Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) has started a petition to oppose the return of the NFL to Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Stadium. The petition, available at HailNoRFK.com, had accumulated more than 2100 signatures by Monday morning. The petition was posted Friday, after reports from the Washington Post that Mayor Muriel Bowser had been secretly working with Congressional Republican to include language in a spending bill that could open the way to return the NFL to the RFK Campus.
The petition urges the Mayor and DC Council to “reject a deal made between the outgoing congress and this President and the NFL, which once again circumvents the local control and rights of the residents who call the District of Columbia home.”
“Only in the District of Columbia does this happen without the residents having a seat at the table.”
Events DC, the sports and entertainment authority of the District, currently holds a lease with National Parks Serve (NPS) on the property, set to expire in 2038. The authority has been working on short and long-term plans for the site for the last few years and broke ground on multi-purpose recreational fields in August.
In comments at the August groundbreaking event, Allen praised the return of the field to uses for the community. “An entire generation of Washingtonians has grown up with largely empty parking lots dominating a key part of the city along the Anacostia River,” he said. “As we’ve seen, when you build an NFL stadium, it means a whole bunch of parking lots that are only used eight days a year. But today, we change that history and begin a new life for this corner of our city.”
At the same event, Mayor Bowser reiterated her Administration’s desire for the federal government to either transfer the RFK campus to the District or to extend the lease with the removal of restrictions on future use.
Later that afternoon, at a ‘Welcome Home Luncheon’ for the Washington NFL team, Washington City Paper reported that Bowser told a crowd that included team president Bruce Allen and DC Councilmembers to ‘bring it home.” A representative from the Mayor’s office later told the paper that the Mayor believes the Washington team belongs in the District, and that although there are no plans, the Mayor wants the team back.
In an interview Allen was clear that he was not opposed to greater District control over the site. Rather, he wanted to ensure resident input over the future vision for the space.
“I believe we’d like to see retail, parks and housing to the water’s edge, the extension of Capitol Hill and the Hill East community all the way to the shores of the Anacostia River,” he said.
Allen said he decided to start a petition because the legislation affecting District residents was not before District Council, but before Congress. “DC residents know how direct advocacy works with council members,” he said. “We don’t have the same ability with the senator and members of congress from all over the country.”
A petition is one of the best ways to get District voices out to be heard over the issue, he explained, as well as getting a sense of the number of people opposing the decision. His office can stay in touch with signatories to follow the issue, he added.
Allen said the recreational fields begun this past summer should remain unaffected by decisions related to the NFL. ”Those are part of a shared vision for the site,” he said. “The fields are a high priority, and they are not at risk,” he said.
The fields are the first component of the RFK Stadium Campus short-term, or ten-year, plan that has been given a timeline for completion. First presented in January 2017, the short-term plans contain five components: the multipurpose fields, a market hall, a sports and recreation complex, pedestrian bridges connecting the west and east banks of the Anacostia River to Heritage and Kingman Islands, and a new memorial site for Robert F. Kennedy, for whom the stadium is named.
At a January meeting, Events DC President and CEO Gregory O’Dell said that long-term plans for the site had been shelved, but would not rule out the possibility of the return of an NFL team. Preliminary long-term visions already formulated for the site include three possible scenarios: one with a football stadium, another incorporating a 20,000-seat arena, and a third possibility with neither of those.
Events DC did not respond immediately to a request for comment. This story will be updated with any information received.