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'Our work begins today': Josh Harris, new Commanders ownership group addressed the organization

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Washington Commanders Managing Partner Josh Harris and members of the team's new ownership group addressed the organization and members of the media on Friday. Here's a full transcript of the press conference.

Jason Wright: "Welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining us here today. It is really a momentous moment. Things are shifting today. And I'm really grateful to be here and I thank each and every one of you for being here with us. It's an exciting day for the Commanders franchise. It's an exciting day for the nation's capital. It's an exciting day for the most loyal and rabid fan base in the NFL. And we're going to lean into that excitement today. We've got some great people to introduce you to. Yes, I like it. I mean, there's a palpable optimism that just hasn't been present for some time. And the legacy of this team is one where all people of all creeds and colors, that might be arguing with each other on political ideologies, hating each other on social media, somehow come together in Burgundy and Gold when Terry McLaurin scores a touchdown. The legacy of this team is the great unifier. And what we're seeing today is a moment that allows us to get back to that legacy, where we are a franchise that brings all people together at a moment where unity is needed more than anything else – I would argue – in society. So today's truly a dawn of a new era. Josh Harris, who you will meet shortly, is a visionary leader with a sterling track record of building winning franchises. I've gotten to work with him in a very short manner of time in these last few weeks, and I found him to be introspective, thoughtful, and methodical, but deeply committed to winning and deeply passionate about investing in the community. He has a real vision for us, and it's going to change the way that we've operated for some time, and it's going to be meaningful to all of you. And it will be felt in very short order. I'm a little biased, but I do think they just bought the best fan base in the NFL. And that fan base is ready to rally behind this amazing group of leaders that are assembled on stage here. There's unparalleled experience on stage. There's a real vision on stage. There's a commitment to investing, which is a very important one to invest in this franchise in order for us to rebuild in the right ways. And they have offered themselves in a servant leadership type of way to all of us in this room to rebuild us and put us back to championship prominence the way that we are supposed to be. And so they're going to do that by building on the work that our next speaker has led. Please join me in welcoming our head coach, Ron Rivera."

Ron Rivera: "Thank you. I'm honored to be here today to help usher in a new era of football here in the DMV. I'm extremely, extremely grateful to have the opportunity to serve as the first head coach for the Harris group's ownership of this historic franchise. And in my talks with Mr. Harris' impressive group of partners, it has been very clear to me that there's going to be an emphasis on providing the necessary resources for the team to succeed. All of our conversations have been around winning. Winning is the primary focus, and this group has pledged that they will support us in working towards the goal of making this team a consistent winner. We have an exciting and young team hungry to perform for all of our great fans. Our coaching staff is already hard at work with our rookies and quarterbacks, who are reporting today for tomorrow's first practice. Two of our leaders are here today: Pro Bowlers Terry McLaurin and Jonathan Allen. They are prime examples of the foundation we are trying to build here with this football team. Tough physical players have bought into our culture, and they lead by example. I see so many of the distinguished alumni and Hall of Famers here in the crowd. And we really do appreciate you guys being here, showing your support and helping us to bring the fan base back. And also Coach Gibbs, probably one of the real special ones. I especially appreciate him for his friendship and for his mentorship. Thank you, Coach. Seeing the legends of the past, our current team leaders and mentors and the new stewards of this franchise all under one roof gives me tremendous hope and excitement for what the future does hold for this football team. We're looking forward to seeing all our fans out at training camp and hope to see y'all here in FedEx come next season. Thank you guys for being here."

Wright: "Thank you, Coach. And to that point of being back here at FedEx, week one is trending to be a sellout. So if you haven't bought yet, you should buy. But importantly, it means that the fan base is rallying around these guys, and that's going to make a difference for these guys on the field. It is going to make a difference for coach as he leads us on the field. This month has been many months in the making. So following yesterday's unanimous vote at the NFL owners meeting, it is my pleasure to formally introduce the new owner of the team and managing partner of the Commanders, Josh Harris." 

