News & Politics

Meet Dan Snyder’s Team of Messaging Gurus

The Redskins owner's brain trust includes a former White House press secretary, a bumbling former senator, and an adviser to West African dictators.

Compared to promoting the Iraq War, how tough of a sell could Dan Snyder be. Photograph of Fleischer via Alabama Republican Party.

Just how far is Dan Snyder willing to go in his defense of his NFL franchise’s name? According to emails obtained by Center for American Progress’s website ThinkProgress, the Redskins’ owner has assembled a rogues gallery of Washington spin-doctors to push back against the swelling number of critics who call out the team’s name as a derogatory term for Native Americans.

ThinkProgress’s long story, appropriately titled “The Epic Battle To Save The Most Offensive Team Name In Professional Sports,” includes correspondence from team officials to characters like wedge-issue wordsmith Frank Luntz, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, and former Virginia Senator and Governor George Allen. The front office in Ashburn emailed them for advice on how to handle reporters’ questions about the ongoing controversy surrounding its name.

Luntz, a master of GOP talking points (see: “death tax”), was first hired by the team last spring, according to team emails.

Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s spokesman during the run-up to the Iraq War, is best remembered, perhaps, for accusing late-night comedians of sympathizing with terrorists.

Allen, son of one-time Washington coach George Allen and brother of general manager Bruce Allen, now runs a political consulting firm in Alexandria. It’s a bit surprising to see Allen offering message strategy considering his 2006 Senate re-election bid came apart thanks to his misspeaking during at a campaign stop, calling an opponent’s operative “macaca.” Confounding at the time, it was widely perceived as a racial slur. 

Those three join Lanny Davis, a former Clinton White House lawyer whose client list has included dictators of oil-rich nations in West Africa. “We wonder why the protests are just about our 80-year-old Washington Redskins—and not all the other teams,” Davis told Washingtonian in October.

They seem like a fun bunch.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.