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LOVERRO: @RGIII and the @Redskins, influencing people one #hashtag at a time

- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 8, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In between the #hashtag war and peace that has defined the Washington Redskins this offseason came words of wisdom out of somebody's mouth, instead of through a keyboard 140 characters at a time.

It didn't take new Redskins coach Jay Gruden long to figure out his quarterback.

"He doesn't like negative publicity," Gruden said, speaking about his new friend, Robert Griffin III. "He wants everything to be right. He wants everybody to love Robert and that's not always going to be the case at the quarterback position."

He wants everybody to love Robert?

You think?

I'm surprised, in between #themovement, #knowyourwhy, #gocatchyourdream, #thisisforus and the seemingly countless other messages that SuperBob has sent out on his Twitter account, we haven't seen #pleaseloveme.

Then again, he doesn't have to. SuperBob is winning their love, one Twitter follower at a time.

He is connecting with and building an army of loyal, devoted followers who he reaches out to daily through social media. They do love SuperBob, because they believe he loves them. He cares about them. He sends them T-shirts and hats. He takes photos with them. And he does remarkably compassionate and acts like helping a Centreville, Virginia, high school student with cerebral palsy ask a date to his prom.

It's a beautiful thing.

It's also brilliant.

SuperBob clearly likes people, and that is a beautiful thing. He has a big heart, and that is a beautiful thing. All these tweets — #thisisforus — may be his way to reach out to as many people as he can, 1.14 million followers and counting, and let them know he really cares about them. This superstar athlete — the quarterback of the Washington Redskins — cares about me.

So these fans are going to care about him — no matter what. They are going to be loyal to SuperBob no matter how tough times get — no matter who might point fingers at the quarterback if something goes wrong. Because he loves them.

This may be purely organic, a thing of beauty that has evolved out of SuperBob's need and desire to connect with people. But it's also a brilliant effort to avoid a repeat of the SuperBob fallout that happened last season — when the quarterback was under fire for being a self-centered diva who had the ear of the team owner.

One Twitter follower at a time, SuperBob has become more popular than ever — even after coming off a controversial sophomore season, cursed by the "All in for Week One" adidas campaign to capitalize on his knee injury. He has gone directly to the fans, bypassing the traditional media, and built himself an army of loyal, devoted followers — SuperBob's Army. (Maybe I'll trademark that.)

After all, when's the last time a superstar asked you, "How's your day going?"

The Redskins could use some help from SuperBob.

This is the war part of the #hashtag war and peace.

The team recently went to war with its franchise name critics — and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in particular — when it asked its fans via Twitter to "Tweet @SenatorReid to show your #RedskinsPride and tell him what the team means to you."

It seemed to backfire on the team, as it was roasted publicly for the effort.

But, unlike SuperBob, at this point the Redskins aren't looking to be loved by anybody. They've lost that battle. I'd even venture to say they don't particularly care about the public relations fallout, because that's a war they've lost already.

No, this #RedskinsPride campaign was all about waking up the Redskins fans who are devoted to the team — and the name.

The effort to force the Redskins to change the name is more well-funded and powerful than ever before. Getting 50 U.S. Senators to sign a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell urging him to force the Redskins to change their name is a big leap from a couple of representatives from Guam and American Samoa.

It's one step closer to a corporate sponsor's boardroom — where the real pressure would have to come from for the NFL to force a name change.

#RedskinsPride was about telling their fans that this is a real threat, and their voices have been silent so far, drowned out by the traditional media. Like SuperBob, they went directly to their fans. The team should pray their connections are as strong as their quarterback's are with his army.

Thom Loverro is co-host of "The Sports Fix,"noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio andespn980.com

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