Josh Harris: "Thanks, Jason. Thanks, coach. And thank you all for being here on this incredibly exciting day. The first in the new era of the Washington Commanders. Let's go! Today took an immense amount of work from a lot of people. I'm not going to be able to mention everyone, but I need to mention the accomplished group of partners that we've put together, and it's a group that's diverse, and that's on purpose. It's a group that is incredibly accomplished. Mitch, David, Magic and Mark, who are up here – you'll get to meet all of them. But I think we, the city, is lucky to have their support and engagement and building an incredible franchise. Of course, none of this would have been possible at all without my mom, Sylvia Harris, right there. Thank you, mom. And to my family of five children and my wife, Marjorie. I love you all deeply. Thank you for supporting me. I couldn't have done any of this without you. I love you guys. As a kid who grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, I've been a fan of this team for as long as I can remember. One of my first memories was walking down East Capitol Street with the rest of the fans, going into RFK Stadium. We didn't make the 20-year waiting list, so we didn't have season tickets. It literally was a 20-year waiting list. Hearing the crowd and feeling the rumbling of the stadium really had an indelible mark on me as a human being. I grew up with Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer, Joe Theismann, Mark Rypien, Doug Williams, Joe Gibbs, the hogs, Darrell Green, John Riggins, and the rest of these legends and three Super Bowl championships. The then-Redskins were the team that everyone wanted to be a part of, and it brought this city together. It was great. We were with all the past legends this morning, many of whom are here. And I can't tell you the feeling of seeing Terry and Jon – our future legends. I'm thrilled that you're here with us, and it makes a big difference seeing this group together – the old and the new – is really special. This franchise is a part of who I am and who I became. It's part of my DNA. But I appreciate that it's not just about being a fan. I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to this city to win championships, to create a positive impact on the community, and to create great experiences and memories for future fans, just like I had growing up as a kid. I've done this before. And I believe that we are up to this task. In order to win, we're going to need the best, most committed people. Starting today, we will track those people with a culture defined by excellence, dignity, respect and inclusivity. I look forward to working with Jason and Ron to create great experiences to create that culture and create memories for our fans. I know we'll accomplish it. And we all need to work together to make sure that this team is a force that unites people in an otherwise divided world and brings them together. To the Commanders fans, our promise to you is straightforward. We will work tirelessly to make you proud once again of this franchise like my family was when I grew up here. This is not going to be easy. My job is to deliver an organization that can win. It's on me, and it's on us up here. Our work begins today, and I'm so excited to be on this journey together with the city. Thank you all."

Wright: "Thank you, Josh, and I know I speak on behalf of all of us – we're ready to get to work. I'd like to introduce our next speaker, who is a dynamic business leader who's established one of the largest and most influential companies in the D.C. area and a philanthropist that's rooted in values, Mitch Rales."

Mitch Rales: "This is incredibly humbling. I mean, I wish my parents were here to see this day. They moved me to the Washington area when I was 10 years old. And fortunately, I gave up the Steelers for the then-Redskins. I got on the bus at Friendship Heights with my three brothers, and we made our way down to RFK, and we never missed a game. So to see the legends standing here in front of me now, the people that I aspired to be like as I was growing up, it's just unbelievable. But what's really unbelievable is the group that's been assembled here today. When I tell you we share the same values and vision about what we want this organization to be, and the opportunity in the days, months, weeks, years ahead – it's unprecedented. Josh, I don't know how to say it. We only met four or five years ago, but I feel like he's a brother. Marky Mark, a brother. Irvin, you know, a brother. Blitz, you know, I have just gotten to know Blitz going to a few 76ers games. It was unbelievable. So why do we exist? We are here to ignite and inspire all the communities we serve by winning championships. We've got to ignite the fan base. We've got to ignite the player base. We've got to unite the Legends base. And we've got to ignite all the Commanders associates base. There's a lot of people here who can help, and that's what I do. I was telling the legends a story downstairs. I tried to be a football player. I made it to the Maryland State All-Star game coming out of high school. I was one of the last guys to be fighting for a scholarship at the University of Maryland, and I was up against a guy who was blocking me – because I was a linebacker – on a full ride to Penn State… 6'6", 280 lbs and ran a 4.8-forty. I came off the field, my dad said, 'why is the uniform all dirty in the back but clean on the front?' I quickly understood that I would rather be a business builder than a football player. So I respect what you guys are doing. It's incredible. So we're here to really build this again from the bottom up, the right way, by engaging everybody in a passionate, inspiring way. And we're going to need help from everybody here. Not just us. We can't do it on our own. We're going to work our butts off, but we need everybody to rally to the occasion. I remember what it was like, and I want to see those days here again, more for the community building of our fans and our other communities than even myself. So thank you, and I look forward to working with all of you in the time to come."

Wright: "Thank you so much, Mitch. Our next speaker can just be defined by the word champion. A champion in life, a champion on the court, a champion person and an inspiring individual. I'd like to welcome Earvin 'Magic' Johnson." 

