By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Fred Washington's lawyer does not want his client's picture taken for this story. Attorney Eric Fein believes that if you were to see a picture of Washington, who stands about 5-foot-11 and weighs a little more than 200 pounds, you might not be so quick to believe that he could be intimidated--threatened, actually--by Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Campo, who, according to his lawyers, is a mere 5-foot-8 and weighs no more than 170 pounds. See for yourself: That's a picture of Campo at right, talking to former Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer, who appears to be addressing a child. Seriously, which man in that picture looks scary?
Washington--a limo driver for a very wealthy oilman--says it's Campo who accosted him in the Texas Stadium parking lot on December 8, 1997, after the Cowboys lost to the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football. Washington claims he was minding his own business, talking to a friend on a cellular phone about how awful the Cowboys were, when Campo approached him, berated him with obscene language, and even threatened him--not physically, but mentally.
Campo never hit Washington, never even took a swing at him. He just yelled at him. Told him to "shut the fuck up." Called him a few names. Got in his face. But no more.
But still, last January, Washington filed a suit in Dallas County district court alleging that Campo caused him "extreme fear, humiliation, and mental and emotional distress"--at least $50,000 worth.
"I was really hurt, man," Washington says during an interview with the Dallas Observer. "I was really, really hurt. My feelings were hurt. He was a man yellin' and shoutin' at me, and [it's about] the arrogance of the Cowboys. They felt they could do anything they wanted to, step on anybody they wanted to, say anything they wanted to, and here I am getting treated that way."
After talking with Washington for a while, it becomes evident he filed the suit because he's too proud to let Campo get away with calling him names "like I wasn't even there." He talks about a childhood spent "in the 'hood of Washington, D.C.," how his mother died when he was only 12 years old and he was forced to drop out of school when he was 16 to help take care of his grandmother and 10 brothers and sisters. The family was so poor, he insists, "I didn't even have tennies on my feet."
In his deposition, Washington often talks about his love for the Cowboys and especially former coach Tom Landry; he mentions how difficult it was to be a Dallas Cowboys fan in Washington Redskins territory. "I was hated up there," he says, laughing. "When they came to Washington, I would go to Dulles Airport [to meet the Cowboys' plane]."
In the early 1980s, he was given the opportunity to move here when his employer, a furniture company, promoted him. A few years later, he resigned and went to work for a friend's limo company as a driver. He says a headhunter contacted him about going to work for M.B. "Duke" Rudman, the 80-something oilman millionaire.
Washington eventually signed on as Rudman's full-time limo driver, which is why he was at the game last December. He sits in Rudman's luxury suite at Texas Stadium during every home game and went down to prepare the car after the Panthers game when he ran headlong into the temper tantrum known as Dave Campo.
In his deposition, Campo admits that he "might have reacted differently than normal" when he confronted Washington that night. He says he was "upset a little bit...emotionally upset," and that "it was an emotional game" because the loss to Carolina hurt the Cowboys' chances of making the playoffs last season--as if. "And it was a good possibility that we could be in trouble as a coaching staff," he says, referring to owner Jerry Jones' unhappiness with the team's pitiful performance that season.
Campo says that after the game, he headed to his car in the parking lot near Gate 8, which is reserved for Cowboys personnel, VIPs, and limos. According to Campo, on the way to his car, he passed Washington, who was talking on a cellular phone. Campo says in his deposition that Washington had his back to him, but that he could hear what Washington was saying into his phone as he walked past: "Those stupid son-of-a-bitches, they lost, they got their ass kicked in their own fucking stadium," Campo recalls in his deposition. "They ought to get fired...And I'll tell you another fucking thing, they ought to fire that fucking [offensive coordinator Ernie] Zampese and that fucking Campo. They both suck."
Washington insists that he doesn't use foul language, and that he told his friend on the other end of the cellular phone only that the Cowboys "got beat in their own back yard" and that "Jerry should fire all of them." But they both agree on one thing: When Campo heard Washington bad-mouthing the team, the defensive coordinator went on the offensive, shouting at the limo driver to "shut the fuck up"--twice, no less. (And this is from Campo's own recollection of the event. Washington recalls that Campo told him to go "'f' myself.")