I wrote the following in my Nov. 30 Washington Times column:
“The Lafemina-Redskins goodwill era came to an end Tuesday afternoon with the news that the organization he was brought in, along with a team of other suits, to save had yet again committed a self-destructive crime by picking up Reuben Foster, the former first-round pick who had been cut by the San Francisco 49ers after spending Saturday night in jail in Tampa, Florida, following his third arrest in 12 months.
I guess I should have bet the under.
The Christmas purge of Redskins chief operating officer Brian Lafemina and his band of suits — chief marketing officer Steve Ziff, senior vice president of sales and marketing Jake Bye and chief commercial officer Todd Kline — took far less time than I predicted a month ago.
But make no mistake, it was the Foster acquisition that was the tipping point that sped up the exit of the group of imported executives brought in last summer to save this franchise from a dwindling and angry fan base that isn’t coming to watch them at Ghost Town Field and isn’t watching them on television.
Lafemina went to owner Dan Snyder and team president Bruce Allen with direct feedback from corporate ticketholders upset with Foster signing, according to sources. They lost that battle — and the war.
You can’t bring in a small army of executives — led by Lafemina, a former high-ranking and respected NFL league executive — to change the image and perception of this troubled franchise and then bring an accused woman beater to an organization that, among other things, was ground zero for the NFL’s cheerleader sexploitation scandal.
Foster’s guilt or innocence made no difference. It was a decision that insulted and ignored the attempts by Lafemina and company to try to “do the right thing” every day for 1,000 days, as he put it.
That’s not the way either Snyder or Allen have ever done business, and the idea either could change was doomed from the start — from the moment Lafemina met with reporters in a conference room at Redskins Park last summer and talked about the team coming clean about the fraudulent season-ticket waiting list and the position that the team was a “sleeping giant.”
I was in the room at the time, and I thought at any moment, Allen would push a button and the whole floor would collapse and everyone disappear forever.
He did just that, eventually.
He just waited until several days before Christmas. Happy holidays.
Type the words “Redskins” and “embarrassment” into Google, and nearly 300,000 results come up. Shame is nearly a synonym for Redskins.
Lafemina and his business cronies were brought in to change that. To do so would have required years of work, probably more than the 1,000 days that Lafemina had latched on to as a slogan, and even then, it would have required a miracle — like Snyder undergoing some sort of dramatic personality change.
Lafemina is a smart guy, and he had to see the landscape coming in, as did the others — which makes me wonder what role, if any, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who was Lafemina’s former boss, had in the arrival of the new business warriors at Redskins Park?
Yes, there was the hiring of coaches like Joe Gibbs and Marty Schottenheimer and other personnel moves that were important and dramatic.
But to make such a drastic change on the business side goes right to the heart of what Snyder was supposedly bringing to the table all these years. Sure, he’s not a football guy, we were told. But he is a smart, successful businessman.
Hiring Lafemina and company essentially called all that into question.
Who made that decision?
Did Snyder really look at himself in the mirror one morning and say, “I need help?”
Or did Goodell and the league gently, or not so gently, recommend that Snyder bring Lafemina and his colleagues on board because the NFL was concerned about how low one of their once-premiere franchises had sunk?
If that is the case, did Lafemina think he would be protected by the league?
It’s happened before. The late NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle recommended to New York Giants owners that they hire George Young, the former Miami Dolphins player personnel director who was working for Rozelle at the time, as their general manager when a family feud has turned the Giants into a laughingstock in the business.
The Giants went on to win two Super Bowls under Young’s direction.
If that happened, what, if any, repercussions will there be from the league for the Lafemina purge?
I think Snyder and Allen told everyone that they don’t care. They don’t care what the league thinks, they don’t care what the fans think, they don’t care what the sponsors think — they just don’t care. Those people don’t exist in the world of Snyder and Allen — a small, dark universe that is destroying itself like a cosmic black hole.
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