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Councilmember Vincent Gray on Washington returning to RFK: 'I think that train has left the station'

Councilmember Vincent Gray on Washington returning to RFK: 'I think that train has left the station'

While many have spoken on the possibility of Washington's football team returning to RFK stadium with a change in the team's name, former Mayor of the District of Columbia and now Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray believes otherwise. 

"I don't support the team coming back at the current name," Gray said on the Politics hour of the Kojo Nnamdi Show. "Assuming they do change the name, there are a lot of things going on at present in RFK. We've got other amenities being developed there."

"I think we may be at the stage now of moving on. I don't know why Dan Snyder has been so resistant to changing the name. It's very offensive to lots of people, including me," Gray said.

"So I think that train has left the station at this stage."

RELATED: REDSKINS FINANCIAL VALUE WON'T DECREASE WITH NAME CHANGE

Gray previously pushed for the team to return to RFK stadium back in 2013 based on serious consideration of a name change. 

“I think that if they get serious with the team coming back to Washington, there’s no doubt there’s going to have to be a discussion about that,” Gray said in 2013. “I think it has become a lightning rod, and I would love to be able to sit down with the team … and see if a change should be made."

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Fast forward seven years and that ultimatum, for Gray, is off of the table. 

"Its time for [Dan Snyder] to change the name of that team. It should've come way before now, and we shouldn't have people threatening to take their dollars somewhere else to have them change it," Gray said.

"It's a moral issue that's involved here and he seems to be resistant to that. He should change the name without a question, if we're going to build a new stadium or not."

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Washington Football Team to play games at FedEx Field without fans

Washington Football Team to play games at FedEx Field without fans

On July 24, Executive VP and Chief Marketing Officer Terry Bateman said Washington was planning on having fans at games. Now it appears the unpredictability of the coronavirus pandemic has caused the franchise to change its mind.

After discussions with health officials from Prince George's County and the state of Maryland, the Washington Football Team announced their decision to play home games without fans during the 2020 season. 

“We are fortunate to host the best fans in the NFL year after year, but the wellbeing of those supporters, along with that of our players, coaches and each and every member of our gameday staff is simply too important, and the current knowledge of COVID-19 too unpredictable, to welcome our fan base to FedExField to start the season,” Dan Snyder said in a statement. 

RELATED: WASHINGTON RADIO BROADCAST TO FEATURE DeANGELO HALL, BRAM WEINSTEIN

“We were the first team in the league to recall our scouts and other personnel from the field back in mid-March and have been monitoring this evolving situation ever since," Snyder said. "This decision was not an easy one, but after several discussions with federal, state and local officials – along with input from some of the nation’s foremost medical experts, based right here in the nation’s capital – we are confident that it is the right one. We are working to find ways to make our fans’ presence felt in new and innovative ways for 2020 and can’t wait to welcome the community through the gates as soon as it’s safe.”

In their announcement, the team also said they will reevaluate this decision should the situation with the coronavirus pandemic improve. They have also reached out to season ticket holders with financial alternatives to their ticket plans. Ahead of their Week 1 matchup with the Eagles on September 13, Washington plans to give fans the opportunity to virtually cheer on their favorite team. 

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3 reasons why it's better for Washington Football not to have fans at home games

3 reasons why it's better for Washington Football not to have fans at home games

The Washington Football Team announced that no fans can attend home games for the 2020 season due to COVID, and before all the jokes start, there are legitimate reasons that's actually a good thing for the organization. 

The obvious reason is safety. The coronavirus presents a real danger, particularly when thousands of people gather together. Well football games bring thousands of people together, even at FedEx Field. (Sorry, first joke.)

Now let's get to the less obvious reasons why no fans for the 2020 season is a good thing for Washington.

  1. The name change - Washington underwent a major transformation this offseason by dropping the team's old "Redskins" nickname it played with for more than 80 years. While some fans are excited about the change, plenty are upset. Some are even angry. That would have created significant issues at home games when some fans inevitably would wear old jerseys and other gear showing the old logo that the team is working hard to scrub from its home stadium. Would security ask those fans to leave? Would they confiscate items with the old logo? Would that start fights among fan groups supporting the new logo against those supporting the old logo? By 2021, it's entirely possible the team will have a new nickname and new logo, and maybe as important, the team will be more than a year removed from the controversial decision to drop Redskins. That time without fans in the stands could help cool down some hot emotions.
  2. The lack of fans - The easy joke is that Washington has been playing without fans in the stands for years. While that isn't true - there is absolutely a loud and passionate fan base at FedEx Field rooting for the home team - the stadium is often either half empty or half full of visiting fans. Multiple players over the past decade have complained about the lack of home field advantage at FedEx Field, and coaches would privately say the same thing. It's not the fans fault - FedEx Field is an old stadium that lacks modern amenities and the team has been largely awful for 2020 years. That's a recipe to drive fans away. The team also deserves a big part of the blame, whether by greed or ignorance, way too many tickets become available for sale to visiting fans. For one season, no crowd shots of empty sections or of Eagles fans or of Cowboys fans or of any other visiting team fans might actually be refreshing for fans of Washington Football. 
  3. Out with the old - Beyond fans wearing the old logo to the stadium, the team has to physically remove the old logo from almost every corner of a 70,000 seat stadium. That takes a ton of work, and because the organization made the decision to remove the name in late July, there isn't much time to get the work done. If fans were in the stadium and found an old logo still on a seat, or in a bathroom, or painted in a hallway, that would just become one more thing to mock, one more thing to post on social media, one more spark of divisiveness. With no fans for the 2020 season, Washington has ample time to rebrand their home stadium and make sure nothing gets overlooked.  

Here's the craziest part - if new head coach Ron Rivera actually gets to work with this team, and a young squad puts together an encouraging season, and Dwayne Haskins shows he is the quarterback of the future, the team could have real momentum for ticket sales in 2021. Fans will actually want to be there if they believe the team is turning around, and after a year apart, absence could even make the heart grow fonder for old FedEx Field. 

RELATED: WASHINGTON ANNOUNCES PLANS TO PLAY GAMES WITHOUT FANS

It's just one year. 

Certainly the hardcore fans will be disappointed, understandably. There are fans that go to every home game, rain or shine, through far more bad seasons than good. This will be hard for them. 

But for an organization that continues to find new meanings for the term rock bottom, a fanless 2020 season might provide a real fresh start in 2021. 

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