Watchdog Blog

Barry Sussman: In defense of Gene Weingarten and Daniel Snyder

Posted at 5:19 pm, February 3rd, 2011
Barry Sussman Mug

I don’t like to criticize any Nieman Fellows but one of them, Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, a 1988 Fellow, is just asking for it. In an open letter to Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, Gene said he supports Snyder fully in a suit he filed against the Washingon City Paper.

Come on, Gene, don’t you know this suit could be very costly to the City Paper to defend? An assault on the First Amendment? And how can you defend Snyder? What’s to like about him?

On the other hand, maybe I shouldn’t be critical of Gene over this. After all, everybody in Washington has been dumping on Snyder for years. It takes guts to defend him. What Gene is doing is courageous. I should have seen that right off the bat. So I take back my criticism altogether, and I compliment him for siding with the underdog, even if he happens to be a rich club owner.

And as a further tribute to Gene, it’s nice to see that he goes all out, not holding back at all. In his open letter to Snyder he writes, among other things:

“I understand why you were upset by this article. By unkindly focusing only on the negative aspect of your ownership, the author, Dave McKenna, is suggesting that you are an avaricious, imperious, conscienceless plutocrat with callous contempt for the fans; a man whose Napoleonic, pouter-pigeon swagger conceals a doofus-like understanding of the game and whose pernicious, autocratic meddling has consigned the team to perpetual mediocrity and its players and coaches to a perennial state of harrowing anxiety, all of this starting virtually from the moment you arrived and continuing to this very minute.

“This could cause a casual reader to conclude you are the most malign and incompetent owner in the history of organized sports, which is completely unfair.”

Gene is absolutely right to defend Snyder like this. And in a similar tone, I’d like to be included as a character witness myself, speaking from personal experience.

What I’d say is that while it’s true that some bad things may happen, it’s not always the owner’s fault. For example, after the Redskins-Giants game in January many of us were stuck in the FedEx field parking lot an hour and a half or longer even though we had rushed to get to our car. I don’t think any reasonable person would blame that on the owner, do you? Surely, it’s not his fault. He might not even know there is a parking lot issue. After all, the Redskins have only been playing in FedEx since 1997. And anyway, as Snyder could point out, not all the cars had to wait an hour and a half.

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