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D.C. mayor tells Washington NFL team to come ‘home’ at team luncheon

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Still unclear is where the team would play were they to return

The RFK Memorial Stadium, where the football team played its last game in D.C. in 1996
BrianPIrwin/Shutterstock

If Mayor Muriel Bowser gets her way, the Washington NFL team will one day return to D.C. But where the team would play should it come back remains an open and fraught question.

Hours after breaking ground on the first part of the $489 million redevelopment of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium site on Wednesday, Bowser told the audience at the team’s annual luncheon that she believes the team should come “home” to the District, according to multiple reporters who were present. The luncheon took place at the Marriott Marquis near the D.C. Convention Center, and Bowser sat next to team owner Dan Snyder.

“When we think about the future of sport in our city, we still think something is missing,” the mayor reportedly said, in an apparent reference to how the District has a professional team for every major sport except football. She ended her comments by saying: “Bring it home.”

A spokeswoman for Bowser confirms that the mayor wants the team to relocate to the city, as Bowser has indicated in the past, but says she does not know of any immediate plans to make this scenario happen. The team played its last game in the District in 1996, at RFK Stadium, then moved to FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, where its lease runs until 2027.

RFK Stadium is now slated to be torn down—D.C. United moved out last year—but what will replace it has not been settled. The federal government owns the site, and as Wednesday’s groundbreaking heralded, the land around the stadium will be transformed into recreational fields, a market hall, and an indoor sports complex, among other amenities. Still, the team’s name, which is a racial slur, has presented an obstacle to the team returning to the RFK site.

Maryland and Virginia are also trying to keep and nab the team, respectively. And residents who live near the RFK site have expressed strong opposition to an NFL stadium going there. In a statement about the redevelopment of the 190-acre site on Wednesday morning, Ward 6 D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen, who represents the neighborhoods located just west of the site, cited one of the community’s main concerns about a would-be football stadium.

“As we’ve seen, when you build an NFL stadium, it means a whole bunch of parking lots that are only used eight days a year,” he said, calling the groundbreaking a “milestone moment” for D.C. “But today we change that history and begin of a new life for this corner of our city.”

Bowser has advocated for the federal government to hand over the RFK land to the District, or remove current restrictions on its use. She has also voiced unease with the team’s name.

“Soon we will have to bring it down,” the mayor said of RFK Stadium at the groundbreaking.