Earvin "Magic" Johnson: "God is so good. I'm so blessed today. I give him all the honor and glory to be this incredible African American man – this black man – standing here to be a part of this incredible franchise. When Josh and I talked, the first thing I said was, 'do you want to win?' And he said 'yes.' I said, 'I'm in,' because I don't invest in sports teams just for ego. I invest to win. And we want to change everything that has happened to this franchise. We see the winners in the front row. Not only did they win Super Bowls, but they also made the community great. And we want to invite the community to be a part of what we're building here. That's going to be a part of my role – to get out into the community and help them understand what we're doing, how we're doing it. And also we want to give back. We want to make an impact on this great community that we're doing business in. And so this is not just a proud day for me and my family – my beautiful wife, Cookie, and our three children and two grandchildren – but I think for every African American in this country, because we've been left out of the NFL. But we're making strides, and Josh and all my incredible partners and now teammates, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this. And at a great city that I've known for a long time – played in this city and done a lot of business in this city, building Starbucks, Washington Hilton, on and on and on. And then I got to tell you two stories about how I'm tied to this city and that's probably why God blessed me with this opportunity. Abe Pollin, who used to own the Wizards, was one of my mentors. And then I go back to one of the owners that used to own this team. Jack Kent Cooke had to make the deal with me to then sell the Lakers to Dr. Buss to buy the Washington Redskins. Isn't that something? I'm supposed to be here and be a part of this incredible franchise, and I will say this, we've been meeting, and we're ready for the challenge. We want to take all the headaches away from the players and coaches. We want them to concentrate on being great football players and winning games and just coaching games. We want to make it easy for them. And that's what we're going to do. And I think that Josh touched on it. It's about excellence, best in class, and doing everything the right way. And then over-delivering to our fan base. And we're going to do just that. So do me a favor because this man didn't have to do this. He could have chosen anybody else that didn't look like me. So can y'all stand up and give Josh a standing ovation because that's important. Come on. Come on. Come on. I appreciate it. And I'm ready to go to work and build a winner here – build a Super Bowl championship team here in Washington in the Washington Commanders. Thank you. God bless."

Wright: "Thank you, Magic. Josh will now take questions from the media."

Media Questions:

John Keim: "Hi, Josh. John Keim, ESPN. Two-part question: I'm curious what you have felt about the reaction from the fans over the last 24-48 hours. And along with that, I'm sure you know there are a lot of questions about the team name from their fan base. I'm curious, is that on the priority list or not?"

Harris: "Washington fans are passionate. I knew that because I grew up here. The reaction has been overwhelming. We're so appreciative of how welcome we are. We also know – because we've done this before in Philly – that we got to deliver. So, the fans should be aware, and you should be aware that there are a lot of sleepless nights. It is an amazing day for me, but I'm stressed. So, training camp is next week, and the first game is six weeks away. Look, I think that we're going to be focusing, we've got a lot to do, we've got to get the team ready to win football games, we've got to get out in the community and start to pay it forward, as Magic said. And we've got to change the stadium, right? And change the fan experience. We've got to change the fan experience. And right now, that's got to be things like ingress and egress, and food and there's not that much we can do, and so our three priorities are those. And that's what we're focused on right now."

JP Finlay: "Hey, Josh, JP Finlay with NBC 4 and 106.7 The Fan. You've talked a lot about the opportunity here, but there's obviously a lot of work to do. How do you view the opportunity compared to how much work needs to be done to rebuild this brand to what you remember as a kid?" 

Harris: "Yeah, I think there's a lot of work. Obviously, a lot of work. And in sports franchises winning is not easy. There are 31 other owners that are well-financed. They want to win. Everyone wants to win. And so that's a lot of work and it sort of takes a village of people supporting a group of players and a coaching staff. And changing the fan experience. You know, we're going to make a dent in it as fast as we can. But you know, some of that's going to take a while. Like when you go into someone's house, you know, we now think of the stadium as our house. So we've got to make it good for people who visit. And then getting into the community also takes time. So this is all going to take time. The opportunity is unbelievable. I mean, the Commanders used to be the number one. It's hard to imagine. I've seen the numbers, right? The Commanders were the number one franchise in the NFL back when they were the Redskins, and even after that, not the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins – the Washington Commanders. The opportunity is up here, and the work is up here. And that's just fine for us. You know, that's what we're about. And you know, it's going to take a while. Look, I know everyone's impatient. We're impatient. Believe me, I'm sweating this more than anyone else out there, but it's going to take a little bit of time."

Ben Standig: "Josh, Ben Standig with The Athletic. Because you have other sports teams, we have some sense of how you run those. Do you see yourself taking any of the philosophies, in terms of the on-the-court products, that you would like to incorporate here once it's time for you to make a mark here?"

