Can We Call this Change the Dan Snyder Rule?

WASHINGTON — It is popular in sports to name a remarkable rule change after an executive or player who was instrumental in its creation.

The NFL has its Rooney Rule for interviewing minority candidates as part of the head coaching search. Basketball has the Larry Bird Rule that allows teams to vastly exceed the salary cap in order to retain its own players. Hockey has the Bobby Hull rule to prevent players from curving stick blades by more than three-quarters of an inch.

There are dozens of other examples, but very few that D.C. sports fans can call their own. Until, possibly, now.

According to Pro Football Talk, a rule allowing opposing team scouts to attend any training camp practice in which admission is charged was unceremoniously changed before the 2014 season. The only team that this is known to have affected was the 2000 Washington Redskins.

That season, owner Dan Snyder was party to the decision to move Training Camp from Carlisle, Penn., back to the team’s facilities in Ashburn, Va. In order to help control the flood of excited Redskins fans, the team implemented a $10 fee to attend. Via ABC News, July 21, 2000:

Redskins president Steve Baldacci said the decision to charge admission was not a business decision, but Snyder’s attempt to improve fans’ access to the team.

However, other teams around the NFL say the tradition of not charging fans to watch training camp achieves exactly that purpose.

Then-Redskins head coach Norv Turner also signed off on the move, citing the rising cost of entertainment:

Head coach Norv Turner compared the cost of attending a practice session to the $70 he spent taking four kids to “a really bad movie” two weeks ago. “You get a heck of a lot better entertainment out here,” he said after the afternoon session.

Even though some fans were turned off by the maneuver, the concern among league observers is that the move would become a trend among teams. Via the LA Times, Aug. 6, 2000:

Dean Bonham, president of the Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports-franchise consult firm. “The Redskins are taking a big risk with the negative publicity and possible alienation of their fans. If it works though, you can rest assured it will become a leaguewide trend overnight.”

“We thought about it,” said Bob Wallace, the Rams’ general counsel. “We just wanted to see what the reaction was in Washington. If they are able to market this and it goes over well, I think you could see it developing into a trend. Teams are always looking for ways to generate additional revenue.”

But it never did become a trend, and the Redskins did away with charging the next preseason. Why? Likely because it suppressed fan turnout and because it opened the door for scouts from at least one team to attend the practice.

According to long-time Redskins beat reporter John Keim, the decision had a lasting effect on the 2000 squad:

Of course, 17 years later, this is all ancient history, but the rule change came to light because the Carolina Panthers are charging for training camp practice this year and donating the money to the team’s charitable foundation.

Initial media reports suggested that this opened the door for opposition scouting, but the league offices clarified that the rule was changed, quietly, three years ago. Now, even if teams charge admission to training camp, opposing scouts cannot attend, “unless permission has previously been received, club personnel or their representatives are prohibited from attending another club’s training session, including, but not limited to, practices, scrimmages or joint practices.”

So there you have it. A rule with notable implications was changed, and the only team known to have been affected by it was owned by Snyder. Absent more information about how the rule changed, this should be known as the Dan Snyder Rule.

 

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