Notes from the Burgundy Revolution: Redskins can't see signs for the messages

By Dan Steinberg
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How did you spend your Monday night? Me? I spent mine fishing signs out of garbage cans outside FedEx Field while a security guard screamed at me: "Get out of that garbage can! Get out of that garbage can!"

They were in garbage cans because there's a new policy that says no signs of any sort are permitted inside the stadium. That apparently includes one that read: "Hi To My Husband in Afghanistan. Love You."

When and why was this change made? I asked Monday morning, and as of Monday evening, a Redskins spokesman said he still wasn't sure. I just know that there was a policy listed on the team's Web site as recently as Oct. 4 that merely banned inappropriate and offensive signs, or something to that effect, and that as of now, that wording is gone.

A spokesman told me that this policy is meant to protect spectators from getting injured by signs, and also to make sure everyone can see the action. Because obstructed views at that stadium could not possibly be tolerated.

I've feigned a lot of outrage in recent days, outrage over the offensive line, and the GM, and the draft, and whatever else. I mean, that stuff is annoying, but I can live with it. It's still sports. It's still a game. It's still part of the general arc of entertainment provided by large men running around in tights. This, though, ruined it all for me. Now it's no longer a game. Now it's just sad, unpleasant and ugly.

-- Now it's Ramon Vasquez, making the old standby D-and-Fence sign for his sister-in-law, who flew in from California and didn't want to bring D-and-Fence signs on a plane. He was told they weren't allowed.

"I think it's pure [nonsense]," he told me, as he stood outside FedEx and tried to figure out what he should do next. "Everyone else does it. Why can't we show our sportsmanship?"

-- Now it's Liz Angevine, who brought a "LET OVECHKIN CALL THE PLAYS" sign, e-mailing me this story about how a security guard snatched the sign out of her hands and threw it on the ground. Liz writes:

"When I told her that I wanted to keep my sign and run it back to my car, she stepped on my sign and ripped it apart!!! I could NOT believe it. I'm still in shock."

-- Now it's Darien Columbel, hiding his inoffensive Halloween-themed sign under his shirt so he could try to get it inside.

-- Now it's Mary and Bill Lindsay from Dallas, bringing in a "Bingo Night Football" sign all the way from Texas to the third row, and attracting a crowd of cameras, before security confiscated the sign.

"I think it's ridiculous," Mary said. "A fan coming in with positive emotion should be able to express it at a home game. I'm here to support the team."

I mean, what are we doing here? What's the purpose? What's the goal? To protect people from getting poked in the eye by poster board? I've never, not once, heard a complaint from someone who couldn't see the game because of a sign. Now, in 24 hours, the complaints about the sign ban are rolling in.

Is it because of the dissent, the Burgundy Revolution? I have no idea. But if it is, I think the one lesson of such rebellions, in the real world, is that crackdowns never work in the long term. If they don't work for militaristic governments, they're damn sure not going to work for a business that's based on the goodwill of consumers.

I'd have a hard time judging any of the signs I plucked from the garbage as offensive, inappropriate, or in any way anathema to the goal of sports as entertainment. But seeing them in the garbage sure managed that trick.

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