Skins Code of Conduct: Don't Guzzle
As has much been discussed, during the past offseason the NFL instructed each of its teams to create fan codes of conduct, in an effort to reduce some of the in-stadium crassness that received so much publicity last year. My colleague Mark Maske wrote about the new policies in Sunday's paper:
The National Football League, with annual revenue approaching $8 billion, has become the most popular professional sports league in the country in part because of the zealousness of its young-adult male fans, many of whom spend hours before games tailgating and drinking before going inside stadiums to be loud and boisterous. This season, however, the NFL is asking itself whether the rowdiness has gone too far and is alienating other fans.
At the behest of Commissioner Roger Goodell, all 32 teams have announced a fan conduct policy in an attempt to make their stadiums more fan-friendly. Goodell said he believes fans should be able to watch without being subjected to abusive language, obscene gestures and other forms of rude behavior.
I mean to post the Redskins new fan policy before I left for China, but I forgot. Here are highlights; the full code was sent to every season ticket holder.
* Sip your drink, don't guzzle it. Remember, it's about quality, not quantity.
* To stay hydrated, always drink water after each alcoholic beverage.
* Always eat before you drink.
* Never accept a drink from a stranger.
* Always plan ahead before you drink, and know how you are going to get home. Assign a designated driver or keep a taxi number and cash handy. Whatever you do, plan to get home safely.
* Always treat your fellow fans in a courteous and respectful manner. This includes refraining from foul or abusive language, obscene gestures, fighting, taunting, inappropriate and obscene signs or clothing, or threatening remarks and gestures.
This being the Redskins, the Code of Conduct has a sponsor (Diageo), whose corporate execs helped devise the fan policies. I talked with Diageo Executive Vice President Guy Smith about the code, and he mentioned the HBO Real Sports segment that showed members of the Dead Tree Crew pounding Crown Royal--a Diageo product--before a Skins game.
"That created some imagery that wasn't good for the Redskins, it wasn't good for Redskins fans and it certainly wasn't good for Diageo, and it was some distance from what all of us want to show," he told me. "As Redskins management was looking at what's the best way to communicate to our fans, we worked with them on the fan code of conduct and the development of the content. They were comfortable with us working with them, because the figured the largest alcohol company in the world knows a little bit about that sort of thing."
I expressed surprise that a company best known for its hard liquor holdings would be involved in an NFL "don't guzzle" campaign, since I would have assumed most guzzlers are defaulting to cheap domestic beer.
"If you take the 100,000 people in the average football stadium, there's gonna be more people in gross numbers that default to a domestic beer," said Smith, whose company has also sponsored safe rides programs in D.C. and messages promoting responsible consumption inside FedEx Field. "But what we found is that the football fan base, the NASCAR base, the NASCAR dad, the consumers in that category are very much open to and looking for new experiences. Which is why you can go in FedEx field and buy a Margarita made with Cuervo, you can buy a Bloody Mary in the club level made with Smirnoff vodka."
And I also wondered whether fans would argue that you can't have NFL football without tailgating, and you can't have tailgating without occasional moments of alcohol-related excess. Smith said the feedback they've gotten from Skins fans thus far has been positive, and that he isn't expecting any sort of backlash.
"There's a million ways to have a great tailgating experience without guzzling alcohol," he said. "My personal view and our company's view on that is pretty much zero tolerance--be responsible or don't be there--and I suspect the Skins feel the same way. If you want to guzzle, go somwhere where you're not going to be bother anybody. If you're sitting next to somebody who's done that in the stadium with your child, it really sullies the experience. We don't want any part of that, and I know the Skins don't either."
Violators of the Redskins new policy could be subject to having their season tickets revoked, according to a team spokesman, which might make Sunday morning a fairly interesting time in Raljon.
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