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In May, the local NFL team signaled to fans that it would attempt to repair the decades-long erosion of the fanbase with the hiring of a respected and experienced executive.
That person would be in charge of the business side of operations and would lead programs focusing on the fan experience. They would report to team owner Daniel Snyder.
After decades of on-field failures and self-inflicted embarrassments, the spring hiring of Brian Lafemina as the team’s president of business operations and chief operating officer was seen as a step in the right direction.
But on Wednesday, the team parted ways with Lafemina, according to reports. He lasted less than eight months. The team’s website removed Lafemina’s name today before 4 p.m., along with the names of three of his deputies. The move comes just three days after Washington was officially eliminated from the playoffs for the third straight season.
Team spokesperson Tony Wylie declined to answer questions from City Paper. “We do not discuss personnel matters,” he wrote in an email.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” tweeted Gary Fitzgerald, who worked for the team from 2003 to 2012 on the digital media side. “What this suggests to me, based on my experience w/ team, is new execs rejected culture surrounding team or tried to implement change and/or new strategies and were met with resistance from longtime execs and staff.”
One of Lafemina’s first moves was to get rid of the season ticket waitlist that the team had built up into mythical proportions. The franchise had also asserted that it had a home sellout dating back half a century. That streak officially ended when the team drew just 57,013 for its Sept. 16 home opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
“I’m a pretty simple person,” Lafemina told The Post in September. “If you have something to sell, I think the best way to sell it is to tell them it’s for sale. To me, it was no more complicated than that.”
Snyder had nothing but praise for Lafemina when he was first hired.
“Brian has been one of the most highly regarded NFL executives amongst league ownership for many years because of his deep understanding of our business, his focus on partner relationships and his genuine belief that fans must be at the center of every decision we make,” the team’s owner said in a statement. “Brian is coming to Washington with fresh thinking and big ideas to implement, and I have full confidence that with Brian’s addition and with Bruce Allen continuing as team president, the [Skins’] success will continue to grow, both on and off the field.”
The other executives who have reportedly been let go are chief marketing officer Steve Ziff, senior vice president of consumer sales and marketing Jake Bye, and chief commercial officer Todd Kline. All three were hired this year.
“Dan first approached me about a year ago to discuss the possibility of me joining the [‘Skins],” Lafemina said in a statement when he was hired. “During that time, I was able to see firsthand his passion for the [‘Skins], the game of football, and his deep commitment to the Washington, D.C. community. Working with Dan and Bruce to develop a new, dynamic stadium that matches the vibrancy of this organization and its fan base will be an exciting challenge and one of our top priorities.”
Someone else will now inherent that challenge.
Photo by Keith Allison on Flickr, used under the Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license.