A massive majority of D.C. residents want to give Dan Snyder nothing, save their middle finger. But a few of the most powerful folks around town have been conspiring for some time behind closed doors to refute the will of the people and give the Skins owner choice public lands for a new stadium. A key member of this clandestine pro-stadium clique has hit a bad patch, however. Jack Evans, the longest tenured and possibly most influential member of the D.C. City Council, and a guy who as of last month was telling people that moving Snyder’s football stadium into the Nation’s Capital was a “done deal,” could be in big trouble.
Evans was the focus of a brutal piece published Thursday by the Washington Post. The paper alleged Evans received an estimated $100,000 in stock from a private company just before introducing “emergency” legislation that would have directly benefited the gift horse firm. The story said the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability began looking into Evans’s play-for-pay behaviors earlier this year. The ethics board suspended that investigation and released no findings, which according to the Post typically happens “in deference to law enforcement investigations.”
Evans’s quagmire means nothing good for Snyder’s reported plan to get his team back to the RFK Stadium site. His record as a councilmember indicates he never met a publicly-funded sports-building-for-billionaires proposal that he didn’t like: No alleged public servant was a bigger cheerleader than Evans for erecting Nationals Park for the Lerner family, once called the richest family in all of sports. Evans also brought out the pom-pons for a project gifting city-owned property to D.C. United what is now Audi Field, and even for granting $55 million of the people’s money for a practice facility for Ted Leonsis’s Washington Wizards. Yes, we’re talking about a practice facility!
In keeping with his no-billionaire-left-behind reputation, Evans was viewed as the leader among D.C. politicians in putting together a package to beat whatever Maryland and Virginia lawmakers were going to give the bumbling but moneyed Skins owner. One source with ties to the D.C. council tells me Evans’s package calls for the city to turn over the choice real estate to Snyder for free, and to take care of new road and parking lot costs, and Snyder would dip into NFL coffers and maybe even his own bank accounts to finance the actual stadium construction. I was at an election night function last month and saw Evans holding court and boasting about how the plan to turn over the federally owned, city-controlled parcel of land to the most despised man in the Nation’s Capital (yes, even in the Trump era) was all but signed, sealed and delivered.
“It’s a done deal,” Evans said, according to one of the folks in the court. So done, in fact, that Evans also said the city was already planning that the stadium building project would be “announced in March” of 2019. Evans asserted that the team’s offensive name was no longer an impediment to Snyder’s getting his mitts on the government grounds; while saying he personally wished Snyder would change the handle, Evans said, “Nobody cares about the name, and he’s never going to change the name anyway.”
Evans said that architect Bjarke Ingels will design the stadium. In 2016, Ingels’s firm, BIG, was profiled in a 60 Minutes segment that labeled him a “Starchitect,” and in that appearance the firm released some renderings of the proposed Skins stadium that bordered on the ridiculous. One drawing had surfers catching waves in moats that surrounded the proposed football-centric edifice.
Any weakening of Evans’s influence because of the reported ethics investigation would mess with the stadium’s timetable, because Snyder needs Evans at full power if he is indeed going to get his way. If put to a popular vote, D.C. residents would approve spending a billion dollars in public funds on such a stadium only if the deal guaranteed that Snyder would sleep at the bottom of that wave pool.
Evans did not respond to several requests for interviews emailed to him and his staff since last week. Joseph Florio, Evans’s spokesperson, said on Tuesday that the councilmember was “unavailable to comment” on the “done deal” assertions.
Disclosures: Dan Snyder once sued me for writing mean things about him. And Jack Evans once called me to berate me for writing that Nationals Park was being built with public funds; the dumbass argument Evans made repeatedly during his phone tirade was that all the money used to build the stadium, a tab that eventually hit about $1 billion, would come from new taxes implemented specifically for that project, and therefore those tax revenues can’t be called “public money.” Huh?