The League

Michael Kun

Michael Kun

Co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia. He is also the author of six other books and is a practicing attorney.

About Fear, Not Free Speech


Let's get one thing straight up front. Dan Snyder's no-banner edict isn't a First Amendment issue. The First Amendment applies to governmental restrictions on speech. It has nothing to do with private restrictions. If you think the First Amendment allows you to say whatever you want whenever you want, I am afraid you are mistaken.

Your parents can restrict what you say. Your employer can restrict what you say. A business owner can restrict what you say. McDonald's doesn't have to allow you to come into their restaurants with a megaphone telling everyone their burgers stink. They can and will toss you out onto the sidewalk.

So, can Dan Snyder prevent you from coming into his place of business and saying things he doesn't want you to say? Sure. If he wanted to, he could toss out every last fan who booed the Redskins. And, if he did, he'd be left with an empty stadium.

By banning signs that criticize the Redskins, Dan Snyder isn't doing anything illegal. He's just being a bad businessman. He's being foolish. He's showing that the pressure has gotten to him. And, for someone in his position, that's dangerous.

The person at the top is supposed to be unflappable. In fact, he or she needs to be unflappable. Remember what happened in grade school when kids were teased? The ones who ignored it usually saw it end soon. The ones who showed they were upset endured more teasing.

By letting everyone know that the criticism is bothering him, and foolishly trying to quash that criticism, Snyder has invited more criticism, not less. Maybe he can stop fans from bringing disparaging signs into the stadium. But, realistically, he can't stop the chants and boos, which will now grow louder and uglier. And he can't stop the criticism in the papers, and on the radio, and at the water cooler, which will now take on ever harsher colors.

In fact, he's given everyone something else to complain about. But it's more than that, isn't it? Like it or not, Dan Snyder is the face of the Redskins franchise. He has made it that way. Unlike other owners who are content to remain behind the scenes, Dan Snyder has put himself out front. Which is fine. You or I may well have done the same thing if we were so fortunate to buy an NFL team. But, once you do that, you can't hide.

By showing the fans that they can upset him, and have upset him, Snyder has shown weakness, and he has essentially taken up arms against the very people whose support he needs not just now, but into the future. In so doing, Snyder may have set in motion a chain of events that will force him to sell the team at some point. He showed weakness, which someone in his position generally cannot do without that weakness being exploited.

The fans now know that he cannot take their criticism. And they will never forget it. And they will use that whenever they want. There is a way out for Snyder, a way to save face, but he needs to act swiftly. It's the way championed by Alex Baldwin's character, Jack Donaghy, in last week's episode of 30 Rock: to get out of the crevasse, Snyder must go down, not up. To bolster his standing, he needs to humble himself. He needs to say, "I know you're frustrated. Well, I am, too. And I made a short-sighted decision as a result. I'm sorry for that, and I want to withdraw that decision immediately.

"If you want to bring signs to the stadium, do so. If you want to boo, do so. I hope you won't. I hope you'll cheer us on. I hope you'll enjoy seeing some of the things we're doing so that when we are playing championship football again, next year or the year after, you'll be able to say you stuck with us through the hard times."
"And I have I request to make of you. If you bring signs, or if you boo, direct it at me. Don't direct it at the coaches or players, because I can tell you that they're doing everything they can, and every one of them wants nothing more than to make you proud."

That's what a strong leader would do. A strong leader would invite criticism, not try to quash it, because a strong leader can withstand criticism. A strong leader takes the pressure off his subordinates, often by taking on that pressure himself.

Will Snyder do this? I don't know. But I'll tell you this: if he did, I'd have to strongly consider becoming a Redskins fan.

By Michael Kun  |  October 30, 2009; 11:32 AM ET  | Category:  Washington Redskins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Let's turn FedEx into a giant anti-Snyder sign:

Posted by: A1232 | October 30, 2009 2:08 PM

Carrying signs critical of Snyder into the stadium is the only way a 'Skins fan can enjoy the game. If Dan were a good businessman he would be encouraging fans to buy a ticket and come in with demonstrations of their protests.
If "Skins fans knew anything about football (besides the difference between winning and losing a game) they'd be protesting Zorn though.

Posted by: rpatoh | October 31, 2009 10:34 AM

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