The mob started to gather on the Internet shortly after the news release went out about 9 o'clock Thursday morning. And I must admit that I immediately started looking for my pitchfork and torch, too.
Let's hunt down those idiot Tampa Bay Buccaneers!
Then a funny thing happened. I talked to some folks. I thought long and hard. And I realized that the Bucs, always low-hanging fruit for critics, really didn't do much wrong.
Here's what happened. The team sent out a release announcing its new "RED" initiative. The gist was to cater to the female fan base. Glazer Family Foundation co-president Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, in the release, said, "RED is a groundbreaking women's movement designed to recognize and celebrate our female fan base."
Fine so far. No one has a problem with any team or business trying to attract more customers.
The problem is the angry mob found this to be anything but, as the release stated, "groundbreaking." They found it to be just the opposite — stereotypical, condescending, maybe even a little misogynistic. Instead of embracing female fans, many felt the Bucs put out an awkwardly worded release that alienated them.
The part that got everyone fired up? The release said it was going to help re-invent the female fan experience, in part, by showing women "how to blend personal Buccaneer pride with the latest NFL fashions; as well as tips on sharing their experiences and ideas via social media platforms such as Pinterest."
Oh, and this part, too: "RED members will also have access to exclusive networking events throughout the year designed to encourage interaction while providing practical advice on how to express their love for the Bucs into original design projects, fashion-forward team apparel and creative culinary creations."
Design projects. Fashion. Cooking. You know, girl stuff. (To be clear, I'm being sarcastic.)
Those women who follow the game and know it well were immediately put off. You can understand that. "What, we can't enjoy football unless you tie it up in a pink bow or put it in an oven?"
And if that's what the Bucs were doing — treating all women the same, saying all were ignorant about the game and only interested if there were high heels and salads involved — then I could see where they would have the right to be offended.
But that's not what the Bucs are trying to do. They are casting a wide net, trying to attract as many new female fans as possible.
That includes celebrating the diehard fans. For such women, the initiative includes taking them behind the scenes and giving them access to the finer intricacies of the game. That was mentioned in the release.
The initiative also includes information for the casual fan, explaining terminology and plays that casual fans might not know. That, too, was in the release.
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And, yes, this also includes elements for the novices who actually might be interested in fashion or food. That seemed to be the only part of the release that was read by the detractors.
Think of this initiative as a buffet. Take what you want. Leave what you don't want. But the entire buffet is not meant for everybody. Not every item in the initiative is meant for every woman.
Several team executives I spoke to Thursday thought that was clear. They were stunned there was any negative reaction. They have been planning this initiative for nearly two years and only put it together after getting advice from focus groups made up exclusively of women telling the Bucs what should be in the initiative. Women in the Bucs front office helped author this project.
It's similar to initiatives put together by other teams such as the Rams, Ravens, Steelers, Bengals, Texans, Colts and a half-dozen others. Membership in the Titans women's club includes Titans nail polish.
For what it's worth, more than 500 women had signed up for the program by early Thursday afternoon.
We all get what the Bucs are trying to do here. They're trying to grow their audience, and there is nothing wrong with trying to attract women and families to the sport.
At first glance, it might appear as if the Bucs thought that women are so dim-witted that the only way they might possibly be interested in football is if you pat them on the fanny, call them sweetie and coax them with jewelry like this was an episode of Mad Men. But if you take the time to really read the release, and if you take the time to talk to those who put it together and those who are signing up, if you really see that the Bucs are trying to welcome fans from all levels of expertise, then you might find that they aren't out of line.
But it's too late. The mob is in a frenzy. The Bucs are getting killed for this. I will get killed for sticking up for them.
The way I see it, the Bucs do plenty of dumb things to criticize. I just don't think this is one of them.