Friday, September 4, 2020

Lights Please

 As published in The County Times (, July 2020

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Bi-weekly status check: it has been 134 days since the NBA shut down, but its Orlando bubble re-start begins July 30.  MLB’s opening day is a week early earlier – July 23, the day this screed goes to press.  The NFL is charging along, business as usual, toward a full season in the fall.  Meanwhile, college football is gradually scaling back its pending season.  I suppose it is harder on the conscience to expose amateur athletes lacking union representation to a potentially vicious pathogen than it is to nudge well-compensated professional athletes into the viral playground of close contact and heavy breathing.  Our dual realities continue to coexist.  Nevertheless, let us hope – with prayers, rabbit feet, crossed fingers, horseshoes, four-leaf clovers and whatever other good luck sorcery you subscribed to - that this all goes well. 

No amount of luck can overcome the organizational buffoonery of D.C.’s now nameless football team.  As if a begrudging re-brand wasn’t embarrassing enough, The Washington Post came off the top rope with a lethal finishing move last week: a shocking piece by Will Hobson and Liz Clarke alleging long-term and uncontrolled sexual and verbal harassment of female employees by male co-workers.  The timeline for the allegations was lengthy – 2006 to 2019 – the number of sources citing misconduct was startling – 15 former female staff members – and several high-ranking members of the organization were involved, including Larry Michael, the team’s suddenly retired radio voice, and Alex Santos, the now former director of pro personnel.

The Post’s piece reads like something from 1960s corporate America or a documentary on outrageous fraternity behavior.  The women reported salacious texts, inappropriate touching, men on lower floors looking up glass staircases as women descended, requests that female employees wear tighter clothes and office pools over whether female colleagues had had breast augmentation. 

How is this possible???  What kind of clown show is Dan Snyder running?  I thought this team was just awful on the field; it is worse off of it.  If the world of professional sports was a municipality, the Washington football club would be the sewer.  I applaud Sean McVay, Kirk Cousins, Kyle Shanahan, Trent Williams and every other player or coach who escaped this awful institution with their dignity and careers intact. 

Three questions – ones that often apply in life’s ethical and moral crises – will decide Snyder’s future as owner: what did he know, when did he know it and what did he do about it?  At best he truly didn’t have a clue.  If that’s the case, he is stunningly incompetent.  If he had even a hint something was up, then he’s complicit and should be forced to sell the team and live with the stain of this sordid episode on his already dreadful reputation.  So which is it?  The King of Incompetence or The Complicit CEO.  Place your bets.  I know where I’m laying my chips.

In addition to the women who courageously shared their stories, the other power-player in this is The Washington Post.  Hobson and Clarke gave 15 women the outlet they never had within Snyder’s perverse organization.  Dogged, relentless journalism exposed this story.  The recently mocked, maligned and vilified free press – an “enemy of the state” some have said - put the spotlight on a corrupt boys club that had existed in darkness for over a decade. 

If you doubt the importance of a free press, watch the movie “Spotlight” or “All the President’s Men”.  Or consider these words from late Senator John McCain, “Journalists play a major role in the promotion and protection of democracy and our unalienable rights, and they must be able to do their jobs freely.”  Or these from then outgoing President Barack Obama when urged the press to maintain its tenacity, “ do the hard work of getting to the bottom of stories…and to push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves and to push this country to be the best version of itself.”  Or better yet, just pull up The Washington Post’s online addition and read the heading: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” 

Today Dan Snyder is staring into a blinding light.

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