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Monday, January 31, 2022

OPINION:

Like Michael Scott stepping out on “The Office” and shouting, “I declare bankruptcy!” — convinced that would wipe out his old debts — Washington Football Team officials will appear on the “Today” show Wednesday morning and declare the new name for the franchise, hoping it will wipe away the bad memories created by owner Dan Snyder.

But when Wednesday’s made-for-television moment of collective back-patting is over, Snyder’s debts, just like Michael Scott’s, will remain.


The man who rang up all those bills — the decades-long toll of dysfunction, destruction and disgust — will still be in charge.

Maybe, for symmetry, they’ll bring in disgraced former “Today” show host Matt Lauer to help with the announcement.

No matter what the franchise’s new alias, people want answers.

One day after the announcement, two members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, already investigating the sexual harassment allegations and workplace abuse charges by former employees of the Washington Redskins — that will be two names ago come Wednesday — will hold a roundtable discussion with some of those former employees to discuss “issues of workplace misconduct and the National Football League’s failure to prevent sexual harassment and verbal abuse within the WFT under the leadership of owner Dan Snyder.”

I’m guessing the “Today” show won’t be broadcasting that.

The three-day festival concludes with a “Park-N-Party” tailgate event at Ghost Town Field that, according to the team, will feature photo opportunities with the old Washington Redskins’ three Super Bowl trophies.

Will they then melt them down and turn them into a statue of a Commander? Will they have a bonfire and burn the heated benches from the Washington Football Team?

This campaign to bury the past is laughable, because of course they mean the past that has driven away much of what was once a strong fan base. They still want to hold on to the past that once made this one of the league’s premier franchises.

When it is convenient, coach Ron Rivera cites the glory days. When he was asked at season’s end about how hard it is to take the next step as a team without solidifying the quarterback position, Rivera gladly spoke of about this franchise “won three Super Bowls with very good quarterbacks. What Coach (Joe) Gibbs did with that group, and not really having a true franchise guy that’s come in and stays here for 8-10 years as your starter, they were able to put guys into place.”

But Rivera can’t wait to put other parts in this franchise’s rear-view mirror.

He said his message to the team when the season ended was about “going forward.”

“Once February 2nd comes and everybody knows what happens is that we most certainly are going to go forward. I don’t want to get pulled backwards. This is a chance for us to step beyond the shadow of what we’ve had to deal with and really start fresh, start new, it’ll be an opportunity,” he said.

Even though he was on the job when the Washington Post story broke detailing employees’ sexual harassment and bullying allegations, Rivera inherited the furor that sparked the Beth Wilkinson probe into sexual harassment allegations and the NFL’s cover-up of those results. But much of the rest they’ve had to deal with — a DEA investigation into Rivera’s hand-picked team trainer, the embarrassing Sean Taylor ceremonial debacle, the benches, the stadium collapsing — has been self-inflicted since Rivera arrived.

“We obviously are changing our name, we’ll have our name out there, but what we’re also doing is new uniforms which are pretty cool,” Rivera said. “I think you guys are going to appreciate them, I think the fans will appreciate them. And it really is to me, an opportunity, it’s been difficult, but at the same time, it’s an opportunity to go forward and that’s what I want. I want us to be able to step into a new light and create a new opportunity for our guys as a football team to go forward.”

It doesn’t work that way. You don’t get to embrace the Lombardi trophies and Joe Gibbs and then beg everyone to forget what has happened since your boss, Mr. Snyder, has owned the team. You take the job — no matter how many times they step out and declare “bankruptcy” — you get it all, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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