Friday, November 6, 2009

Thank You, John Riggins.

The latest chapter in the continuing soap opera that is the Washington Redskins pits Hall of Fame running back John Riggins against his former team, and specifically against owner Dan Snyder.  Riggins told Showtime's "Inside the NFL" that Snyder "is a bad guy" and that his "heart is dark".

Harsh words.  It's never easy to see anyone outside of Adolf Hitler to be called essentially evil - especially when you're discussing an entertainment product.  Football is a pastime... a luxury. Snyder is not a political dictator.  He owns a football team, and he hasn't broken any laws, as far as I can tell. 

But still, as a Redskins fan, I am heartened by Riggo's words - essentially because it ensures that the frustration of Redskins fans are being heard and felt in Ashburn.  It's bad enough that the Redskins stink on the field, but it's even worse that we rarely receive any sense of feedback from the team's management.  Dan Snyder simply does not acknowledge the fans who buy Redskins merchandise,  fill the seats at Fed Ex Field and watch his team on television.  John Riggins' voice is too big to ignore, and he knows that. 

And now,  the drama continues.  Assistant head coach Greg Blache showed up in the press room at Redskins Park yesterday and spent four minutes defending Dan Snyder and attacking Riggins for his comments.  You can see the video and read a transcript of those comments here.  Blache praised Dan Snyder for being a kind human being, and as someone who has done plenty of good deeds for Blache personally. 

I respect Blache for speaking up, but I don't think he's helping the boss' cause.  First of all, Blache is never ever going to win over Redskin Nation by attacking John Riggins.  That was a losing battle from the moment Blache opened his mouth. Blache's comments also failed to address many issues that directly relate to fans - from restricting tailgating, to lawsuits against season ticket holders, to banning fans from bringing signs to games, to barring TV stations from interviewing fans on Fed Ex Field property.   The Redskins have an awful relationship with their customers, and Blache's comments addressed none of that. 

Not that they should have.  It's not Blache's job to address the way the team does business off the field - But considering that Blache is the only person from the Redskins' management to speak out, his comments put a spotlight on the team's biggest public relations problem - a glaring lack of communications skills.

In speaking out, Blache broke his own self-imposed media blackout.  He decided a month ago that he was not going to speak with the media for the rest of the season - something that senior coaches are not allowed to do under NFL policy.  In fact, the Redskins had to get a waiver from the league to accomodate Blache. 

When Blache did speak with the media, he did not take any questions from reporters - a move that only served to weaken his statement.  If Blache's words can't stand up to the scrutiny of a few questions from the media, how valuable can they be? 

I hope Riggins continues to speak out.  At least to this Redskins fan, his words speak louder than the team's actions.

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