The most hateable man in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area is an unabashed fan of and generous donor to struggling Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush.
Not that Bush can really be choosy when it comes to picking friends. He’s down in the polls. Longtime donors like oilman T. Boone Pickens are looking flighty. But at least Bush still has Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins. Snyder is an open-handed backer of Bush’s presidential ambitions, cutting his Right to Rise super PAC a check for a cool $100,000 on April 30 of this year.
And on the trail, Bush has had kind words for Snyder’s beleaguered football team. He’s repeatedly said that the team shouldn’t have to change its much-criticized name. “I don’t think they should change it,” he told reporters last month. “But again, I don’t think politicians ought to have any say in that to be honest with you. I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive.” And on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show last week, the candidate repeated a line he’s become fond of: that “Redskins” isn’t the offensive part of said team’s name.
“There’s this big argument about the Washington Redskins—the ‘Redskins’ being a pejorative term,” he said. “I think ‘Washington’ is the pejorative term, not the ‘Redskins.’”
A Republican defending the team name isn’t surprising. When he was challenging Sen. Mark Warner in 2014, former RNC chair Ed Gillespie ran a TV ad defending the team’s name. (The frequency with which Bush has stuck up for it, however, has drawn criticism from the left.)
So Republicans love the Redskins, and Snyder loves them back. He has long backed the GOP’s candidates (notwithstanding a 2013 donation to Democrat Mark Warner’s Senate campaign), including a $1,000 gift to George Allen’s 2000 Senate bid, $5,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2004, $5,000 to the Republican Party of Virginia in 2006, and $5,000 to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, according to FEC filings.
And while roughly one-third of Republican primary voters may not like Jeb, just about every Washingtonian hates Dan Snyder. In fact, there is so much compelling “everybody hates Dan Snyder” journalism that it is practically its own genre—deserving of an anthology or two and maybe a J-school course.
And Redskins fans have a point about Snyder. After he purchased the team in 1999, they’ve taken a real nosedive. From the beginning of his ownership to the end of the 2014 season, the Redskins lost 40 more games than they won.
“Before Dan Snyder and RGIII, the Redskins were really good,” mourns the headline of one Washington Post article. But the fact that Snyder oversaw the shifting of a once-elite franchise into a sad, laughable one isn’t the only reason he is (according to Sports Illustrated) the most hated owner of an NFL franchise and perhaps the most hated owner of any professional sports team.
Besides micromanaging the team to near-death and making hilariously bad personnel decisions, Snyder has filled the role of sitcom villain by finding himself wrapped up in farce after farce. There are almost too many ridiculous happenstances to list -- so many, in fact, that Dave McKenna at Washington City Paper wrote a piece called “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder” that listed one hateable thing about the owner for each letter of the alphabet. So many things! Here are a few from his grab bag:
• There’s the fact that under Snyder’s leadership, Redskins Stadium vendors started selling fans peanuts from a bankrupt airline that, given how long said peanuts were sold after the airline went belly-up, were likely terrible.
• Under Snyder’s watch, vendors also sold beer in stadium bathrooms.
• Snyder let GEICO hand out pro-GEICO signs at games, but didn’t let fans carry homemade signs critical of Snyder. Snyder’s management team had to issue that edict, by the way, because so many fans were carrying signs about why they hated him at Redskins home games.
• Snyder would literally fly a helicopter into Redskins practices, in an apparent effort to cement his Disney Villain status.
• After the 9/11 attacks, the team added a $4 “security surcharge” to ticket prices. And for the 5th anniversary of the attacks, the team started selling $23.99 commemorative baseball caps. For profit, obviously. “No other NFL team put 9/11 commemorative products for sale during the 2006 season, for profit or otherwise,” noted McKenna.
Besides charging fans for keeping them safe after 9/11, Snyder also tried to charge them to attend the team’s training camp. People were so upset that he rescinded that move. But, as evinced by the number of anti-Snyder blogs, people still think he’s the worst.
As McKenna also notes, Snyder’s team has even been knocked by a think tank that houses some of his chosen presidential candidate’s top allies. In 2006, the American Enterprise Institute—which became a landing pad for many of the GOP’s top policy hands—published a paper that decried the team’s “tendency toward irrationality.”
“[I]t is impossible to conceive of what foolish thing the Redskins might do next,” wrote author Kevin Hasett.
McKenna places the blame for said foolishness squarely at the feet of Snyder. And according to Deadspin, fan enthusiasm has declined commensurately.
I don’t think CBS has polled it, but if they did, Snyder’s unfavorables would probably be somewhere around 100 percent. But at least the widespread loathing for Snyder comes with an upshot for the increasingly unpopular Bush in the form of a reminder that it could always be worse.