If any other team in the NFL did what the Washington Commanders did on Wednesday night, the headline on this blog probably would have included some version of the phrase “a new low.” But this is the football team in Washington we’re talking about here—the most consistently embarrassing franchise in the NFL run by the most reviled owner in American sports—which means that trying to score public relations points off the fact that one of their players was recently shot is just a regular Wednesday.
In August, Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. was shot two times in the leg in an attempted robbery, according to police. Robinson missed the first five games of the season, but was healthy enough to make his return in Week 6 against the Bears.
A week later, Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced that his office was wrapping up a year-long investigation into Snyder and the Commanders, making him just the latest person or institution to take an interest in the cloud of harassment and fraud allegations that has been swirling over Snyder’s team for years.
These two events clearly have nothing to do with each other, and yet that didn’t stop someone in the Commanders organization—they didn’t put their name to it—from shamelessly linking them together when asked to respond to an announcement from Racine that he would be holding a press conference on Thursday about the investigation into the team. This official statement will go down as an all-time failure of the genre:
Not that any additional context is needed in order to reveal how nasty this statement is, but here’s some anyway: Racine, due to D.C.’s lack of statehood, has no authority to prosecute violent crimes in the district. That responsibility sits with U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves. (Also, two teenagers who are suspected of shooting Robinson have been arrested.)
The backlash to the Commanders’ statement was almost immediate, and led by Robinson’s agent, who tweeted that whoever put that statement together is not a great human.
(Allow me a digression: This is exactly why reporters need to stop letting PR flacks, in any industry, hide behind anonymous titles like “team spokesperson” or “company representative.” If one of these fuckers wants to run their mouth about something, make them put their name on it.)
Not long after the first statement was released, Commanders president Jason Wright was called on to do some damage control, which he did by apologizing to Robinson, Racine, and all Commanders fans for—wait, I’m sorry, that’s incorrect. I’m seeing now that Wright just … apologized to the cops?
It feels impossible that any professional organization could be this bad at communicating with the public in 2022, but this is just what the Commanders do. Executives, team presidents, and communications professionals have all come and gone over the years, but one thing has remained constant: Dan Snyder runs this show, and everyone takes their cues from him. Put someone that petty and small-hearted at the top of an organization, and the poison is bound to seep into every layer below him. Here’s hoping that when he finally leaves, everyone else follows him out the door.