That would be Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s somewhat kinder and vaguely gentler stance on his football team’s name. After President Obama suggested that the Washington Redskins might consider a name a little less offensive to Native Americans earlier this month, Snyder put Davis on the case. Davis advised the owner to play nice, or at least nicer, in responding. “I respect the opinions of those who disagree,” wrote Snyder in a newsmaking open letter to fans. “I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn.”
Davis may have succeeded in toning down Snyder’s over-my-dead-body rhetoric (“We’ll never change the name,” he told USA Today in May. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”) And for a client often caricatured as a billionaire Bonaparte, that may have been the best a crisis manager like Davis could hope for.
Not that Davis is talking about it now. He says he has decided to lie low on the issue. Which puts him in an unfamiliar position. Since becoming Clinton’s media snake charmer in late 1996, Davis has been an irrepressible public gabber. He has been working the news media on behalf of clients for years, while also appearing incessantly on cable news and radio as a reliable liberal talking head, popping off about just about everything. His silence about Snyder puts him at odds with the advice he gives his customers: “Tell it early. Tell it all. Tell it yourself.”
Davis, 67, has thrust himself into the middle of so many public disputes in the past 15 or so years that he has written two memoirs about them, including “Crisis Tales,” published earlier this year. A Washington regulatory attorney and Montgomery County political operative until the Clinton gig raised his profile, he dropped much of his conventional law practice and reinvented himself as a consigliere to people and companies in “crisis,” meaning anyone taking a whupping in the media.
“I would get calls from CEOs who would say to me, ‘The lawyers are telling me not to comment, my stock is down, I’m losing my job, and my wife tells me she’s embarrassed to be with me because I’m a crook,’ ” Davis says one afternoon in his downtown Washington office. His gray suit is baggy, and his voice retains a touch of Jersey. “One led to another and another.”
So Davis became a spin doctor for hire, the man with a plan in a jam.
On Monday, Davis snagged another high-profile client: New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, who is appealing a career-threatening 211-game suspension by Major League Baseball for using banned substances. Davis will advise A-Rod’s legal and PR team on its media strategy.