Post removes reference to burning couches after Redskins game

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The Washington Post's request for Redskins fans to send video highlights of their reactions -- win or lose -- to the Redskins Sunday night game against the Dallas Cowboys drew the ire of some fire officials for referencing a local tradition of burning couches.

A blog posted on washingtonpost.com Friday encouraged fans to capture their emotions during and after the Redskins final regular season game, a battle for the NFC East title, by taking video, uploading it to YouTube and submitting the link to the video on the Post's website.

An example given of celebrations included singing the team's fight song, "Hail to the Redskins." The request also mentioned as an example "lighting your couch on fire," followed by a disclaimer stating "The Post does not encourage such behavior."

The blog was enough to concern Prince George's County Fire and EMS officials, according to spokesman Mark Brady, who quickly requested the joke be removed.

"Regardless of the disclaimer, just putting that thought in someone's mind and not realizing how much damage that could cause, it's irresponsible," he said. "Basically, they're promoting arson. Lighting a couch on fire, especially in someone's house, is arson."

Dave Ianonne, a member of the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department, was frustrated by tweets about burning couches from the Post Sports Twitter account that lacked the disclaimer included in the blog post.

"Somebody's going to see that and think they can get on TV," he said.

Couch burning was popularized, in part, at the University of Maryland, where students in College Park became known for torching furniture to celebrate a win or lament a loss of the men's basketball team -- particularly after games against rival Duke University, according to Brady.

The popularity of couch burning has diminished on campus due to the team's recent lack of success and a successful campaign by university officials to discourage arson, he said.

The couch burning joke was later removed by a Washington Post editor after it was reviewed at Brady's request, and an apology was added to the blog post.

And a later tweet from Post Sports apologized for the original tweet referencing couch burning.

"A previous version of this blog post contained a clause that was intended as humor but is being interpreted as condoning irresponsible behavior," the apology states. "The Post apologizes for creating this impression. We encourage all fans to react to the game responsibly."

The Post did not respond to a request for comment.

"It worked like it should have as far as public safety and media relations go," Brady said.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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Ben Giles

Staff Writer - Crime Beat
The Washington Examiner