District of Deflection: The Washington Football Team is in denial

Andy Livingston

Dan Snyder Redskins

The Washington Football Team's owner, Dan Snyder.

When September rolls around there are a few things that you can count on: the sun comes out just a little but later, the air gets a little bit crisper and the deflection of news coming out of Washington DC reaches a fever pitch. The deflection of answers coming from politicians is understood, it’s a part of the game of politics, but the real work in aversion comes from the Washington Football team.

This season’s session of fending started two weeks ago in the Washington-Detroit pre-season game. Walking local radio controversy/quarterback Robert Griffin III was mauled by the Lions defense. Nevertheless, Griffin—the presumable Day 1 starter with a history of injuries—was hung out to dry by his coaches and kept in the game for three quarters. Never mind this was a preseason game in which most starters play one quarter at most, but he was playing behind a second- and third-string offensive line that was more a theory than it was five players whose job it was to protect their quarterback. Griffin suffered a number of hits in the game and afterwards was ruled to have a sustained concussion—a report that was initially rescinded by the team before it was later confirmed.

In lieu of waiting for the concussion protocol, Washington was—once again—a bit too hasty in trying to protect the image that they are, in fact, a fully functional team in Burgundy and Gold, despite having just watched them eat it in a pre-season game. This has, unfortunately for fans but fortunate for people who dislike the franchise, become a cyclical event that it is recurring at such a high rate it’s hard to keep track.

There’s the controversial team name, which is cool, because it’s supported by Native Americans who actually turned out not to be Native American.

As you can gather, the team isn’t in the greatest of graces with the press, but that didn’t stop team owner Dan Snyder from trying to sway opinion. Snyder, who also owns the local ESPN radio affiliate ESPN 980, saw an opportunity to put one critic of his team… say former Washington Post reporter Jason Reid… a on the station payroll. Strange bed fellows indeed.

And if you can remember long enough, the good ol’ Dan Snyder libel suit, and the ethics in sports media panel when the team’s Public Relations Manager, Tony Wylie, took to the panel and made comparisons between the team and Egyptian protesters during the Arab Spring. Yes, that was a real thing that happened.

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And then earlier this week, things took an even bigger nosedive for the team and their denial. Dianna Russini, an ESPN reporter who had been reporting some of the off-season dysfunction of everyone’s favorite un-named team, was blasted on twitter by the wife of current Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan. Jessica McCloughan accused Russini of trading sexual favors for receiving privileged information.

Tony Wylie came to the rescue again, claiming the account was a fake. That story lasted all of about thirty seconds before Jessica McCloughan, through the team, released a statement that it was her twitter account and apologized for the remarks. But not before rumors surfaced that she was pressured into the apology, and she did believe her husband was having an affair with Russini. This was further supported by an older tweet in which McCloughlin called Russini her husband’s “new side chick.”

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In an era of uncontrollable exposure, it’s easy to see a story make its way halfway around the world before the truth gets its phone out, but the Washington football team is so monumentally bad at damage control. It doesn’t help that so much of the damage is coming from within the franchise itself, but instead of taking any kind of measured response to steer clear of a potential bump in the road, the Snyder team always doubles down first. It has the arrogance and denial of the Nixon administration, where acts are untouchable, despite all reality indicated.

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