Saturday, February 05, 2011

Dan Snyder's image problem

Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Football team, has a very serious image problem. By a series of ill advised actions, Snyder has cast himself in the role of the rich bully.

Most recently, in response to this farcical article in the Washington City Paper, he threatened to sue the paper, calculating that the cost of litigation would force the paper to fire the reporter. It has backfired on him in a big way.

To their everlasting credit, the owners of the Washington City Paper, Atalaya Capital Management, has refused to back down. Public opinion is overwhelmingly on the side of the paper and a legal defense fund has been established.

As Bob Somerby teaches us, reporters develop narratives and follow scripts. Even before this latest blunder, Dan Snyder had cast himself in the role of the sports owner bully that everyone loves to hate. His suit does not appear to have merit and pressing it will have a devastating impact on his reputation and the franchise. If there is one thing the news media hates, it is the misuse of libel law to force a publication to fire a reporter. Dan Snyder is now in a no win situation.

It does not have to be this way. Dan Snyder does not have to be the bad guy. But in order to turn this around he needs to take dramatic action to change the narrative that has been developed around him.

In my opinion he needs to drop the lawsuit. That will not change his image, but it will end the current controversy. Beyond that, he needs to make a series of dramatic gestures to indicate that he has heard the publics's concerns and is taking them to heart.

First of all he needs to change the team's name. That would be the sort of big gesture that changes the narrative overnight and would force both the news media and general public to take another look at him. Next he needs to look at his present charitable contributions and look at ways he can communicate his commitment to his favorite causes. In addition to his present contributions, he could participate in any of the many walks for cure for breast cancer, or any other cause dear to his heart. This would show a personal commitment over an above the ability to write a big check.

Most of all someone close to him needs to explain you don't need to win every battle, just the big ones. Or, as the Rolling Stones once put it, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

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