Snyder strips Cooke off stadium

Firm name to oust man whose millions built site

August 19, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Jack Kent Cooke and Joe Robbie were strong-willed, self-made men who came up with their own money to build stadiums for their NFL teams in an era when most other owners were demanding that taxpayers build them with public funds.

Cooke, a multimillionaire, used his own funds to build the $160 million stadium in Landover, although the state of Maryland kicked in $70 million for roads and infrastructure.

Robbie, who didn't have a personal fortune, used the revenue from the sale of club seats to finance the $115 million stadium for the Miami Dolphins that opened in 1987.

The two late owners now both have something else in common.

Their names have been stripped from the stadiums they built. Both were victims of corporate names that bring in revenue to the teams.

Wayne Huizenga bought the team from the Robbie family in 1993 and changed the name of the Miami Dolphins' stadium to Pro Player Stadium.

Daniel Snyder won the $800 million bidding war for the Redskins and plans to put a corporate name on the stadium that Cooke's son, John Kent Cooke, named for his father. It was often called The Big Jack.

Snyder doesn't even have a corporate name yet, but he's wasting no time taking Cooke's name off it.

He told the editorial board of the Washington Post that he'll hold a news conference next week to announce the stadium will be named Redskins Stadium until naming rights are sold.

He also abolished the name "Raljon" that Cooke used to call the site of the stadium. It was a combination of the names of his two sons -- Ralph and John.

Snyder also called the stadium a "fixer-upper" even though it's just 2 years old and said he's making a lot of renovations. Cooke built a no-frills stadium because he didn't have the advantage of taxpayer funds.

John Moag, the former chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said, "You've got to hand it to Cooke that he didn't sell the name in the first place. It is kind of sad [that the name's being changed], but we'll have to see what the corporate name is before we can have a reaction to it. I don't think it'll be called Redskins Stadium very long."

Snyder, who has fired about 25 employees, is changing virtually everything about the Redskins. Everything, that is, except the most controversial item: the nickname.

He said he'll continue to call the team the Redskins even though Native American groups say it's a racist slur.

Since 1992, Suzan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne, has been fighting a court battle to strip the team of its ability to trademark the name.

In April, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled the Redskins have no right to trademark the name because it's disparaging to Native Americans.

The team then filed suit in federal court contesting the decision.

Snyder said the name wasn't meant to be derogatory and was meant as an honor.

But Harjo said recently, "The name has never been an honorific, and no matter how many times they say, it never will be. To persist in this is so arrogant."

Snyder also increased the heat on coach Norv Turner. He wouldn't even give him a vote of confidence or rule out firing him during the season.

"I'd rather not go down that road," he said when he was asked if Turner could be fired during the season.

Pub Date: 8/19/99

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