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Viewpoint | Ted Leonsis’ teams remain in Washington DC, but his legacy remains evolving

It was a day to take the high road. For DC sports fans to roar, then exhale. A day to beat our chests and make fun of that pile of dirt in Potomac Yard. And forgive – no one talked about forgetting – and move on, because the Wizards and Washington Capitals remain where they belong.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and Ted Leonsis, CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment and owner of the teams, finally came around and agreed to keep the teams stationed inside Capital One Arena until 2050 Once the signed agreement receives the expected approval of the DC Council, it officially ends Leonsis’ courtship of Virginia, a plan that began behind closed doors but failed spectacularly, for all to see. , no matter how he tried to revise this story on Wednesday.

So it was a day for legacies. The governor of Virginia took a hit. Bowser is pumped up like one of Glenn Youngkin’s iconic vests. Abe Pollin’s was saved. And as for Léonsis…

And now? What do we think of this man and his legacy?

Will he be remembered as a steadfast sports owner and applauded for remaining in the city?

Or will he forever be demonized as the suburban-minded CEO who tried to plot to leave the city?

This is why Wednesday, March 27, 2024 isn’t the love holiday that Bowser, the DC Council, and Monumental might want. No magic wand can abracadabra far from these last three months of secret agreements, public dissensions, false statements and hurt feelings. Too much has already been said, too many propaganda articles have already been produced to make us forget that Leonsis had a wandering eye and a lustful heart for another city – and that in reality he, Really I wanted to leave DC

Rather, the date should reflect only the latest twist in the two-decade saga featuring Leonsis as owner of the city’s professional basketball and hockey teams.

Legacies are often not linear. They take a circuitous route. One day you’re a raven-haired tech mogul with a minority stake in a team, looking around at an empty MCI center and imagining how the hell are you going to fill all those seats? Then almost 20 years pass and you find yourself on the ice of an arena in the desert, a little older, a lot grayer and enjoying a party that, sometimes, only you had the courage to predict.

“It tastes better,” Leonsis said in June 2018, after the Capitals’ victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. “It’s much sweeter to go through all that pain and suffering to get to the top of the mountain. Such is life. This is how great companies are built. It’s never easy.

If only the story could have ended there – with a fan base and a city high on dopamine from witnessing breakthrough breakthroughs, and a team owner revered as the primary provider of that joy. Leonsis was allegedly the bigwig who brought Michael Jordan to town. So did the idealist who tried to organize the Olympics. The executive eager to make Ovi a lifer and the lawyer who ushered in an era of female empowerment at Monumental, with women in all ownership, management and basketball operations. The beloved sports owner who dreamed, achieved a great feat and ultimately won.

If only the story had ended there…

The ellipsis, however, means that there is a continuation. Leonsis will never just be the remaining sports owner. His legacy has too many ugly spots. Twists and turns. Scratches from the whiplash of being the visionary turned villain. It’s not about a rise and fall, but simply how life unfolds when your grandiose ambitions trump reality.

That’s why on Sunday, when the same man who brought the Cup to DC appeared on the arena’s video board to congratulate TJ Oshie on playing his 1,000th game, light boos greeted him. It was an afternoon game, so imagine how a late-night crowd would have unleashed their fury for real.

Booing Leonsis during a Capitals game might have seemed unthinkable in June 2018. In March 2024, it was the only acceptable response.

As for Bowser, she is an elected official and not a commissioner of a sports league. His job is to manage the city, so his legacy must reflect issues important to a municipality, such as education, affordable housing, youth violence, the opioid crisis, etc. However, because sport can galvanize people and give an identity to a city, Bowser will also remember this day.

Good for her and her legacy. She won’t end up as a mayor who lost two teams at once — and for that, Bowser should award the key to the city to Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth). A powder keg of a politician, Lucas deserves a bouquet of yellow lilies for life for saving two city teams. Lucas may only care about his Virginia constituents and has likely only emerged as a unique roadblock to the “Glenn Dome” because of party-line animosity toward Youngkin, Leonsis’ partner in the now-dead deal. But petty politics has never been so enjoyable. God bless you, Senator Lucas, and your pleasure in humiliating a haughty governor and breaking the heart of a billionaire.

But it was a day to rejoice again.

It was a day for the city.

The teams stay in Washington DC, where they should be. Capital One Arena will remain the centerpiece of the city, rather than the abandoned paperweight it might have been without the Caps and Wizards as full-time tenants. We no longer have to entertain the worst fears of Chinatown/Gallery Place turning into a Scooby-Doo ghost town. The neighborhood surrounding the arena may eventually recover, although the transformation takes time and patience. Much more needs to be done to make downtown DC the desirable destination that every major metropolitan city should have, but that work would have been nearly impossible if the economic engine of Monumental Sports & Entertainment had been located in Alexandria.

So next time you’re downtown, raise a glass to Lucas and Pollin at Clyde’s, Rocket Bar or the Irish Channel. And while you’re there, toast the city.

On Wednesday, the District of Columbia won. Ted Leonsis? His legacy is yet to be determined.

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