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What’s the Fuss? Washington Says it’s Just an “E”

Leon Washington gave his side of the "double bird" controversy Wednesday. He says he was just representin’ the E.

Leon Washington needs some signing advice from Wild Bill Hagy. You know, the guy who used to spell out O-R-I-O-L-E-S during the team’s late 70s pennant drives.

His picture on the front of Bowman’s Signs of the Future autographed football card shows him making some kind of gesture. Topps and some collectors thought he was giving the finger…twice. Washington says that’s not the case.

A day after the Washington controversy exploded (and ultimately caused SportsCollectorsDaily.com to crash from an overload of traffic), Washington told the Associated Press he was simply making an "E" with his fingers to represent his home area, the "east side" of Jacksonville, Florida.

"I was a little disappointed because I don’t want to send that sort of message across to the fans or anybody like that," Washington said. "I’m not that kind of person and that’s not even my character," Washington explained. "I don’t even remember the last time I shot the bird."

Meanwhile, Topps took some heat from the Jets, who say they should have sought an explanation before assuming Washington was using an obscene gesture and offering consumers the opportunity to exchange the card.

The issue invokes memories of the classic "error" on Billy Ripken’s card in the 1989 Fleer baseball issue. Ripken is pictured holding a bat, the knob including two words, one which was of the four-letter variety. Fleer attempted several corrections, modifying the letters, blacking them out and using several other crude techniques in an effort to lessen the negative publicity.

After an initial wave of publicity, the Ripken card faded quickly, but is now regaining some popularity as the kids who were enthralled by the naughty story 17 years ago grow into adults. Collector Donovan Ryan even has a website devoted to the Ripken card, displaying the many variations. He also tracks the "adult" type error cards that have occurred over the years.


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