The League

Michael Wilbon
Columnist

Michael Wilbon

Washington Post sports reporter and ESPN personality

Censorship at FedEx

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You know what's a whole lot worse than losing football games? Trying to bully people into silence because they object to your business practices, the product itself, or the way you treat them as consumers.

Clearly, the Washington Redskins didn't learn a damn thing from being called out for suing season ticket holders who could no longer afford seats in the worst recession in decades. That should have embarrassed them into cleaning up their act. But management, like the product on the field, has gone from bad to worse. Censorship seems to be the order of the day now.

Put up a sign criticizing Dan Snyder at FedEx Field -- and there were plenty Monday night -- and you run the risk of being told to take it down ... if you're allowed to stay at all. Don't get me wrong, any sign that contains any vulgar words or images should be removed as well as the person responsible for it. No exceptions. If the club wants to pull that person's ticket, so be it.

But "Fire Dan Snyder" placards don't meet that criterion. And by banning television interviews of tailgating Redskins fans on "Redskins property," who are team officials supposed to silence -- the team's fans or the media? The Redskins undoubtedly will hide behind some sort of policy statement when the proper fix there is simple: Change the dumb policy. Does Snyder think this is going to make folks around town stop talking about either the team's incompetence or the fact that an increasing number of people hold him (justifiably) responsible?

We appear to be at the point where Snyder and/or others in his charge are angry. They'll show Washington. They'll show anybody who doesn't get in line. They'll charge among the highest prices in the league, bring you into the worst gameday pro football experience in America, overcharge you for it, then tell you to enjoy it -- or damn well act like it. Take on Snyder, and Redskins management will take you out.

Could a club think any less of the people who support it than this censorship suggests? Most businesses live by the motto "The consumer is always right." The Redskins motto apparently is "The consumer will take what we give 'em, because we've got a million suckers on a waiting list."

A lot of longtime Redskins season ticket holders have become former Redskins ticket holders. Still more talk about voting with their pocketbooks, which is usually a political-style revolt. I've been a complete skeptic about this campaign because there is a long enough waiting list and enough people who'll endure any level of insult to just get into the door.

But there's something about telling people to take down these signs and not talk about their displeasure publicly which has struck a raw nerve. People who weren't especially motivated to object to the hideous parking arrangements or the cheesy nature of the gameday suddenly have crossed over and joined people who were openly angry already.

The bye week could have been a break that could have served as a cooling off period for everyone. But Redskins management has instead found another way to offend people. Perhaps the people telling everybody to shut up didn't accurately assess the increasing intensity of this revolt.

By Michael Wilbon  |  October 30, 2009; 8:45 AM ET  | Category:  Washington Redskins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Snyder Has Gone Too Far | Next: His House, His Rules

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The irony, or perhaps hypocrisy, of this article is that its author, Michael Wilbon, praised the tenants of the private sector and free markets that kept Rush Limbaugh out of NFL team ownership (see "Limbaugh's Message Made Him Rich -- And Cost Him", Washington Post, Oct. 16, 2009).

However, just 14 days later, Mr. Wilbon is demonstrating why liberals like himself have no business dictating how private industry should operate, when he openly contradicts himself on free market standards: The NFL can penalize Rush Limbaugh for his words, which as a private entity they are more than entitled to do... but god forbid owners apply the same standard to fans on their private property, where ownership sets the rules.

This is just another example of why Michael Wilbon, and leftists like him, need to keep their meat hooks out of private industry.

Posted by: JustSomeDude | October 30, 2009 1:10 PM

The irony is that he is a turd in a suit. Wilbon get a real job!

Posted by: cashbo22 | October 30, 2009 2:23 PM

For JustSomeDude--the real point is not that Snyder is within his rights to do what he did, it's that no other owner in the NFL--with the possible exception of the late, unlamented Bob Irsay--would be this thin skinned and tin eared. Fans have for decades now worn paper bags over their heads when they go to games in protest of a team's continual poor performance, but I know of no other owner who attempted to ban such a demonstration. Snyder, for god's sake, used to be in the marketing business. You would think he would have the sense to not act like Kim Jong Il, but I guess he doesn't.

Posted by: jhpurdy | October 30, 2009 3:01 PM

As usual, Amen Mr Wilbon,
My father and I have been season ticket holders for 16 seats since RFK was built in 1961. Great seats in the lower section- us family and friends- real community with the section- And the 80s were the greatest.

Two years ago after my father died, we were all a week late paying the balance due; Snyder's Management revoked all the tickets. Coldy saying to read policy. I raised a fuss; bit on the blogsphere, writer Dave Ziron advised me and local ABC and NBC got back to me. , For some reason they didn't think it was juicy enough to run. But the media phonecalls to Management pressured them to get back to me offering four seats back in obstructed view. Hail to the ....? Really fed up- hard to be a fan- this ain't our fathers' Washington Football Team.

After my father

Posted by: KMF1 | October 31, 2009 7:33 AM

Join the plan to turn FedEx Field itself into a sign Snyder can't ban:

http://fire-snyder-sign.blogspot.com/

Posted by: A1232 | October 31, 2009 8:45 PM

Here is a column I did about the situation:

http://media.www.dennews.com/media/storage/paper309/news/2009/11/05/Opinions/Column.Redskins.Management.sign.Off-3822989.shtml

Posted by: rtbajek | November 5, 2009 3:57 PM

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