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Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, who kept her job after botching descriptions of the Jack Abramoff scandal two years ago, devoted much of her latest column to somebody else whose ability to stay employed mystifies the locals: Redskins personnel guru Vinny Cerrato.
Seems Cerrato’s feelings were wounded by Skins blogger Jason La Canfora’s contest to come up with a “Cerrato-tinged nickname” for a fictional football team. Many of the entries focused not on Cerrato’s performance, but his Italian-ness.
From Howell’s piece:
Readers posted comments: variations of “Veni, vidi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”), leading to Vinny’s Conquerors, Vinny Vidi Vicis. Others included Vinny’s Valhalla/Valkyries/Vanguards, Cerrato’s Conquerors, Cerrato’s Cyclones, Vinnie’s Ninnies, Vinsanity and Vinny the Chin.
Cerrato explained his wounds to Howell: “To me, anytime you’re dealing with a person’s name and nationality and heritage, it’s not playful.”
And Cerrato’s hurt was backed up by John Salamone, the national executive director of the National Italian American Foundation, who said the ethnic nicknames “reinforce a negative and harmful stereotype of Italian Americans” and encourage “stereotypes that clearly were clear Mafia references.”
Well, I, too, devoted my last Cheap Seats column to Cerrato. While looking into Vinny’s pre-Redskins career, I found a little-known line in his resume: movie star.
Seems Cerrato, a few years removed from duties signing Christmas cards for Lou Holtz at Notre Dame (seriously!), was part of the cast of a 1993 feature film called “Kindergarten Ninja.” (Seriously!)
“Kindergarten Ninja” tells some sort of tale about drug gangs.
In his screen debut, Cerrato played a character called, ahem, “Antonelli.”
Luckily for Dan Snyder, the film bombed and ended Vinny’s movie career. And at some point since, Antonelli —- er, Cerrato —- developed an aversion to ethnic stereotyping. As he says, it’s just not “playful.”
Guess all those years of working for a team called the Redskins can change a guy…