reminder of their owner’s sagging approval ratings. At the two-minute mark before halftime, resounding boos carried throughout the lower bowl. At first, the noise seemed to be out of place; a “Think Pink” video was playing on the scoreboard, and who in their right minds would boo breast cancer survivors?

Then it made sense. The video showed Tanya Snyder. She may be a survivor, as well as an advocate for cancer research and awareness, but in that ill-timed moment, heckling fans cared only about her last name and job title.

She, after all, is a co-owner, and so they booed, Then, forming a chorus with plenty of Packers fans all too willing to laugh and mock, fans broke into a loud “sell the team!” chant.

Loud enough for NFL owners to listen? Maybe not, but there’s a difference between the anonymous all-caps shouts by Twitter trolls that can be easily ignored and the full-throated demands of the very demographic Washington has been trying to target through its rebranding. And these fans just so happened to be sitting above the Commanders’ own sideline, and just below a press box full of media and team personnel.

We all heard it. Surely, the NFL did, too. The Snyders are the owners who inspire Washington fans in throwback burgundy and the cheeseheads invading their space to unite and find harmony in common ground: their hatred for the league’s most radioactive owner.

On the business side, the Commanders may not give a care about how they’re viewed outside the DMV. This is their bubble, and they’re aware how, with a wink and a nod toward the part of the fan base that’s still attached to that racist nickname — at an alumni homecoming rally before the game, Tanya Snyder proclaimed, “Hail to the Redskins, and let’s beat Green Bay!” — they can do just about anything and still draw 60,427 people who will shut off their brains to the chaos surrounding the franchise. They think their base remains strong. But on Sunday, even the fans who choose to plug their ears and squeal “la la la” couldn’t help but hear those chants.

How many more embarrassing moments have to happen — and national broadcast segments have to air — until at least 24 owners with the power to vote out Daniel Snyder hear it, too?

At least Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has emerged as the first of his breed to show a spine.

On Tuesday, after the NFL’s fall league meeting, Irsay should’ve provided popcorn for his impromptu news conference. He put on a show as he declared Snyder should be removed from ownership.

“We have to complete the investigation. But, to me, it’s something that I think has serious consideration to be given to the removal,” Irsay said. “And [the owners] have complete authority to do that.”

By Sunday, Irsay didn’t back down. In an interview with Fox, the same network that aired the Commanders’ 23-21 win over Green Bay, he repeated his belief that Snyder’s behavior has stained the league.

“We’re bound as owners to listen to the fans, and we cannot put our heads in the sand on this,” Irsay said.

An owner proves to be bad for business when the fate of their franchise remains the story. Sunday, the Commanders improved to a record of 3-4, the same as the Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals. But those teams will spend the next several weeks as the topic of conversations about wild-card spots or quarterback play. You know, stuff about football. Even with Heinicke playing well enough to produce a new T-shirt and coach Ron Rivera, potentially ending his annual slow start to lead this team on a winning streak, Washington will be an afterthought on national programs.

Jenkins: Daniel Snyder is always looking for the sucker. This time, it might be him.

Until there’s a resolution to the Commanders’ ownership, heckling during heartfelt PSAs will be the norm. And that’s just not the case in any other NFL stadium. Nowhere else does the owner receive worse treatment than the referees — who may or may not have spent the night at FedEx Field huddled in front of a monitor still reviewing that Brian Robinson fumble. (I’m not saying it took forever, but quarterback Carson Wentz’s injured finger might have healed by the time the refs finished.)

Though there seems to be so much riding on the results of the league’s investigation into Snyder, led by Mary Jo White, it hasn’t stopped Irsay from his public one-man campaign. Nor has it silenced the voices of the people who should matter the most.

Following the game, when happy Washington fans merged toward Gate A alongside Packers fans, there were the normal yelps of delight. One man wearing a throwback Sean Taylor jersey playfully taunted a gang of green with: “Go Pack, go!” A woman waved her burgundy and gold pompom as the friend walking beside her clapped and screamed.

However, another Washington fan smiled as he couldn’t resist piercing the good vibes with more chants.

“SELL! THE! TEAM!” he shouted. When that picked up little steam, the fan changed his tune.

On Sunday, Commanders aired their grievances, loudly. NFL owners should be listening.



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