PolitiFact VA: Senator Chap Petersen Changes His Mind About Commanders Football Stadium in Northern Virginia

Senator Chap Petersen
On building a football of commanders
virginia stadium

The General Assembly’s zest for luring Washington commanders to Northern Virginia is losing its zest.

In February, there was broad bipartisan support for a invoice it would help the football team fund the construction of a $3 billion stadium, retail and entertainment complex. The measure would allow a state authority to sell $1 billion in bonds that commanders would later repay.

Negotiators have since reduced the state subsidy to $300 million as Commanders owner Dan Snyder became entangled in allegations of sexual and financial impropriety. Snyder denies the charges.

The project lost a key supporter March 25 in the state, Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax). Days after its announcement, General Assembly leaders indefinitely delayed a scheduled June 1 vote on the plan.

We decided to rate Petersen’s actions on our Flip-O-Meter, which measures a politician’s consistency on an issue. We’re not saying politicians should never change their minds; we have just given their reasons.

Peterson then

Petersen was a huge Commanders fan when they were called the Washington Redskins. He held season tickets for their games at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, for 22 years and was a founding member of “Redskins Pride Caucusa group of lawmakers who defended the team’s former name against arguments that it was a racist term for Native Americans.

peterson voted for the billion-dollar bond bill at a Feb. 10 meeting of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. He objected to a failed effort that would have made the loan contingent on the release of NFL investigations into Snyder’s conduct that the team and the league have kept private.

“We have to focus on the business details, that’s the only thing that matters,” he said.

Petersen expressed unspecific concern about the trade deal. “I think there are a lot of details here that need to be checked out,” he said.

Five days later, Petersen again voted for the bill in the Senate and it passed overwhelmingly. He said later he thought he would have time to work out the details as the measure worked its way through the House and into the governor’s office.


On May 23, reports emerged that the Commanders had acquired the rights to purchase 200 acres in Prince William County to build a stadium. Even so, the team is still would have interested in Washington and Maryland sites.

Two days later, Petersen issued a scathing statement saying, “I don’t plan to support the project or Virginia’s pursuit of this NFL franchise.” His main reason, he wrote, is that he “has no faith in the Washington Commanders as a viable NFL franchise.”

During a radio on May 26 interview with sports addictsPetersen said the Commanders are a different organization than the once mighty Redskins, a team that filled stadiums and won championships from the early 1970s to 1992.

“None of that exists anymore. You don’t have the fanbase to begin with…. You don’t have the same identity; you don’t have the same community buy-in,” he said, referring to the team’s losing record over the past decades and its Decline in attendance at home games.

“I’m looking at this from a taxpayer perspective,” Petersen said. “If we are somehow subsidizing – even on a small scale – a huge economic development and the anchor tenant is not a stable entity, and they leave or do something else, it is a problem.”

He added: “What if Dan Snyder builds a stadium or the team builds a stadium, and we build all the infrastructure around him, and five years later they get 20,000 , [and] they’re like, ‘We got out of here?’ And then we’re sitting there with an empty building on I-95.

Petersen, in an interview with Politifact VA, acknowledged that the team’s declining popularity and evolving brand have been issues for several years and haven’t stopped him from voting twice for the bill in february.

“That’s a fair criticism,” he said.

And his subscriptions? Petersen said he dropped them in 2020, when the team dropped its old name.

Our decision

Despite reservations, Petersen voted twice in February to subsidize the construction of a stadium for Washington commanders in Virginia. He announced in May that he opposed the project, questioning whether the struggling team was “viable as an NFL franchise.” He acknowledged that his concerns about the team’s dwindling fan base go back several years.

It’s a full flop.


Interview with Chap Petersen, June 2, 2022
Chap Peterson, Sports Addict InterviewMay 26, 2022
Peterson, Comments to the Senate Finance and Appropriations CommitteeFebruary 10, 2022 (mark 1:08:15)
Legislative Information System, SB727, Session 2022
The Washington Post, “Virginia lawmakers to delay vote on NFL stadium for commanders», May 31, 2022
The Washington Post, “Virginia’s Leading Senators Raising Doubts About Commanders Stadium Bill», May 25, 2022
The Washington Post, “Virginia legislature has bipartisan support to build stadium complex for Washington commanders», February 15, 2022
Richmond Times-Dispatch,”Commanders Stadium project on life support as $350 million grant loses key supporters in Virginia legislature», May 25, 2022
The Washington Post, “Why is there a Redskins Pride Caucus?” June 24, 2014
The Washington Post, “Commanders win right to buy 200 acres in Virginia for potential new stadium», May 23, 2022
ESPN, Participation in the NFL2021

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