Thursday, October 08, 2009

Redskins PR Advice: Ask the Players

Redskins owner Dan Snyder could use some positive press these days, so it wouldn't hurt to take a peek at his athletes’ PR playbook.

Tuesday night, running back Clinton Portis had Capitol Hill buzzing at an event in support of Becky's Fund, the Juleanna Glover backed domestic violence prevention juggernaut.

Becky's Fund has generated considerable buzz itself: attorney/founder Becky Lee was a second runner-up on CBS's grueling reality show "Survivor." She lasted 39 days on a deserted slab of land in the Cook Islands. Even better: Becky used the prize money to create an eponymous group to push for stronger laws against domestic violence and other crimes against women. (

Portis’ presence drew throngs of people to the rooftop of The Liaison on New Jersey Ave. – as well as local TV cameras and a flotilla of scribes.

The "Walk This Way" fashion show featured Eric Finn men's' clothes worn by John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted and Scott Frederick of Valhalla Partners.

But Portis was the star. “I’m a football fan, and I also wanted to support this cause,” said Gloria Brooks of The People’s Choice LLC. “I know too many women who have had to face this.” Jewel Smith of Amgen echoed the sentiment. Gayela Bynum of Michelle’s Angels added drama to the crowd with her Hollywood looks, introducing her friend Matthew Davis, whose “Best of DC” coffee-table tome was raising funds at the silent auction. Jewelry designer Christine Haynes literally added sparkle.

Monday night at Morton’s in Georgetown, other Redskins offered their time to mingle with fans and show the human face of the ‘Skins. Rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo, who at 23 just graduated from UT Austin in the spring, perched by the front window nibbling shrimp cocktail while nursing a chardonnay. His refined appetite belied some stunning facts: Orakpo bench presses 515 pounds and squats 600. Despite his 263 pounds on a 6’3” frame, he runs a 40-yard-dash in under five seconds.

What’s the difference between college ball and the pros, besides Morton’s, he was asked? “Everyone is big in the NFL,” he said. “Everyone is big and fast.” But Orakpo doesn’t seem stressed. “I’m living for the moment,” he said. “I still feel like I’m 16.”

Also mingling were Chris Samuels, Marko Mitchell, Colt Brennan, Jeremy Jarmon, Kevin Barnes, Stephon Heyer, Lorenzo Alexander, Reed Doughty, Edwin Williams, JD Solnitsky, Andre Woodson, William Robinson and Fred Smoot.

Receiver Devin Thomas, 22, said in his second year in Washington, he feels more comfortable with the routine and his teammates. The Ann Arbor native who graduated from Michigan State says he likes living near the training center at Ashburn, and is a regular at restaurants nearby. “I don’t cook,” he said. So if it’s pasta, it’s Olive Garden. “That’s a favorite,” he said. Lunchtime is usually Quiznos – a 12-inch sub. Ruth’s Chris for dinner. And, oh yes, Morton’s, Thomas adds quickly.

Food is serious business for these young hulks. “I don’t do protein powder or other fake stuff ,” Thomas said. He can afford to eat right. The 2008 second-round draft pick signed a four-year, $4.8 million contract.

Whatever the numbers, these are polite, even (can we say this?) sweet young men you can’t help but like. The Redskins’ Nancy Hubacher, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, is smart to get them circulating, in this case with an assist by Morton’s Kate Scafidi and Casey Hogan. Linda Roth, never far away from a good restaurant PR hit, has been involved in the Redskins meet-and-greets at Morton’s for years.

Dan Snyder, invite Nancy for a strategy lunch at…

Pictured above: Redskins Devin Thomas and Brian Orakpo - Photo by Jeff Malet

Item submitted to HOP by "The Mole" a.k.a. Beth Solomon