Yes, insists the Washington Redskins’ chief spokesman, the team can take a joke.
But perhaps the frustrations of a 3-9 season got the better of the football organization, given its initially testy reaction to a series of parody broadcasts that made the Redskins, their owner and their play-by-play announcers the butts of comedy bits.
In the series of dead-on weekly parodies, which began last month, Washington sports-talk radio station WJFK-FM (also known as “106.7 The Fan”) has fun at the expense of the Redskins and their radio broadcasters, Larry Michael, Sonny Jurgensen and Chris Cooley.
The bits, performed by host Danny Rouhier and produced by Ajay Atayee, are a mock play-by-play of a Redskins game, voiced primarily by Rouhier as a fake Larry Michael and fake Jurgensen. Actual clips of Cooley — like Jurgensen, a former Redskin — are included in the routines.
In addition to mocking the team’s poor play, the routines have skewered everything from long waits and high prices at FedEx Field (“This score means all fans in attendance can wander the parking-lot wasteland and sit in traffic. All that for 50 bucks!”) to Snyder’s occasional litigiousness (one segment is fake-sponsored by “Michaels, Michaels, Michaels & Michaels — official suing partner of the Washington Redskins”).
Actual Redskins games are broadcast on a network of stations headed by ESPN980 (WTEM-AM), a station owned by Snyder himself. So WJFK’s parodies are triple-edged: a shot at the woebegone team, its owner, and a chief radio rival, ESPN980, which, like WJFK, has a sports-talk format.
The parodies may have cut a little too close to the bone.
Team spokesman Tony Wyllie complained about them to WJFK’s Redskins beat reporter, Grant Paulsen, last week. According to station sources, Wyllie said the routines were malicious — so malicious that they could prompt legal action by the Redskins.
The station sources asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation; Snyder has sued before — in 2011, when he brought, and later dropped, a defamation suit against the Washington City Paper over an article that chronicled his alleged failings as team owner.
Wyllie’s anger over the broadcasts prompted Chris Kinard, WJFK’s program director, to call time out. He met with Wyllie on Tuesday to discuss the comedy routines.
Kinard declined to comment, but Wyllie insisted after the meeting that peace was at hand.
“All we did was ask questions about what they were doing,” he said in an interview. “Once they said it was all in jest, we were fine with it.”
He added, “I have a sense of humor, like everyone else. It’s a joke, and I take it as a joke. Once they said it was all a joke, that’s all there was to it.”
The irony, if any, is that WJFK was for years the flagship radio station for Redskins games. Michael, a Redskins senior vice president who replaced longtime play-by-play broadcaster Frank Herzog in 2004, was heard on the station until Snyder purchased a string of local stations in 2006 and moved the team’s broadcasts to his stations. He added ESPN980 to his portfolio in 2008.
WJFK said it intends to continue with Rouhier and Atayee’s weekly parodies.