Governor Wilder's 'Skin Game

September 28, 1992

Even in this extraordinary political year, Virginia's Gov. L. Douglas Wilder deserves a prize for raising transparently phony issues. He is warning Virginia legislators the Washington Redskins might move to Baltimore if they don't support his plan for a new stadium in Alexandria. What claptrap! If Governor Wilder's suggestion tells us anything, it advertises his contempt for the intelligence of Virginia legislators, not to mention the Redskin fans he's also trying to panic.

Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the Redskins and the only person who could make such a decision, has not said a word about Baltimore. Officials here haven't heard from anyone in Washington. Mr. Cooke is not averse to strong-arm tactics, but this is one even he doesn't seem to have contemplated. His ego is as great as his substantial net worth, and owning the dominant sports team in the nation's capital alone will satisfy it.

Mr. Wilder is trying to use our hunger for the return of pro football as a cheap scare tactic to abet his raid on neighboring Washington. After dickering for years with Washington officials over his desire to construct a new home to replace RFK Stadium, Mr. Cooke secretly cut a deal with Governor Wilder to move across the Potomac. Washington officials are outraged, and most Alexandria officials take a dim view of the proposal. The public is still learning details of the deal, which contains sweeteners for Mr. Cooke at taxpayer expense.

Usually it's the team owners who try to play one football-hungry city off another to extort the best deal possible. This time Governor Wilder is playing the tawdry game. He won't get a nibble from this part of Maryland. We allowed ourselves to be jerked around by Bill Bidwill of the erstwhile St. Louis -- now Phoenix -- Cardinals, but only after he made it as clear as these things ever get he was set on moving. In this case, we have no interest where the Redskins locate in the Washington area.

Even if the Baltimore region ever gets desperate enough to try to steal someone else's team, it surely won't be Washington's. Redskin fans in Congress and in the Maryland legislature would be certain to retaliate. A crude political manipulator like Governor Wilder should grasp that.

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