Here’s something I didn’t expect from Bruce Allen’s appearance before a Rotary Club luncheon Wednesday afternoon: the introductory speaker showing the above photo of his son, in the front row at FedEx Field, with a paper bag over his head.
“What a difference six months makes,” said that speaker, Max Salas, a season-ticket holder for 10 years, who’s missed just two home games in that span. “Six months ago, I wasn’t very happy. I think no one that’s a Redskins fan was very happy. The fan base today...has high hopes for the Washington Redskins.”
And here’s something else I didn’t expect: three questions during Allen’s post-speech Q&A session concerning the team’s nickname.
First someone asked where the nickname came from, and Allen mentioned its “Boston Braves” origins. Then he was asked why “Redskins.”
“Well, George Preston Marshall’s not here right now, but that’s what the name’s been since 80 years ago,” he said.
Still later, the GM was asked if the franchise has given any thoughts to addressing the occasional objections raised to the name.
“Well, no, we’re proud of our history,” Allen said. “Although it might be controversial to some, to the Redskins and our fans it’s not controversial. The Cleveland Browns might be controversial to some people, but they’re actually named after a coach, Paul Brown. The history is what our franchise is built on, and it’s never meant to be derogatory. The logo was actually designed as a tribute to our Native Americans.”
And while Allen joked about fielding backup-left-guard questions, the Rotarians offered a steady stream of timely, interesting and non-backup-left-guard questions, asking Allen his thoughts on concussions (“honestly from the players in the key for all of our doctors,” he said) to his thoughts on European match-fixing scandals (“our locker rooms would not tolerate that,” he said) to moving the Redskins back to the District.
“Our lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027,” he said, to moans. “So when I come to the Rotary meeting in 2025, ask me that question. But that’s why we’re trying to do more and more programs in the city. Our [80th anniversary homecoming] reunion this year is in the city. A lot of the programs involving our charitable foundation are in the city.”
(Speaking of the backup left guard, after the event I tried asking Allen how concerned he was about injuries on the offensive line.
“We’re ok,” he said. “We’re gonna have a good practice today. Guys are working hard. We’ve got a ways to go, but we’ve got time.” He also declined to discuss any injuries. Should have just asked him about the nickname.)
On the other hand, Allen was quite blunt when he discussed Washington’s decision to trade up in the draft, playing off the Rotary Club’s commitment to truth, fairness, and mutually beneficial behavior.
“We quickly analyzed our football team, and it was clear that we had to make a move,” he told the crowd. “Our quarterback position didn’t play well. It didn’t take a super scout to recognize that. It took just watching our game.
“So we studied those players. We were truthful to ourselves. We had to make a move. We had to do something to get better....Obviously making the trade, being bold, we decided is it gonna be fair? Well, fair to us is the fans and our locker room. That’s who we’re responsible to for the Washington Redskins....
“I know the fans like us much better, and the players all benefit in our locker room from having a more talented quarterback. And I will tell you this: the atmosphere is as excited on our practice field as it is on the streets of Washington.”
Allen also adeptly handled two self-described Cowboys fans. To one, who asked about the long-standing rivalry, the GM mentioned that he didn’t like the way the Cowboys operated in the ‘70s.
“They got breaks from the league, they spied on our practices, they cheated, they were mean to little kids,” he deadpanned. “Things of that nature.”
And Allen alluded just once to the fear of injuries.
“Going out to practice during training camp, you just worry that two guys are gonna collide and they’re gonna get hurt,” he said. “But we look forward to it. That’s what’s so great about our business. We play with a scoreboard....It doesn’t matter what anyone else says. It’s that final score that matters, and we like that.”