At some point, you have to feel sorry for the Redskins ... or, more specifically, for the fans and players cursed with a bumbling, tone-deaf organization that only stops shooting itself in one foot when it takes aim at the other.
The Redskins' latest burgundy-and-gold faceplant came in view of the entire world ... or, at least, that part of the world that's on Twitter. See, the team saw the letter last week signed by 50 U.S. senators urging the NFL to change the name, and, well, the Redskins got hurt by that. So much so that they decided to throw some cannon fodder at Congress in the form of their intensely loyal fans. On Thursday, the team tweeted out this attempt to take a shot at Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), one of the proponents of the name change:
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) May 29, 2014
Taking advantage of hardcore fandom is only one step above kicking puppies. Diehard fans will get into bar fights and end marriages for their team, and there's a subset that will march into battle under whatever insane orders that the team puts forth. Using them for selfish, us-against-them political ends is craven, cowardly, and entirely in line with the way Washington has done business in recent years.
Also, whoever came up with the idea of #RedskinsPride obviously wasn't paying attention to #myNYPD, McDonalds' #McDStories, and other social-media misfires. Anyone can use a hashtag, not just supporters, and, well ... this happened:
#redskinspride a 1/2 empty stadium in an awful location, 23 yrs of on-field futility, a self-absorbed QB with bum knee, but a fine nickname
— JRizzo (@jrizzo575) May 29, 2014
— Bart Johnston (@MBJohnston12) May 29, 2014
— Dani (@xodanix3) May 29, 2014
You get the idea. "What we saw in the immediate aftermath of the (Redskins') tweet was a collective, overwhelming outpouring that was heavily critical of the Washington football team," Reid's digital director, Faiz Shakir, told USA TODAY Sports. "It was an utter failure for them, and I hope it causes the organization to reflect on why that occurred."
Emory Sports Marketing Analytics performed a study of the tweets, and noted that in the first hour after the Redskins' initial tweet, sentiment was roughly 1:1 positive-to-negative. But as the day wore on, that distance increased, to the point that by the evening, sentiment was running 4-to-1 against the Redskins. And that percentage held up even when considering tweets from within the D.C.-Virginia-Maryland area, the Redskins' fanbase territory.
But this latest debacle didn't end there. Apparently the Redskins also tried to bring a real live Native American to Washington for ... well, we won't say "as a prop," but we won't not say that, either. The team reached out to Joseph Holley of the Battle Mountain Band of Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians, according to USA Today Sports. In a statement, Holley, who just happens to be from Reid's home state, declined:
"Someone working for the team called me out of the blue to invite me to a meeting in D.C. with the team and its owners and wanted to know what I thought of the team name," Holley said. "They did not tell me what the meeting was about, what I would be doing or who else was invited and wanted my answer in just a few hours. My answer was no. I've got responsibilities to my community and members here at home and can't be running off to D.C. at a moment's notice to meet with a football team to do who knows what."
This is the latest in a continuing series of public relations misfires from the Redskins. Whether it's suing their own fans, suing a journalist who dared to write a non-sanitized story about owner Daniel Snyder, creating a foundation that's transparently designed to deflect criticism, or issuing a cease-and-desist order to a former Redskins player for calling himself a Redskins player, the team has consistently made the wrong decision or fumbled when it made the right one. And after a 3-13 season in which the team fell apart on the field as well as off it, the Redskins can't even hide behind a "winning-solves-everything" mantra.
Bowing to the whims of public opinion isn't necessarily a sound way to run a business, but as the Redskins have shown, completely disregarding one's public image is far, far worse.