Dean Kovanes is the owner of the Arby's franchise at 2309 W. Broad Street in Richmond, Va., which sits only steps away from the Washington NFL team's training facility. Kovanes and his father have owned the location since 1968, and when the team brought its training camp to Richmond he decided to have a little fun with it.
The lifelong sports fan placed a sign in his parking lot reserving a spot for quarterback Robert Griffin III. He made the fateful decision to put the team's logo on the sign, leading to a call from the team's lawyers asking him to take it down. Kovanes says the call was friendly and, not wanting to cause trouble for the Arby's parent company, he removed the sign.
But the Internet works much faster than the lawyers, and pictures of the sign spread like wildfire. It turns out that the folks at corporate have a sense of humor and told Kovanes that they loved the publicity.
With his gimmick established, Kovanes waited for an opportunity to have some more sign fun. He got his chance earlier this year when the team told former player and current media personality LaVar Arrington that he couldn't call himself a "Redskins Great" in marketing materials. Kovanes reacted by reserving a spot for "Redskins Great LaVar Arrington." This time he wisely left the team logo out of the design.
With the Patriots visiting Richmond for joint practices with the Washington team this week, Kovanes is at it again. This time it's a jab at New England coach Bill Belichick, who famously quit his one-day job as head coach of the Jets by writing "I resign as HC of the NYJ" on a napkin.
"I said, 'Well that's kind of fun. It'll fit on a sign,'" Kovanes told me, as we sat at a table in his restaurant.
So he created the sign, which he says cost about $50, and added an image of a pair of binoculars in a subtle homage to the Patriots' infamous Spygate fiasco. Just like last time, pictures of the sign spread on Twitter, making Kovanes the media get of the day. The restaurant owner got calls from various local media and even made an appearance on CBS radio in Boston. But the Cleveland native insists it's all in fun and made sure to make it clear that he'd welcome Belichick in his establishment.
"We're right across the street from the facility," he said. "He can come in, have our meatcrafters build him a great sandwich. He can sit in the lobby, out of the heat and humidity of Richmond, and watch practice through the binoculars if he chooses to. And when he leaves we'll even tuck a few sandwiches into his hoodie."