Philadelphia is one heck of a tough place. Few people ever get cut a break there. Even Santa Claus in an infamous incident at an Eagles game years ago was once pelted with snowballs. Not a lot of love sometimes in the City of Brotherly Love. So how would you expect a Philadelphia Eagles employee to be treated for speaking out against an unpopular decision made by the team? If you said fired you would be right. It is Philadelphia.
The termination of 32 year old Dan Leone is now national news. An Internet sensation. Why? Because the story is related to another Internet sensation – Facebook, the social networking site that millions of people have come to depend on to share their lives and express their joys and frustrations. Leone who works one of the gates at the stadium during Eagles home games expressed on his Facebook page what most Eagles fans felt with the release of longtime popular player Brian Dawkins. Leone posted on Facebook that he was “[expletive] .. devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver….. Dam Eagles R retarted…” Those words were apparently too much for the Eagles officials who thought that Leone had stepped over the line by talking. It is being reported that Leone said he was told that he couldn’t be trusted and he made the team look bad.
Facebook was made for personal comments. It is an ideal place to express oneself. But when does personal expression lapse into bad taste or in Leone’s case bad judgement? Did the Eagles go too far by firing an employee for simply saying what he thought? What’s private and what’s public? Those are questions made for a new generation. A time when so much of what we do sits primed for long-term examination and review.
I could see discipline or termination if the statement had been made by one of the team’s executives. But terminating a guy who works at the stadium I feel is going too far. But that is where we are today. Years ago Dan Leone could have made that comment to friends, family or even a few co-workers without any risk of losing his job or offending the powers that be. He could have done it then because his words would not have carried the same weight or lived so long. But not so with the Internet. Say something on the Internet today and it can live there forever – offending or amusing anyone who reads it now or ten years from now. What it also says is that for all of the convenience and technology advances that we now have, many aspects of our lives can be a virtual open book. Anything we say or do in cyberspace is potentially subject to eternal examination and scrutiny.
I’m pretty sure Dan Leone gave little thought to what his words might mean to those who are easily offended in the Eagles front office. If he didn’t, he certainly knows now. And you can be sure he will think twice about being publicly critical of a future employer. He’ll also likely think twice about saying anything of consequence again because the formerly anonymous stadium employee is now famous. Thanks to the Internet – he is forever linked to his public frustration with the Eagles and the loss of one of his favorite players. He’ll be quiet unless of course – thanks to the very same Internet – he can turn his newfound fame into money. Because from now on Dan Leone is just a Google click away.