The Dan Snyder era of Washington football has not been the most glorious, nor has it seen the wisest personnel decisions in the history of our storied local franchise. But it turns out the team owner/destroyer-in-chief of fans’ playoff fantasies doesn’t appear to have significantly better taste in who he hires off the field, either.
ThinkProgress has a long report today on “the epic battle to save the most offensive team name in professional sports,” which runs through the history of the actual name of the team we at Washington City Paper call the Washington Pigskins. It’s a history that includes William “Lone Star” Dietz, the team’s second-ever coach, who was the inspiration for changing its name from the Boston Braves to the Boston [dated • offensive]s in 1933, also the year the team stopped sharing a stadium with Major League Baseball’s Boston Braves. Dietz may not even have had any Native American ancestors, but then-team-owner (and noted, dedicated racist) George Preston Marshall decided the name was a tribute to the coach.
Every owner since then has defended the name—perhaps understandably, as the team’s extremely valuable brand is widely recognized, and why worry about who’s offended if you can make a buck or 1.6 billion of them? ThinkProgress, though, obtained some internal emails from the folks advising the current owner on how to spin the name in the face of mounting criticism.
A quick glance at the people involved in the effort raises the possibility that Snyder is just a very, very well-thought-out troll.
How else to explain a roster of external advisors that includes the following?
- Ari Fleischer, the chief White House spokesman early in the George W. Bush administration, who made the public case for a completely unnecessary war
- Lanny Davis, who has also provided strategic wisdom to the dictatorial likes of Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema and Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo, which does, at least, make his work on Snyder’s behalf look a little better
- Frank Luntz, who helped write the GOP’s 1994 “Contract With America” and then went on to craft the notion that health care reform was a “government takeover“
- George Allen, last seen ending his own once-promising political career by using a racial slur to describe his opponent’s staffer. Allen’s brother is Pigskins General Manager Bruce Allen; it’s good to see family helping family.
Put it all together—the team of “all-star villains,” as New York‘s Jon Chait put it, the $7 million paid to Mike Shanahan not to coach, the Jim Zorns, the Albert Haynesworths, not to mention the lawsuits and the, uh, lawsuits—and it all becomes clear. Snyder is engaged in a years-long project to create outrage, to irritate fans and non-fans alike, to drive everyone who encounters him, his team, or its $50 parking fees completely batty.
Either that, or he really is as clueless as he looks. As a lifelong fan of the team, I’m hoping for the former.
Illustration by @Darth