UPDATED, July 24, 6:30 p.m. EST

It is finally official. The long-awaited sale of the Washington Commanders football franchise is finally in the books.

Magic Johnson (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

During a special league meeting in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Thursday, the NFL team owners unanimously approved a group led by Josh Harris to purchase the franchise.  It came at a hefty price tag — a record-breaking $6.05 billion.  Harris and his group purchased the franchise from former owner Daniel Snyder, who owned the local team since 1999 when he bought it from the late Jack Kent Cooke for $800 million in 1999.

Harris’s group includes NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic”Johnson and billionaire Mitchell Rales, who, like Harris, is from Maryland. There are 20 limited partners in the Harris group, just under the NFL ownership limit of 25. Each partner had to be vetted for financial and security reasons.

Johnson wrote in a tweet following the announcement, “God is so good…I still can’t believe it! I am currently living in an answered prayer. Since beginning my journey as an athlete and now businessman and team owner, it’s all been a dream that has come full circle.

“I grew up playing football as a kid, I’m a huge NFL fan, and I watch games every week,” Johnson continued. “Now, I get to co-own a storied franchise, the Washington Commanders.”

Remembering the Commanders’ Glory Days

During the 80s and early 90s, the hometown team was among the most respected in the NFL, winning four Super Bowls and five NFC championships.  The team was so popular that there was an incredible waiting list of fans vying to purchase season tickets.

Following the purchase of the team by Snyder, things changed dramatically.  It was fraught with several coaching changes, a carousel of quarterbacks, and failure to make the playoffs.

At a press conference announcing the purchase, Harris told reporters, “As a lifelong Washington football fan that grew up in Chevy Chase, I’m incredibly excited and humbled by the opportunity to serve alongside my partners as stewards of this great franchise on behalf of Washington, D.C.”

“One of my first memories as a child was walking down east Capitol Street, walking in the RFK Stadium, hearing the roar of the crowd, feeling the rumble,” Harris added. “I grew up watching Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer, Joe Theismann, Mark Ripkin, and Doug Williams. The Hogs, Joe Gibbs, Darrell Green, Art Monk, and three Super Bowls. And, that’s the Washington, then Redskins, now Commanders, that I remember. This franchise is part of who I am and who I’ve become as a person.” 

“But being a fan is not enough to be successful,” Harris continued. “To be successful, we understand that we need to win championships, create a positive impact on the community, and create incredible memories and great experiences for our fan base, much like I had as a youth growing up in Washington. We’ll have more to say in the days that come, but today I want to leave it here.

“To our team and the incredible fan base in Washington, a new era of Washington football is here. It’s time to get to work,” Harris concluded.

High Hopes for Commanders’ Future

“This is the second greatest day for this proud franchise,” said Butch “The Coach” McAdams, a D.C. native and sports radio host for “In and Out of Sports” on WOL Radio.  “The first was when they defeated the Buffalo Bills in the 1992 Super Bowl. Then disaster struck when Dan Snyder took over.  He essentially destroyed this franchise.  I can’t think of a worst professional owner in sports during my lifetime.”

McAdams said, “When the news broke, the first thing I could think of was Martha and the Vandellas’ song, “Dancing in the Streets.”

D.C. At-Large City Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie, a longtime fan, issued the following statement, in part, on the sale.

“Today, we celebrate the approval of the acquisition of the Washington Commanders by the Josh Harris Group. This momentous occasion marks a new chapter in the team’s history, heralding an exciting future for both the Washington Commanders and the possibilities for the Nation’s Capital.

“Under the new ownership, we can look forward to the start of a strengthened bond between the Washington Commanders and their passionate fan base,” McDuffie added. “With a renewed focus on community engagement and social impact initiatives, the team’s presence in the nation’s capital has the potential to extend far beyond the playing field. 

“I wish the Josh Harris Group, the players, and the loyal fans all the best as the team begins a new chapter.”

“I am encouraged by the new ownership,” noted Romanda Noble-Watson, a DC native who serves as communications director for high school athletics.  “Now the team can return to being the one we can be proud of.  As fans, we all want the team to do well.  This is a good start.”

The Commanders finished 8-8-1 last season, in last place in the NFC East.  Under the new leadership, the team’s first exhibition game will be on Aug. 11 in Cleveland against the Browns.  

Fans will get a chance to see the team when it starts the regular season at home on Sept. 10 when they host the Arizona Cardinals.

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1 Comment

  1. Great article by Mr. Ed Hill. It’s paradoxical how Snyder was a fan before he purchased the team. He systematically dismantled the winning framework that Jack Kent Cooke assembled with Bobby Beathard, Joe Gibbs, etc. Maybe he’ll have better luck with his $5 billion profit!

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