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Friday, May 4, 2018

Daniel Snyder and the Redskins’ Culture of Exploitation and Incompetence

Posted by on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 8:44 PM

Once upon a time, in the days before Daniel Snyder, the Washington Redskins were big box office in the Carolinas. Sometimes I meet people from here who are still Skins fans. They remember the good old days, with Sonny Jurgenson, Billy Kilmer, Joe Gibbs, Darrell Green, and The Posse. That was a long time ago, but I remember, too. I grew up in Northern Virginia during the glory days, when Redskins games were as close to a congregation as my family ever engaged in.

Thus it has been sad, in the manner of watching a malignant disease destroy a healthy individual, to witness the organization be gradually ground down to the worst kind of laughingstock. It's not simply the two decades of persistent losing, or the comically incompetent mismanagement of rosters and drafts, or the tone-deaf handling over the team's sadly outdated nickname, or the terrible stadium somewhere out in Maryland that now provides what is routinely considered to be the worst in-person experience in the NFL, if not the entirety of professional sports.

It's the acknowledgment that on a fundamental level, the individuals most responsible for shaping the direction of the team are truly horrible people.

Being a fan of a terrible organization requires a certain willingness to suspend disbelief. Approached with managed-enough expectations, you can squint and see progress where others might only see stasis. A 9–7 season with a first-round playoff loss once every five years begins to feel acceptable. You may hate the owner and the team president (Bruce Allen, for the record, a pompous prick of the highest order), but the coach seems OK, and some of the players are nice, and, you know, what are you going to do? You find something to root for. That's the gig when your team is caught in an apparently unbreakable cycle of losing and gross mismanagement.

But, bow howdy, no one tests the proposition of fan loyalty quite like the Redskins. Seemingly once every six months, some story comes out that is so head-shakingly mortifying that you have to really, genuinely wonder how toxic and repellant the people in charge really are. Last spring's follies involved the firing of general manager Scot McCloughan, a qualified talent evaluator who had helped to build Super Bowl-contending rosters in Seattle and San Francisco. After apparently losing a power struggle with the unctuous Allen, McCloughan was tarred by “anonymous sources” in the organization who accused him of drinking on the job without providing a shred of proof or a modicum of regard for the reputation they were so callously trashing, McCloughan had struggled with alcohol dependency in the past, and it is unclear whether he had experienced a relapse. What is absolutely apparent is that publicly shaming an employee rather than intervening privately in an effort to vouchsafe his welfare is exactly the sort of repugnant palace intrigue that Bruce “Anonymous Sources” Allen engages in with relish.

Like a bizarro-mirror image of consistently forward-looking, innovative teams like their division rivals and Super Bowl champions the Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins seem infinitely resourceful when it comes to finding new ways to humiliate the organization and its fans. Wednesday's story in The New York Times detailing the exploitative treatment of cheerleaders on team-sponsored trips to Costa Rica is only made more painful by the ways in which it is not surprising. The details of the dancers being coerced into posing topless for a calendar shoot in front of a paid audience of sponsors and stadium suite-holders and later being required to accompany strange men to frat-ish bacchanals are vividly horrifying but also fairly par for the course. Flagrant, unapologetic exploitation is now the other established norm of this grotesque franchise, alongside rarely breaking .500. The eye-rolling denial with which the team responded to these allegations is pretty much boilerplate every time they royally screw up.

After living through twenty years of this bullshit, I almost could have dictated it myself.

I don't know what the lesson is, if there is one. It is tempting to look at Daniel Snyder and extrapolate something meaningful about how the borderline accidental ascendance of one particularly corrupt and stupid person can fully debase what once seemed to be a bedrock institution and embroider those lessons on our society at large. But ultimately, that is probably too grandiose a takeaway from a bad football team with a couple of grade-A assholes at the helm, running the ship into a never-ending series of icebergs.

It will be interesting to see how it all culminates, what the logical endgame in Washington ultimately looks like. Will Snyder finally behave transgressively enough to get his team taken away like Jerry Richardson finally managed to do? Will he ever get tired of burnishing his well-earned placed as one of the sports world's most hated individuals and decide to sell the team? Or will he continue to remain surrounded in his bubble of moronic yes-men, perpetrating one nightmarish episode on a once-proud fan base for decades to come?

How long can I put up with this? Anonymous sources indicate that I'm hanging by a thread. 


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