Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder’s lawsuit against The Washington City Paper amounts to a tempest in a DC teapot. The rest of the football world is focused on Super Bowl Ex-El-Vee. But what a storm Danny brewed in Washington.
Perhaps in full damage control, Snyder made the rounds Friday to DC-based radio stations in Dallas to cover the Super Bowl. Surprisingly, one of his stops was to 106.7 The Fan to speak with three of his harshest critics: former Redskin linebacker LaVar Arrington, Washington Post columnist Mike Wise and Chad Dukes.
When in doubt, punt
Hmm, how to put it? Shall we say that the guys were honored by Snyder’s visit. LaVar called it a surreal moment. Whatever it was, Arrington, Wise and Dukes seemed unprepared for the visit. They punted the ball and a softball at that. None were as critical in direct conversation with Snyder as they are on their radio shows.
LaVar said he was grateful for the opportunity to play for Snyder and the Redskins. “You definitely mean a lot to me,” said Arrington to Snyder. “I feel the same way, LaVar,” said Snyder who added that he hoped Arrington would be a Redskin for life. “We see you as a Redskin.”
Snyder said at several points in the interview that Arrington received all of the invitation to Redskin alumni events and that Arrington’s participation would be welcomed.
Tony Wyllie, Redskins’ public relations executive, “pushed” (Snyder’s word) Snyder into the City Paper lawsuit. Wyllie got to know the real Snyder and was stumped that the public perception of him was counter to the man Wyllie got to know. Snyder took offense at The City Paper’s characterization of him as a criminal and that the paper derided Mrs. (Tanya) Snyder’s work with breast cancer awareness.
Only, that is not what the offending City Paper article did. The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder was a humorous, ten-year compilation of Snyder’s well-known gaffs running the team and pokes at his business dealings on and off the Redskins. The only unique feature of this story was that it listed everything in one place instead of piecemeal as usually done.
Wyllie is new in town. He may be forgiven for not perceiving how deeply embedded Snyder’s image is with diehard and casual fans. He was derelict in his responsibilities if he was the one to push a legal approach that reinforced Snyder’s every negative image. That was a blunder worthy of The Cranky Redskins Fan Guide. And that’s a shame. Until now, Wyllie was outstanding in reimaging Snyder. Now it’s gone in a flash.
That may be why the normally aloof Snyder made conciliatory rounds on sports talk radio Friday. That’s good for fans and good for Snyder who needs to be as approachable as Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals and Wizards.
Image management done right
Leonsis is the text book example of 21st Century media management. The self-described extrovert developed a direct, personal relationship with fans that bypasses the media. here’s what he said at The Washington Post’s Business of Sports symposium last month:
“I think this new media is like oxygen. Get used to it. I think that there is no more steering wheel in the hand of The Washington Post. I used to live in mortal fear about what you would write. Now, I don’t care.
“I think it’s something that you need to internalize: that we’re our own media company. I announce things on my blog. I get 40 to 90,000 people coming to my blog, depending on the subject. I have a direct, unfiltered way to reach our audience now, and I think that harnessing that is what you have to do as ownership, because we are media brands. We’re in the subscription business. We call them season-ticket holders. We’re in the sponsorship business. We’re in the same business [as The Post]. When someone goes to find out something about me or a team or a player, and they go to Google and they type that in, I want to learn how to get the highest on the list, and I’ve done that. I don’t want The Washington Post to get the most clicks. I want the most clicks.” (Emphasis mine)
Snyder was well on his way to suing The City Paper when Leonsis spoke those words.
Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels does the best job on the team relating to fans through Facebook and Twitter where he reveals a side of himself beyond football. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay’s relationship with fans via Twitter makes him independent from from his local media.
There was one obvious benefit to Snyder from the lawsuit. To judge by the nicey-nicey softballs lobbed at the owner, the legal action had the chilling effect on sports reporters that Snyder desired. By now, every writer for every commercial publication has heard from their employer’s general counsels.
Link to podcast of Dan Snyder’s interview with LaVar Arrington and Chad Dukes here.
Link to full video Washington Post Live Business of Sports here.
We look forward to LaVar Arrington name added to the Redskins Ring of Honor at FedEx Field.
UPDATE: Cindy Boren, Washington Post – City Paper lawsuit brings more bad press for Dan Snyder