Inside D.C. entertainment

Ted Leonsis says the 'Washington Post is harboring criminals now'

February 3, 2012 - 10:17 AM
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One reason journalists appreciate megamogul and filmanthropist Ted Leonsis, albeit slightly less than before, is that he's relatively accessible. He doesn't shun the press — unlike a certain other sports owner, who prefers underage interviewees — and, on occasion, he writes articles himself. He's also more active on Twitter than some local journos, and even maintains a disarmingly candid blog, Ted's Take, where he often writes in near-haiku. But sometimes he goes long on all manner of topics, from Britney Spears to Barack Obama. Today is one of those days.

The title of this morning's post is innocent enough: "Thank you Wizards season ticket holders." It begins accordingly, thanking his team's nearly 8,000 season-ticket holders (a number that — is this possible? — places the Wizards "in the top 20 teams in the NBA") and his fans for their "nice comments" in a recent Post article, by J. Freedom du Lac, about season-ticket holders who "cling to optimism as [the] team loses and prices fall." It's worth noting that the comments in that article are overwhelmingly negative.

More thank-yous pour forth, and it becomes a bit of a love-fest — until Leonsis sets his crosshairs on the Post:

Rebuilding a team is hard enough without the local pixel maker piling on; but this is an annual rite of passage – all teams go through it here via the Washington Post. Its genesis is from a blog post – that then goes to the newspaper itself. I have to laugh in that the blog post column mentioned within is usually sponsored by a ticket reseller that allows you to go find out what the actual average ticket price of a ticket is on the resale market; but why let facts get in the way of a sensational story, right? And the negative comments within are mostly from scalpers? Scalping is illegal in our city; so they are now quoting about to be criminals to prove a point in a story [smiley-face emoticon]. That is ironic, no? The scalpers didn’t want their names to be used – that usually isn’t a good sign. I guess they didn’t want to be arrested! The Washington Post is harboring criminals now.

The "blog post column" to which Leonsis refers is a Sports Bog post about Luke Russert, the MSNBC correspondent and longtime season-ticket holder, ripping the Wizards on WJFK's “The Mike Wise Show with Holden Kushner." Turns out, according to Leonsis, Russert has been his guest in the owner's box dining room. "But Luke is a fan; he is passionate – his sells his point of view- he is an audio blogger now – it is quite fashionable to pile on," Leonsis writes. An "audio blogger"? Ouch. I've tweeted at Russert for a response, and will update when I hear back.

Meanwhile, Sports Bog's Dan Steinberg, who's clearly a faster writer than I am, has responded to Leonsis' allegations — not about the Post harboring criminals, unfortunately, but that the paper likes to pile on losing sports teams.

All I can tell him, and you, is that our Web traffic for Redskins content goes through the roof when the Redskins are winning. Same with the Caps. Same with Maryland basketball. Same with any local team. The Wizards’ multi-year swoon has been terrible for our Wizards Web traffic. Does anyone actually think the Wizards Insider blog does more traffic when the team is in last place than when it’s competing for playoff berths? Doomsday has not sold.

As long as the Wizards keep losing, Steinberg concludes, "we’ll all just spend our time writing mildly snarky blog posts about each other." So true, it hurts.

UPDATE: Luke Russert emailed me the following:

"I thank Mr. Leonsis for acknowledging my passionate support of the Wizards. I’ll continue to cheer no matter how bad we are on the court. I appreciated Mr. Leonsis’ kindness in giving me dinner in his private dining room on January 10th. It was a good deed, similar to when I promoted his book on my radio program in 2010. I have never publicly criticized ownership, from the late Mr. Pollin to Mr. Leonsis, the Wizards has been blessed with owners that care not only about the team but also about the DC community.

"The Wizards’ lack of effort under Flip Saunders was abysmal. Mr. Leonsis rectified the situation and allowed for the firing of Saunders. So far under Coach Wittman they’ve played better and more fundamental basketball. Hopefully they’ll continue on this path and contend for playoff spot next season."

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