Allen tight­ens his stran­gle­hold on Red­skins

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wed­nes­day af­ter­noons and Satur­day and Sun­day morn­ings and on the Kevin Shee­han Show pod­cast ev­ery Tues­day and Thurs­day.

You want to know how hard Brian Lafem­ina’s job was as the Washington Red­skins pres­i­dent of busi­ness op­er­a­tions, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer and franchise sav­ior?

This is how hard it was. Lafem­ina and his newly im­ported busi­ness and mar­ket­ing team, brought in by owner Dan Sny­der to stop the bleed­ing at the box of­fice and change the toxic nar­ra­tive that had come to de­fine the Red­skins, had an idea for a mar­ket­ing cam­paign — seem­ingly a sim­ple cam­paign with a catchy phase. “We Hail.” It was just a small part of the long-term plan by Lafem­ina and his de­parted team of ex­ec­u­tives — chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer Steve Ziff, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of sales and mar­ket­ing Jake Bye and chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer Todd Kline — to make the Red­skins mat­ter again.

They used it early in the sea­son as part of their sales pitch to unite a frac­tured and dam­aged fan base, a con­nec­tion to the Red­skins song, “Hail to the Red­skins.”

They put it on signs in­side FedEx Field. They used it in video board mes­sages and tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials. They used it in bur­gundy and gold tow­els to wave.

One ad showed var­i­ous Red­skins — Josh Nor­man, Alex Smith, Chris Thomp­son and oth­ers — mak­ing big plays and cel­e­brat­ing on the field, with dra­matic mu­sic in the back­ground and shots of happy fans at FedEx Field, end­ing with an Adrian Peter­son score and a Larry Michael, “It’s a Red­skins touch­down” call.

One fan could be seen hold­ing up a “We Hail” towel, and the ad fin­ishes with the words, “We Hail,” with “game­days” un­der it, pro­mot­ing the Sept. 23 game at FedEx Field against the Green Bay Pack­ers.

Well, “We Hail,” didn’t last long.

THOM LOVERRO

Ac­cord­ing to sources, Sny­der was an­gry about the cam­paign and or­dered it halted. Why? He be­lieved it was too close to the words “Sieg Heil,” sources said.

Yes, that’s right — the chant that would be heard at ral­lies in Nazi Ger­many (Sieg Heil, ac­cord­ing to the Ger­man-English trans­la­tion, does roughly mean “Hail Vic­tory,” one of the lines in the Red­skins’ team song).

And with that, team pres­i­dent Bruce Allen had an­other knife to stick in the back of Lafem­ina.

The news emerged late last week that Allen, de­spite a grow­ing so­cial me­dia cam­paign de­mand­ing the be­leagued Red­skins boss be fired, was not go­ing any­where. My pod­cast part­ner, Kevin Shee­han, first broke the news on The Kevin Shee­han Show pod­cast Fri­day morn­ing, and the Washington Post fol­lowed with a quote from Tony Wylie, Red­skins se­nior vice pres­i­dent for com­mu­ni­ca­tions, who, when asked about Allen’s sta­tus, replied, “There was never any ques­tion about this. Of course he’s com­ing back.”

Wylie told me the team had no com­ment on the “We Hail” cam­paign or Allen’s role in Lafem­ina’s de­par­ture.

Yes, of course Allen is com­ing back. He didn’t drive Lafem­ina and his team from the build­ing only to sur­ren­der power.

Not only is Allen, who has be­come the ob­ject of the wrath of an an­gry Red­skins fan base, stay­ing on as team pres­i­dent in charge of foot­ball op­er­a­tions, but he is tak­ing over the busi­ness side as well — the job that Lafem­ina had.

Allen drank Lafem­ina’s milk shake. As I’ve writ­ten be­fore, I al­ways be­lieved Lafem­ina, a for­mer NFL ex­ec­u­tive who was hired in May, and his crew were not long for Red­skins Park, though I thought they might last longer than seven months, forced out a few days be­fore Christ­mas. Lafem­ina spoke about things like hon­esty and trans­parency — a for­eign lan­guage to Allen, and, for that mat­ter, to Sny­der as well.

The owner bought into Lafem­ina’s plan early, and was told that things would get worse be­fore they would get bet­ter, sources said.

That opened the door for Allen to en­gi­neer a cam­paign against Lafem­ina, and with each small crowd at FedEx Field and the trans­parency em­braced by the new busi­ness team that led to a nar­ra­tive of a on­ce­proud franchise in trou­ble — which, of course, was the truth — Allen used those sto­ries and images to un­der­mine Lafem­ina ev­ery chance he got, sources said.

Soon, Sny­der soured on Lafem­ina and his team. All of this came to a head at the end of Novem­ber with the team claim­ing Reuben Fos­ter, the San Fran­cisco line­backer re­leased by the 49ers af­ter his Tampa, Florida, ar­rest and im­pris­on­ment on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence charges (which have since been dropped by the Hills­bor­ough County State At­tor­ney’s of­fice), Fos­ter’s third ar­rest in 12 months.

Lafem­ina went to Sny­der and Allen with di­rect feed­back from cor­po­rate ticket hold­ers up­set with the Fos­ter ac­qui­si­tion, sources said – and they were rebuffed. “That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” one source said. They were all gone a few weeks later.

Now Allen is call­ing all the shots, from the turn­stiles to the trade mar­ket. To the vic­tor go the spoils, right?

His king­dom was on dis­play at the fi­nal home game on Dec. 30, a few days af­ter Lafem­ina and com­pany’s de­par­ture — a sta­dium with per­haps 10,000 Red­skins fans sur­rounded by about 40,000 Philadel­phia Ea­gles fans.

All Hail Bruce.

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