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Loudoun County is the epicenter of Redskin nation

The Redskins Bryan McCann gets some love before practice at Redskins Fan Appreciation Day Aug. 23. Times-Mirror Photo/Rick Wasser
Thirty years and thousands of miles have done nothing but strengthen David Ramadan’s relationship with the Washington Redskins.

It was in his native Lebanon in the late 1980s when Ramadan first signed on with Redskins nation. He wasn’t clinging to a sport or specific athletes or burgundy jerseys. He was clinging to a symbol: America’s game.

“Football is part and parcel of the American dream,” said Ramadan, now a two-term Virginia state delegate from Loudoun County. “The team stands for history, for pride. It’s an American symbol. American football is one unique sport to America. No other country in the world really plays football.”

So it’s a case of the small worlds that Ramadan, following his emigration to the U.S., landed in Loudoun, a place that has undeniably become the Virginia home of the Washington football team.

Here, local officials go gaga any time a team representative appears at board meetings – the local Board of Supervisors in 2012 unanimously agreed to send at least $2 million in tax dollars into the team's coffers. The supervisors and most of the VIP-suite politicians are fans, just like the thousand-plus people who withstood a scorching August day just for a glimpse of the action.

“I ride for them all day, no matter what,” said Ralynee Simpson, a fan since age 2. Simpson feels like a part of the team, she said.

Football fandom isn’t silly, Del. Ramadan noted. It’s a choice we’ve made.

“It may be just a game, but it’s a game we chose to make part of our culture,” he said. “People are entitled to prioritize in life what is important and what is not. We Americans have decided that football is part of our culture and it’s important to us. Just like other nations around the world have decided other sports are important.”
State Del. David Ramadan is a founding member of the Virginia General Assembly's Redskins Pride Caucus, defending the Virginia business, its name and its trademark.Facebook/David Ramadan

Striking a connection

Sports have been a facet of the human psyche for centuries. For decades researchers have explored why fans are so enamored with their preferred teams.

“There is a lot of really cool science coming out of psychology labs about how our brains perceive relationships and how they operate with relationships,” journalist Eric Simons said in an interview with Smithsonian.com. “The way that relationships work, your brain often has trouble distinguishing between you and the other person. In the case of sports, there is compelling evidence that this is basically a real relationship in your brain. In a very real sense, the sports team becomes a part of you.”

Simons, who authored “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans,” continued: “You just feel like whatever success it achieves is a personal success, and whatever failure it has is a personal failure.”

With the Redskins, there have been plenty of failures. This millennium, Washington has finished just three seasons with a winning record and managed only one playoff win.

So what, fans say. That's not the point.

“You have the ups and downs,” Loudoun resident Rob Wilkins said. “That's just how life is.”

Ramadan agreed, “In good and in bad, you stick with your team. It’s the pride of the area, not just the team itself.”
Washingtonians Rhonda Proctor, Rena King and Ralynee Simpson await the Redskins players' arrival. Times-Mirror Photo/Kate Murphy

Finding a home in Ashburn

The giant, off-white bubble-dome off Loudoun County Parkway in eastern Loudoun announces Redskins Park, the team's practice facility and corporate headquarters.

Redskintopia was on bombastic display Aug. 23 at the Ashburn facility. Thousands of burgundy- and yellow-clad fans turned out for Fan Appreciation Day, an event featuring performances from the barely-clothed “First Ladies of Football,” the marching band and, lastly, a practice from the Gridiron Gods.

Outside in a sweltering summer day, young fans waited. They tossed the pigskin, envisioning their future NFL careers. They practiced their end zone shuffles.

Parents hoisted kids on shoulders to help them see.

Despite intensifying debate over whether the term redskin is offensive – which thousands of Native Americans have said it is – fans new and old waved off the question as petty.
Sporting his red, fuzzy leg-warmer suit from Party City, Darryl Plu high-fives Redskins player Ricky Jean Francois on his way to the field. Times-Mirror Photo/Kate Murphy

Sporting a fuzzy, fluorescent red suit complete with an impressive mohawk, Skins fan Darryl Plu said he was there to motivate the sculpted stars.

“Hopefully the players see this and think, 'Look at that crazy guy all hot and sweaty … Let’s give it our best effort,’” Plu said.

Fan Day was Ardarian Diamond’s 8th birthday and he gleefully spent it with the Redskins.

“You get appreciated by the Redskins players,” Diamond said. “They appreciate your kindness, that’s the best part.”

Off-the-field operations

Even if the Redskins win every game this year and hoist the Lombardi Trophy, their best work will come off the field.

Since its start in 2000, the Redskins Charitable Foundation has pledged more than $16 million to the surrounding community, focusing primarily in the areas of education, community outreach and health and wellness.

But $16 million is just a number. The visible impact is the grace and connection players have sparked with people like Brodi Rodriguez or the family of Gabriella Miller in Leesburg or participants of the Special Olympics flag football program.

