Washington Redskins Linebacker Robert Henson Hears It From Fans After Venting on Twitter
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
On Sunday afternoon, Robert Henson was a mostly unknown reserve linebacker for the Washington Redskins, a first-year player who had never played in an NFL game and was best known for being the son-in-law of television pastor T.D. Jakes.
By Sunday evening, a few hours after Washington's unsightly 9-7 win against the St. Louis Rams, Henson had taken up an online battle against a segment of disgruntled Redskins fans, calling them disloyal "dim-wits" who "work 9 to 5 at McDonalds."
Almost immediately, Henson became one of the anti-heroes of a game he had watched from the sideline, doused with criticism and insults on sports-talk radio shows and Internet message boards. And by Monday afternoon, Henson sheepishly exited the team's Ashburn training facility, accompanied by several team spokesmen, to apologize for a Twitter-enabled diatribe against fans that provided him his first moment of NFL fame.
"This is exciting," one television reporter joked.
"No it's not," Henson said. "It's the negative kind of media you don't want."
It was also a particularly 2009-vintage media storm, fueled by the pent-up frustrations of Redskins fans and the temptations of Twitter. The Redskins haven't hosted a playoff game in this decade, and have yet to score 30 points in 18 games under Coach Jim Zorn. Hosts on the radio station owned by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder openly speculated about Zorn's successor on Monday, and one of the team's official radio analysts, legendary quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, told Zorn during a postgame interview that he would have disobeyed one of his play calls. The team was booed throughout Sunday's win, including during the game's final moments, a time when victorious home fans are more frequently whooping than whistling.
"I thought it was a shame, to be honest with you," tight end Chris Cooley, one of the team's most popular players, said in the locker room. "I think Washington prides themselves on being the best fans, and I think that they should try to be the best fans. We won. I understand they wanted us to beat the Rams by 40, but we still won, and we if we continue to win games, that's great. Booing's unnecessary."
This was a 20th-century response, spoken into microphones and tape recorders, and then shown on the evening news and printed on newsprint. Henson took a different approach.
"All you fake half hearted Skins fan can . . . I won't go there, but I dislike you very strongly, don't come to Fed Ex to boo dim wits!!" he wrote shortly after the game ended, a message that would have been seen by his 1,200 or so Twitter followers. As fans quickly responded with disgust -- including an editor from the sports Web site SB Nation and a radio host from 106.7 The Fan -- Henson kept typing.
"No I didn't play but I still made more than you in a year and you'd [gladly] switch spots with me in a second," Henson wrote during a string of responses. "I was talking to the fans [who] said the crazy stuff, I'm use [to heckling] but I've never been booed in my own stadium. Again that was for the half hearted but if everyone wants to jump in come on. The question is who are you to say you know what's best for the team and you work 9 to 5 at Mcdonalds [sic]. You don't wanna follow me anymore then fine but we play for you and win lose or draw we represent you!! My guy on the Rams said they never got booed even when they didn't win a game."
Henson's words pinballed across the Internet, with Redskins fans and media members re-tweeting them and exponentially increasing their exposure. Radio hosts read them on the air, and writers posted them on blogs. Fans, meantime, pointed out they had been supporting the Redskins for longer than Henson has been alive, and also that there's no shame in working for McDonald's.
Before the night was over, Henson had tweeted 52 times. He elicited dozens of angry responses, and he apologized repeatedly, writing personal messages to several fans. His words were flashed on Comcast SportsNet's postgame show, where he was savaged by ex-Redskins star Brian Mitchell, who asked "Who the hell is Robert Henson?" and told the rookie to "shut up."