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President's Weekly Brief: Why We Can't 'Stick To Sports'

WFT_President'sWeeklyBrief

Hi Washington Football Family,

This blog is going to be a little different than my usual weekly message to you all. Aside from the team having its bye week, we are 24 hours away from Election Day. This is the time for all of us, regardless of where we are politically (and I actually mean that), to step up and make our collective voices heard. We hold this civic duty in high regard, and since Election Day falls on my normal update day, I thought I would speak to you one last time before Tuesday. Here we go…

Reflections From The Bye Week

What are the components that make a team? If you tried to write all of them down, you would likely come up with a list that extends from one end zone to the next. Things like leadership, communication and access to good resources would certainly be factors to consider, but to me, none of them are as fundamental to a high-performing team as a shared identity and purpose.

For a football team, those ideas are built on the experiences players share through the blood, sweat and tears of training camp; the emotional highs and lows of wins and losses; and surviving the gaze of public scrutiny (which is very intense and generally harsh, a tone much different from when I played, but I digress...). Like everyone else, players are going to have differing opinions on subjects on and off the field, but we can always retreat to that shared set of experiences when things get a little too intense.

As a running back with the Browns, most of my value was catching screens and picking up blitzes, making me a glorified offensive lineman. So, I would spend a lot of my time with those guys. That group had some of the most politically astute and brilliant thinkers I've ever been around and was incredibly diverse regarding socio-economic background, race, region of the country, etc. This diversity created provocative conversations and debates, but since we had shared experience and loved and supported one another, we could always learn from everyone's opinions. (Shout out to Joe, Lennie, and Seth on the text chain. I'll reply in the offseason when I can breathe. :) )

This idea of a shared purpose is especially a priority for Coach Rivera and I as we discuss how to outwardly communicate those shared values we are building the franchise upon. And it's something I feel we've lost a bit in public dialogue, whether it be about sports or politics. We get so entrenched in our opinions and close ourselves off to one another that we forget this crucial point: we are united in a way where differing ideologies are a benefit to us all. And that affect is never, ever neutral.

Business Question Of The Week

Why does the organization want to be involved in Election Day?

So let me start off by briefly going over what I said in a previous blog: we as an organization view people exercising their right to vote as nonpartisan and unambiguously good, and we want to use our assets to help make that right more accessible in any way possible.

But there is another reason that goes deeper than this. Organizations are not just the official LLC or INC. They are a collection of individual people with individual passions, ideas and a desire to have a positive impact on the world. Just like I see my role and its sphere of influence as a platform to discuss the things I care about, so does our Washington Football Family. People in our organization are your neighbors, active members of your parent-teacher associations and folks dropping their kids off in Zoom classrooms alongside yours. They care deeply about people having the right to vote and our club using all the assets we have to provide that to our community.

What we have done in the past month to achieve this goal, such as creating the DMVotes initiative and turning FedExField into a voting location, is a model of how we want to do community work going forward. We believe in conducting big, meaningful and comprehensive community activities versus a collection of small one-off ventures. These activities should reflect our ownership's values and our business partners' and fans' values, but they should also reflect the passions and interests of our employees.

For example, we will continue to have a robust set of activities around social justice because the players on our team and our employees care about those issues. Voting is one component, but there is much more we can and will do. Our franchise has a long history in the fight against breast cancer and now cancer more broadly with Coach Rivera's inspiring fight this season. We will continue to "go big" on that cause and find other topics where we can uniquely do something at scale and high impact with Julie Jensen leading a revamp of our philanthropic strategy.

That's why it is incumbent upon me, leadership and others we bring into the organization to keep the pulse of the workforce and what they care about so new activities reflect their interests. Eventually, that will help us reinforce the culture we are trying to build. It will make people excited to stay and be proud to be a part of an organization that is doing things in the community that adhere to their values.

Encounters Of The Week

Over the past several weeks, my wife and I have been talking a lot about the election and the two of us often have different views when we debate about issues that matter to us. 

On a similar note to what I mentioned at the top of this blog, I'm struck by the fact that the disagreements at our kitchen table are stabilized by a foundation of love for one another and a trust that we are both doing our best to lead and guide our family; this enables me to learn and grow from those conversations. We leave those conversations changed for the better.

So here's to hoping that however you have voted (or will vote) tomorrow, you will be civil, kind and understanding to others and seize those opportunities to learn from people who have opposing viewpoints. And hopefully that civility and assumption of good intent makes a comeback in all of our dialogue from politics to sports and beyond.

What's Next

This week, the team is getting back on the field to take on the New York Giants! While I'm excited to get back to FedEx for a game, I'm mostly focused on the big moment we have to welcome fans back into the stadium. We feel great about our plan to safely host ~3,000 people in our ~75,000 person this coming Sunday, and I'm eager to see some more Burgundy and Gold in the seats (I said that on purpose, because if you sold your tickets to a Giants fan, I can't rock with you, and I hope you breath smells especially bad all week). And after we assess how it goes, we'll make decisions about fans at future games. Things are changing dynamically with public health, so we will need to be nimble and adaptive on a week-to-week basis.

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