Ten-year-old Rodriguez was suffering with a brain tumor last year when a family friend connected him with the organization. He met with players during training camp in Richmond, and his face still brims with joy as he recalls meeting quarterback Robert Griffin III.

“They were so good to him,” said Rodriguez's mother. “So good to us.”
From left, David Story, Brodi Rodriguez and Michele Story made the trip from Richmond to show their 'Skins spirit in Loudoun Sunday.Times-Mirror Photo/Trevor Baratko

Your tax dollars at work

Loudoun County government and the Redskins are three years into an eight-year marketing agreement. As the team's sponsor and home base, Loudoun boasts the following as economic perks, officials say:

-The county is named in any team-controlled media broadcasts coming from Redskins Park in Ashburn and receiving other promotional opportunities on the team's own branding platforms – website, media announces, etc.

-The use of Redskins Park once a year on non-practice days for an event of up to 200 people.

-Use of Redskins Park for corporate guest tours and for potential “economic development business prospects or VIP meetings.”

-Use of team's logo, trademarks and colors for marketing.

To the tune of $500,000 a year for four years, the marketing agreement is being funded with money from the restricted use transient occupancy tax fund, not the county's general fund, according to county officials. Moreover, the state gives the Redskins a $4 million grant, and the Virginia State Lottery contributes another $6 million.

Local state Del. Dave LaRock, speaking as a taxpayer, expressed skepticism of the agreement.

“I think that having the Loudoun County invest or commit, we’ll say, taxpayer dollars to this kind of business relationship is really stretching the boundaries of what government is intended to do, and that is to protect the public's best interests,” LaRock said. “When it continues to the point that we’re making deals with sports teams and it gets to the point where it’s entering speculative business ventures such as partnering with a sports team, I think it’s kind of crossed the line.”

Despite some skepticism of public dollars going toward a team worth more than $2 billion, the Redskins' footprint in Loudoun will likely grow larger – though perhaps not as large as many hope.

County officials are looking to engage in serious talks about locating a new stadium in Loudoun and luring the team for the regular season, but that still appears a long shot.

“We're obviously interested in having those conversations with the Redskins,” Loudoun County Economic Development Director Buddy Rizer said. “We're talking about the mid-2020s … I'm engaged in building a commercial tax base today.”

As Rizer, the supervisors and Loudoun's more than 350,000 residents have learned, building a commercial tax base takes time.

Kind of like loyalty and building a winning franchise.

Click here to give your two cents about Loudoun County's special relationship with the Washington Redskins.

"Chief" no doubt had some choice words for this brazen Cowboys fan. Times-Mirror Photo/Kate Murphy

More than a 1,000 diehards were on hand at Redskins Fan Appreciation Day in Ashburn Sunday. Times-Mirror Photo/Rick Wasser


No. Noooo NOOOOO we don’t want a football stadium in Loudoun.  STOP! No one living here wants that.  The only people who do are the developers who don’t live her who want to make big $$.  To our elected reps: Don’t sell out.  We’ll make sure you pack your bags if you do.

Hey @Lawman, the fans aren’t suffering because of the team name, the REDSKINS.  I’m not a big fan of Synder’s and I think he has contributed to the mediocrity of the team with some of his decisions, but the one thing that I highly praise him on is not bowing to the political correctness crap that has gripped a certain percentage of this Country, it’s just so far out of control, that is borderline stupid in most cases.  I’m glad that he is sticking to his guns on this one and keeping the REDSKINS name.

Hey @westLOUDOUNer, shouldn’t you be out scratching letters into cars.  On a real tip, until you change that name it is nothing but misery for the Washington Team’s fans.  A 4 and 12 three sorry quarterback circus.  it is like a Fall Tradition watching these Fans suffer because the owner won’t change that name.

Brought to you by BobO’s bully pulpit suprapact:

This article is highly disturbing for a community that values its educational system while its leaders have chosen in most years not to fully fund it yet donate money to a commercial entity. I dare economic development to incrementally justify their contention this “DEAL” makes money for anybody but Mr. Snyder. We don’t need their permission to state the fact which is that the Redskins Headquarters is in Ashburn. Years ago I was an NFL Agent which gave me insight into the ludicrous arguments supporting the economic benefits a county supposedly receives from financing an NFL stadium. It is a total loser for taxpayers. I am a fan but it should remain a personal decision not one where our representatives trade tax dollars for special seats at an event or even silk ties from a baseball team that never arrived in Ashburn. Frankly its embarrassing to see how those who supposedly represent a relatively sophisticated community can act so childishly with our tax dollars. As a candidate for Commonwealth Attorney who has professed to hold public officials accountable I can assure current officials that ALL DEALS WITH the Redskins will be reviewed for any signs of fraud, conspiracy, misrepresentation or criminality in any way!
R. Ohneiser Esq.

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