David Alperin has only one paper plate left.
After watching the Redskins lose and lose ugly for years, Alperin wanted to make a statement about the mismanagement of his favorite sports team. Every fellow season ticketholder he knew wanted to make the same statement.
So Alperin spent hours decorating plates with a photo of Dan Snyder’s face and a red circle and line through the middle, or what he understood to be the international symbol for “Snyder Sucks!” He also painted a two-by-three-foot paper sign that said love the redskins. hate the owner!
He took stacks of the plates and the rolled-up sign with him to the Redskins game versus Tampa Bay. In the FedExField parking lots before kickoff, he was pleased, but not surprised, by the reaction his artwork received. The grounds were full of like-minded folks, many of whom had also brought their own handiworks to rail against the state of the franchise.
These were folks who loved the Redskins but no longer had a shred of goodwill toward Snyder. This was the day he’d been building toward ever since he took over the team in 1999, and, as quickly as he could, put in place things like $10 admission charges and $10 parking fees for training camp, both unprecedented. And it’s been going downhill ever since. The folks who bothered going to FedExField to see the lowly Skins play the lowlier Bucs were united in their belief that Snyder was no good for the team or the fans.
“I gave away all of my plates,” Alperin says. “If I’d have made 1,000, I could have given away 1,000. Everybody wanted one. Everybody loved them.”
The security staff at the stadium gates, however, wasn’t so receptive. Guards took the plates from Alperin as he tried to enter. They told him he would have to throw his poster in the garbage, too.
The night before the game, Alperin had checked the stadium rules posted on Snyder’s own Web site, redskins.com, to make sure that his agitprop props were within bounds—signs were permitted, so long as they weren’t mounted on poles and didn’t contain any profane or vulgar language.
But those rules no longer applied.
“I said I knew what the rules were,” Alperin says. “The guards told me, ‘We changed the rules last night!’ The security supervisor was walking up and down and was directing all the guards in the security lines to grab the signs and was very vigorous about grabbing all the signage. I don’t think any of the plates I gave away made it inside the stadium.”
Alperin saw his plates and poster thrown in trash piles at the entrances, which were full of decorated paper bags and signs and all sorts of other anti-Snyder paraphernalia made by other fans. The buzz everybody had felt in the parking lot was killed; Prague Spring for Redskins fans had been crushed by the ownership’s heavy-handed tactics.
“If the Redskins had announced a new policy about signs a week earlier, I would not have been happy about it, but I could have lived with it,” he says. “I’m a native Washingtonian, been a Redskins fan my whole life. Now, I’m very frustrated and just wanted to express my opinion, and that was denied.”
Faraji Rosenthall had a paper bag that he intended to wear on his head taken at the gate. Rosenthall, an Alexandria native and lifelong Skins fan, says he decided to take a stand against Snyder after hearing about the bag-wearing campaign organized by sports-talk station WJFK-FM.
Rosenthall thinks whatever short-term gains the Redskins owner achieved by stifling criticism that day will be poleaxed over the long run by all the bad will his Sedition Acts have incited.
“I’m fascinated by how much anger there is towards Dan Snyder now,” Rosenthall says. “His organization is so poorly run, and he does so many things that are ass-backwards, like [confiscating] the bags. As a lawyer, I felt that he probably had the right to do that, to regulate what comes in as he did, being the owner of a private facility. So I didn’t argue, I just threw away the bag. But it just seemed so petty and small, so unnecessary. The backlash against him now is amazing. I was talking to my friends about this, and none of us could come up with anybody who’s even close to being hated as much as he is in D.C. You can’t even name a politician who comes close! That’s mind-boggling for this town.”
Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson did not respond to questions about the changes in FedExField’s sign policy.
Maggie Cameron is among those now trying to foment the hate. Cameron went to the Tampa Bay game wearing a T-shirt she made that said sell the team dan, and she says she was mobbed by like-minded fans asking for a shirt of their own. A photo of her in the shirt made Dan Steinberg’s D.C. Sports Bog at washingtonpost.com a day later. But the photo of Cameron disappeared from the blog after publication, along with other shots of civilly disobedient fans, and there was no explanation on the Post site for the disappearance. Steinberg declined to discuss the situation. Matt Vita, sports editor of the Washington Post, explains that the pictures of Cameron and the others were removed at the request of the Redskins.
“The Redskins said [Steinberg] was in violation of his credentials for taking the photographs,” Vita says. “We honored that request, because at the end of the day, they control access to their facility.”
Steinberg has over the years published photos taken at Redskins games using the exact same press pass, such as one featuring Alex Ovechkin at FedExField, without any complaints from the team or requests to have the pictures removed.
Cameron says she previously wore Skins jerseys to games. “My closet is organized by color,” she says, “and I have a huge burgundy-and-gold section.” But she admits loving the celebrity that the anti-Snyder shirt has given her at the stadium. She’s set up a Web site, selltheteamdan.com, to promote owner-bashing. The censorship of the bags, posters, and (mainly) her photo motivated her to produce copies of the shirt, and to plan an anti-Snyder rally at FedExField before the Skins–Eagles game on Monday night.
“What Dan Snyder did needs to be talked about,” she says. “This was fascist. So we’re doing something. We’re going to give away shirts. And if he tries banning this shirt, we’ll come up with another one. This isn’t going to end soon.”
When Alperin got home from the Tampa Bay game, he found a plate with Snyder’s face crossed out floating in an otherwise-empty cooler. That’s the only one left, he says, and he’s holding on to it to remind him of the anger he felt when the guards threw away his handiwork.
That anger will survive beyond even the Redskins turning things around and winning, should such a day ever come.
“What [Snyder] did was very cowardly,” Alperin says. “If he had allowed myself and other fans to vent, this would have eventually disappeared. Now? I don’t think it will. Now I’m more livid about the change in policy and the way this was handled than I was about the play of the team. We all know this was about the message, not the medium.”
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