On the white board in the office of Washington Redskins chief operating officer Brian Lafemina, you could find these words: “We have to do the right thing for 1,000 days and people are going to believe us.”
Well, at least this was on Lafemina’s white board at one time.
Now? Maybe this: “Please forward my mail.”
The LafeminaRedskins good will 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.
The acquisition of Foster, who was immediately put on the NFL commissioner’s exempt list and won’t likely play a down for the Redskins this season while these latest domestic violence accusations are sorted out legally, damages everything that Lafemina and the other execs brought in this summer have been trying to do — save this franchise.
As long as Dan Snyder owns the team, it’s beyond salvation.
We don’t know who or how this decision was made within the organization. There are reports that it was a debated, divided decision, but senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams went on Team 980 radio Thursday and declared everyone in the room was on board with the signing of the NFL’s new poster child for domestic violence.
If Lafemina was in that room, he was bound and gagged.
This is the 21st century, and when you have an organization that has suffered so much credibility and perception damage as the Redskins have now for decades — and you hire someone from the league office to come here and change that — you don’t make a so-called “football decision” like attaching yourself to Foster without the input of the person charged with restoring credibility involved in that decision.
Does the notion of considering public relations in a football decision seem ridiculous to you? Do you really think the trade for quarterback Alex Smith, following the exit of Kirk Cousins, was purely a football decision?
Snyder and his team president, Bruce Allen, the Prince of Darkness, either didn’t include Lafemina or chose to ignore him. But make no mistake about it — you don’t make a move like this, one that no other team in the league was willing to make, particularly so quickly after Foster was behind bars, and not include the executive who was brought in to change the perception that has buried this football team.
Then again, this was bound to happen. Lafemina, who also has the title of president of business operations, spoke of things like transparency when he first met with reporters — a concept certainly not shared by Snyder and Allen. Did anyone really think that the two most powerful men in the organization were suddenly going to change the way they do business?
When Lafemina talked about his 1,000 day message in an interview with 106.7 The Fan, he said, “that’s what all of us here at Redskins Park, all of us on the business side, all of us on the football side, are trying to do. Come here every day, do honest work, think about our fans first, think about our marketplace first and then everyone is going to say I don’t even remember when we didn’t have great credibility.”
Honest work. Credibility. Any feeble attempts by Lafemina and company to repair either went down the tubes with the Foster claim, and the organization’s clumsy handling of it since — the failure of either Snyder or Allen speaking publicly about the signing, leaving their coach, Jay Gruden, to ask limited questions about it Wednesday afternoon. He had no real answers.
It was a cowardly act for both Snyder and Allen to hide behind the statement the team issued, and then send Williams out to take the heat. It was Williams whose name was attached to the statement, and then he looked foolish and worse, deceitful, when he tried to explain how Gruden claimed the team consulted Foster’s former Alabama teammates on the Redskins about Foster’s character, yet reporters could not find one player in the Redskins locker room who said they spoke to anyone in the front office about their former teammate.
“It wasn’t like we’ve got to talk to all five,” he said. “The two that we did talk to know him very well. Not that that makes the decision on whether we make the move or not. We’re just trying to get some insight into the young man.”
Why would anyone believe any of that?
Then Williams descended into a gutter that would have made Lafemina’s head spin when he said, “We’ve got people who are in high, high, high, high places that have done far worse, and if you look at it realistically, they’re still up there. This is small potatoes (compared to) a lot of things out there.”
There are no words to describe how ill-advised those comments were.
Williams is a franchise icon, the great quarterback who led the team to the Super Bowl XXII. His status is going to be damaged, perhaps severely, working for these cowards, but, then again, Redskins Park is the elephant graveyard of the NFL, where careers and reputations come to die.
Foster’s guilt or innocence — or how he could possibly help this team at linebacker someday — has no bearing on how bad a business decision this was. You have a core group of fans who won’t care about anything but the football aspect of the decision. Those are the ones left at Ghost Town Stadium. You can’t survive on that core. You need the casual fan to fill the empty seats at the stadium, and now they have one more reason to stay away — disgust. The Foster signing controversy made all three of the network nightly news programs Wednesday night.
The Redskins were one franchise that could not afford to bring in Foster, who is accused of domestic violence — not when just several months ago, the Redskins were ground zero in the NFL’s cheerleading sexploitation scandal.
More than three years ago, at the NFL meetings, a group of spouses that included the wives of Snyder, Allen and Gruden took part in a community event aimed at assisting those directly affected by domestic violence.
“First and foremost, all of this affects all of the women that are here, which rolls into us as role models for our families, and then for our teams and our communities,” Tanya Snyder said of domestic violence. “So we are here because we’re inspired and we certainly want to do everything we can to give back and to make a difference.”
How can she look her husband in the eye after this?
⦁ You can hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and also on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.
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