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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

The Novak Zone: Interview With Daniel Snyder

Aired January 11, 2003 - 09:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's time now for "The Novak Zone." Here's Robert Novak.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT NOVAK, HOST: Welcome to "The Novak Zone." I'm Robert Novak at the Redskins locker room at Redskin headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C.

My guest is Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins.

Thank you for being with us, Mr. Snyder.

DAN SNYDER, OWNER, WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Thanks, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Bob.

NOVAK: Mr. Snyder, you paid $800 million for the Washington Redskins football team, the highest money ever paid...

SNYDER: Wow.

NOVAK: ... for a sports franchise. Was that a good investment from a business standards?

SNYDER: Yes, it's a big number. Yes, I think so. Over time, over decades, it will be a good investment. I didn't look at it as really an investment as much as a passion for me in buying the Redskins, a lifelong dream. So it really is a long-term investment, though.

NOVAK: But it's not a money loser.

SNYDER: It's not a money loser, but it sure is not like some of the Wall Street-type companies.

NOVAK: So if you could -- if you wanted to really aggregate your money, you could have gone someplace else. What do you get out of the Redskins that you wouldn't get out of making missiles or something like that?

SNYDER: Well, it's exciting. It's -- for me, it's passionate. It's very, very personal in that, you know, I have been a fan for three decades, so it's a wonderful, wonderful opportunity, and I just hope to deliver some big, big victories in the future. And I think we're on our way. NOVAK: Mr. Snyder, I grew up in the Chicago area, and the Cubs were owned by Phillip K. Wrigley, and he made chewing gum and spent little, very little time on the baseball team. That's the way the old-time owners used to be. But for you and Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys...

SNYDER: That's right.

NOVAK: ... this is a full-time job for you, isn't it?

SNYDER: Well, he probably didn't pay $800 million for the Cubs. But once you invest as much money as I have, or as Jerry Jones, I think couple hundred million dollars, or some of the new owners like Arthur Blank and -- at Home Depot, Atlanta Falcons, who spent, I think, almost $600 million for his franchise, it becomes a much more meaningful business investment.

NOVAK: The previous two years, the Redskins had a eight and eight record. You went out and hired maybe the most exciting college football coach in the country, Steve Spurrier (ph), went to seven in nine from eight and eight. Was that a huge disappointment for you?

SNYDER: No. It was obviously a disappointment that we wanted to make the playoffs this year. That was our goal. From our standpoint, it's a learning experience. And I think we've got some real good momentum going into the future. And Steve Spurrier is one heck of a coach. And he'll be very, very successful in the NFL with the Redskins. And I think it's just a matter of time. We were probably two or three snaps from being nine in seven, maybe 10 and six.

Having said that, it is a disappointment, but we're going to press on, and next year hope for a much, much better season.

NOVAK: I went to my first Redskin game 46 years ago, and I've been a season ticket holder since the 1962-63 season, almost 40...

SNYDER: Wow.

NOVAK: ... 40 years. At, you know, at the old RFK Stadium, that place used to really rock. Every seat was filled. I go to Fedex Field, and you don't have that atmosphere. And there's always empty seats. Why is that?

SNYDER: Well, the only place there are empty seats is the club section, because we've got this gigantic atrium where fans are spending a lot of time, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it's cold, or before the ball game, et cetera, and the seats are all bright yellow in the club section. They show whenever they're empty.

All of our general admission red seats, we've got 90,000 accounts on a wait list, so we're probably sold out for the next 20, 30, 40 years of those seats. Our club seats are also sold out, but they show whenever they're empty, and people are in the club. Our attendance has actually been records for the National Football League, over 80,000 per game (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NOVAK: So you think the interest is still as high as it always was.

SNYDER: The interest is higher now than ever, not only in the Redskins but the National Football League.

NOVAK: You think it's still the number one spectator sport? You haven't been overtaken by NASCAR?

SNYDER: No, no, I think it's not even close.

NOVAK: Mr. Snyder, the zebras, the officials, have had a tough time lately. They have seven officials for each game. They seem to make an awful lot of mistakes. Do you -- I know you're -- I don't want to get you in trouble criticizing your officials, but what can be done? Do you think you need younger officials, or do they have to spend fuller time on the job? What's your suggestion?

SNYDER: Well, I think we've improved dramatically since adding instant replay. So instant replay has obviously helped in some of the calls being even more correct. In any sport, you're going to have some errors and some natural happening. From that standpoint, I think they do a pretty good job. I think that some of the most recent calls probably have been bigger calls, and the end of the Giants-San Francisco game, so that makes it a much bigger issue. I hope they'll get some of those, more of those right in the future.

NOVAK: What suggestions would you have -- I say you're doing fine, but any business or any activity, you can always do better. But what suggestions for football would you have to improve it?

SNYDER: For the sport, I think that right now we're really set about to do the right schedule. Maybe make some changes and modifications on what we can do for our Monday night football showings and different opportunities to show some of the more premiere games end of the year. But in general, I think we've got the preeminent sports league in the world.

NOVAK: And now the big question for Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins.

Mr. Snyder, a lot of the college teams that have had Indian designations -- Stanford, Miami of Ohio -- they have changed their names. Can you tell me, as an old Redskin fan, that you will never bow to pressure from American Indians and left-wing groups and change the name of the Washington Redskins?

SNYDER: I'll never change the name of the Redskins. You have my word on that. In addition to that, it's really what the Redskins mean that's not quite out there. If you look at the facts, the facts are what it means is tradition. It means winning. It means a great tradition for the franchise.

But it also -- the whole idea of Redskin really means, it's war paint. And the Redskin was not a Redskin in a derogatory way, but really Redskin meaning war paint, painted for war, battle. That's why, if you listen to the fight song of the Washington Redskins, it's, Hail to the Redskins, fight on for old D.C., braves on the warpath. It's really a tradition of winning.

NOVAK: So it's not an attempt to derogate or to insult a minority group at all, is it?

SNYDER: No, not -- no, none whatsoever.

NOVAK: Well, I'm glad they're going to stay the Washington Redskins.

Thank you very much, Dan Snyder.

SNYDER: Thanks for having me. Thank you.

NOVAK: And thank you for being in "The Novak Zone."

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