Harris: "Absolutely. I think obviously what I've learned from the Sixers, the Devils and other things is that you win championships with the best people in the front office, the best coaching staff. You win by investing. You win by creating a fan experience where people want to come out and support the team. This is really hard. And you win by creating an amazing culture, which we talked about is about respect, inclusivity and diversity. A lot of people are at the table, and so we're going to bring all that stuff here to this situation. And then on the field, obviously, Ron has a difficult job. The team has a difficult job. Wherever we can create an edge. Obviously, we've used analytics, we've used sports science. Wherever we can create an edge, if we can make our players feel better, if we can accommodate their lives a little bit better, if we can set up for training better – we're going to look at all that stuff. As I said, it takes time and it takes investment. So the sort of broad philosophies are the same. Obviously, the specifics are very different."

Nicki Jhabvala: "Josh, Nicki Jhabvala with the Washington Post. I know you've been asked this already, but in terms of long-term stadium plans, what is kind of your vision for this team?"  

Harris: "We're focused on creating great experiences for our fans and making them feel, as I said when you have guests in your house, we're going to throw a party every other Sunday. And when you have guests in your house, you treat them well. You don't have couches that are broken. You don't have TVs that aren't working. So we've got to get after all that, and that's what we're focused on right now. As far as the stadium experience – long run – we would love to have a stadium where the opposing players fear to come, and our fans love to come and our players love to come and feel welcomed. That's what I experienced at RFK. And whatever happens with the stadium, that's the kind of stadium experience I want to create."

David Aldridge: "Hi, Josh. David Aldridge with The Athletic. You know the team that you bought. You know the recent history of the team that you just bought. I'm wondering what you are going to be intentional about when you talk about not only diversity, but dignity and respect and all of those things. With this organization going forward, what are you going to make sure changes?"  

Harris: "Look, a lot of stuff happened, right? That was unfortunate. We're focused on changing the culture. I think a lot of that has hopefully been done. I mean, that's what we think, but we've got to get in there. And obviously, it's about creating a management team where everyone doesn't look the same. And it's about zero tolerance on ethically challenged behaviors. When you own a sports team in a city, everyone looks at what you do. It's the old adage that my mom and dad used to say, which is, behave as if whatever you do is going to be written about on the front page of The Washington Post. And here I am. When you own a team, everyone works at the team, whether you like it or not, everyone that works at the team, all my partners and everyone who's creating and involved with the team – they're a reflection on you. And so ultimately, it's on us. The reason some of this stuff takes a long time is because it's one person at a time, and it's all about culture. And so we're going to be very intentional about culture and it's what we've done in the past."

Matt Paras: "Matt Paras from the Washington Times. I'm curious, growing up as a Redskins fan, I'm just curious how you felt about the name change and how you feel about the name Commanders. Is it something you've warmed up to over the years?"

Harris: "It's not about how I feel. It's about how the city feels about all this stuff. And like I said, our priorities are: we've got to get ready for football season, we've got to improve the existing fan experience, and we've got to get out in the community. We're going look at everything and see where we are. But those are our three priorities right now." 

Scott Abraham: "Josh, Scott Abraham, ABC 7 here in DC. Congratulations to you and your family. Obviously, you're used to building up a franchise, and you went through the process in Philly. Do you see this as a process here in Washington, and maybe even watching from afar how close do you think this football team – this franchise – is to winning?"

Harris: "We're just getting here. I mean, obviously, we've witnessed as fans right from the outside what Coach Rivera and his staff and the front office have and the team has done over the last few years and it's improving. You know, this is a big season, and we look forward to learning and watching and seeing what happens. I'm very excited to be spending time with Coach Rivera and his staff and players and understanding what's going on, and I'm very supportive right now of what they're doing."

Sam Fortier: "Hey, Josh. Sam Fortier with the Washington Post. In terms of your time, how will the Commanders fit into your responsibilities with your other teams or other businesses?"

Harris: "When I did this, it was personally not the best time, right? I had a busy life. I have a business. I have sports teams. But when the availability of the Commanders occurred, we all came together. All these accomplished people – Mitch runs one of the biggest companies in the world. Mark has a lot of activities. Magic runs Magic Johnson Enterprises and has an enormous amount going on. David Blitzer has his day job at Blackstone. And if you knew the other partners, a lot of who are here, they would also have super busy lives. But all of us said, look, we're from Washington. We grew up with the then-Redskins. We know how much this team meant to this city, which is a divided city in a lot of ways. Let's face it, politics are tough. And the city is tough. And so this is a responsibility that we need to take and put in front. And so we all are going to make time for it and I appreciate that as the managing partner – as the owner – I'm going to be present. You can't mail it in. And, I'm really excited to be back in DC. I think one of my best friends from high school and my cousins are there. I got my mom, who lives in Friendship Heights, and so I look forward to re-engaging with the city. And I'll be around. Thank you, guys! Let's go!"

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