Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fascism in Football: A Letter to the Washington Post

Did you know that in Washington DC, the center of the free world, a virtual state-run radio station is thriving? As a die-hard Washington Redskins fan and season ticket holder, I have grown deeply concerned with the latest expansion of the Washington Redskins marketing and PR machine. The newest twist to this saga is Daniel Snyder’s takeover of Sportstalk 980, thus merging Snyder’s previously held Triple-X ESPN Radio and Sportstalk 980 into one mega sports station.

Despite his promise to keep the station’s Redskins reporting objective, Snyder has taken full control of all Redskins-related messaging, and has begun to abuse his power. By using the airwaves, the Redskins have already suppressed dissent and stifled free speech - bullying other media members into speaking the same message or risk the threat of being publicly embarrassed, censured and delegitimized.

I happened to have been tuning into Redskins Radio on Monday morning when Redskins Executive Vice President Vinny Cerrato, host of “Inside the Red Zone,” publicly denounced the Washington Post’s Jason LaCanfora and accused him of undermining the Redskins organization and their fans by filing a “tampering” complaint to the NFL league office. Simply, Cerrato told listeners that LaCanfora tattle-tailed on the Redskins with hopes of having the team penalized with fines and lost draft picks. Listening to Cerrato’s on-air diatribe, I could only help but think of the fascist, free speech stymieing tactics used by state-run radio stations in totalitarian countries.

By inquiring with the NFL about the ramifications of Cerrato hosting a radio talk show, something unprecedented in NFL circles, LaCanfora was simply doing his job as a reporter. LaCanfora reports on the Redskins, both positively and negatively, and this was a case of him asking the right questions. For Cerrato to use the airwaves to attack and bully LaCanfora, and even worse, to try to strike fear in loyal Redskins fans that a beat reporter committed treason, was analogous to government-run media’s suppression of opposition voices in Castro’s Cuba or Kim Jong’s North Korea.

Daniel Snyder, who made his millions in marketing, has long been obsessed with his personal image and the Redskins brand – this obsession can be directly correlated to Snyder’s immature spending habits, rash decision-making, and his team’s lack of success over the last decade. Instead of looking to change his personal habits and that of his team’s front office, Snyder has instead opted to seize control of those who report on it. In a nation where freedom of speech and freedom of the press are two of our most valued assets, Snyder’s recent actions must be condemned.

I squirm in fear of what Snyder’s next step could be. Is it possible that the Redskins will confiscate my three season tickets for writing this letter? At this point, nothing would surprise me.

Scott Zakheim
Washington DC
Redskins Season Ticket Holder Since 2004

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