On Thursday, our friends at 106.7 the Fan in D.C. (and we can now count all of the daytime hosts as friends, since we buried the hatchet with Mike Wise at the Super Bowl) reported that Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb refused to wear a wristband listing the team’s plays in 2010, because doing so would be “bad for my image.” The report came from the station’s morning show, The Sports Junkies, whose executive producer, Bret Oliverio, is my cousin by marriage. (I felt compelled to disclose that relationship since, as you’ll see, I believe that the Junkies’ report is accurate.)
Despite a characterization by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post that it was nothing more than “some radio dialog between two of the Junkies,” the Junkies reported it as hard news and they stand behind it as hard news. So regardless of whether the words were uttered verbally or printed on fish wrap, the Junkies cited multiple sources, and they stuck their necks out in support of the report.
Predictably, the report has spawned a flurry of activity, undoubtedly fueled at least at some level by savvy and skilled Redskins P.R. guru Tony Wyllie. Steinberg has produced a solid chronicle of the various developments.
Chris Russell of ESPN 980 — a radio station owned by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder — reported that he “[t]alked to 5 people that are close enough to know about McNabb refusing to wear a play-calling wrist band” and that “[a]ll say never saw it/no knowledge….FWIW, Donovan McNabb wishes not to speak 4 right now on the Hopkins matter or the wristband allegations. Not much needs 2 be said.” (Of course, McNabb’s agent has since spoken on the Hopkins situation, but not on the wristband ruckus.)
Even though Russell’s report falls a bit short of being an absolute, unequivocal statement that the wristband incident didn’t happen, it would be naive not to at least wonder whether Russell’s report originated with Wyllie and team sources he gathered to provide Russell the party line. That same thinking applies, to a degree, when considering the report from CSN Washington’s Kelli Johnson, who cites a team source with knowledge of the situation in support of the notion that McNabb didn’t wear a wristband, because he wasn’t asked to wear a wristband.
To make the situation even more intriguing, CSN Washington’s Rich Tandler posted in the comments to his blog entry on the original story his own views regarding the validity of the Junkies’ report: “I’m about 99% confident that the wristband story is true.”
Frankly, so are we. With the Redskins surely holding out hope to get trade value for McNabb, the Redskins can’t afford to have potential trade partners feeling even more skittish about sending anything other than a conditional seventh-round pick to D.C. for the rights to Donovan. And so the team had every incentive to point the P.R. machine in some direction other than justifying Snyder’s decision to sue The City Paper for defamation.
From McNabb’s standpoint, the decision of his agent to address the Bernard Hopkins brouhaha and not to address the wristband issue suggests either that the report is accurate, or that McNabb has no desire to do or say anything that would give the Redskins the ability to trade him. (Or both.) McNabb wants to be cut, sooner rather than later; anything that would make him less attractive on the trade market could get the Redskins to realize that they shouldn’t even bother to try to trade him.
Of course, McNabb at some level should be worried about the impact of such reports on a team’s willingness to sign him and to pay him. But McNabb’s immediate challenge is to get out of Washington as quickly as possible. He’ll worry about disputing the wristband report later. And we predict that, once he gets his release from the Redskins, he will.