September 19, 2013

Sportswriters rip Reilly's "Redskins" column

Yesterday I posted one critique of Rick Reilly's column supporting the Washington Redskins. Turns out a whole bunch of sportswriters had something to say about it:

12 Sportswriters Rip ESPN's Rick Reilly for Column Defending RedskinsWe could pick it apart here, but it's more entertaining to leave the job to others, many of whom are paying attention to Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter's Change the Mascot campaign:

1. BobbyBigWheel, Kissing Suzy Kolber: "Rick Reilly is Racist as Hell, Probably Won't Get Fired by ESPN"

[The final] sentence is a fireable offense. The railroading of Native Americans into reservations upon removing them from their lands is one of our nation’s biggest embarrassments. Reilly uses it as a fucking punch line. He’s proven himself so insensitive throughout the article that it almost doesn’t shock by the end, but this is the equivalent of making sharecropping or concentration camps into kickers for a column. Not only should Reilly be fired, but his editor should probably be fired for even letting this come to light.

2. Chris Greenberg, Huffington Post: "Rick Reilly's Outrageous 'Redskins' Defense Compares Protesting Name To Putting Native Americans On Reservations"

Reilly opted not to address the concerns of Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, who has spoken out against "the racial slur" in the team's name. ... Reilly's column made no mention of [U.S. Congressman Tom] Cole, who is described as "the sole tribal enrolled Native American currently serving in Congress" at his website and was one of 10 members of Congress to send a letter to Goodell and team owner Dan Snyder urging change earlier this year.

3. Tim Marchman, Deadspin: "Rick Reilly Just Wrote The Worst Thing. Let's Remember The Good Times."

We don't know why he's essentially equating criticism of overtly racist iconography with the forced relocation of entire nations, or how anyone could possibly publish this; we're not sure we want to know.
And:5. Jonathan Weiler, Huffington Post: "Rick Reilly's No Good, Very Bad Defense of the Washington Football Team's Nickname"

Reilly's attempt to position himself as some stalwart truth-teller defending the right of Native Americans to call themselves what they want is the kind faux 'courage' that one expects to find among the Rush Limbaughs of the world.

6. Ty Duffy, The Big Lead: "Rick Reilly Swings At 'Redskins,' Misses The Point Entirely"

If, as Reilly suggests, some predominately Native American schools view 'Redskins' as a point of pride and wish to continue using it, that is fine. That’s different from an NFL franchise, owned by a white man and catering to a largely non-Native American audience, appropriating that culture and distorting it into a crude caricature.

7. Kevin Beane, Sports Central, "Rick Reilly’s Redskins"

While a majority of Native Americans may not care about the Redskins nickname, a lot of them do. This need not be held up to a majority vote, because it's just a nickname. If 10% of Native Americans are offended, what's the harm in changing it to the Burgundies or the Cheseapeakers or something, where no one would be offended (except ironically at that PC world gone mad)?
Comment:  I don't know if these writers have criticized the nickname themselves. I don't think they've joined the movement not to use the word "Redskins."

But this is still a remarkable outcome. At least 12 writers were annoyed enough to lambaste one particular column defending the name.

I don't think Natives and other activists will ever give up the fight. Now it seems the sports world is turning against the name.

Why any of these people would backtrack is beyond me. The most likely outcome is the pressure will continue to grow until it becomes irresistible.

What's changed since 1991?

Curiously, Reilly himself may be the only person who's ever backtracked on "Redskins." In 1991, he wrote a column criticizing the nickname. Mike Foss provides the scoop:

Rick Reilly has evolved on Redskins name in a different way

22 years after coming out against the name, Reilly has changed his tune.

As Foss notes, Reilly didn't engage any of his old anti-"Redskins" arguments. For instance, he understood then that a name such as "Blackskins" or "Yellowskins" would be offensive. Well, that's still the case. So why were Redskins, Blackskins, and Yellowskins unacceptable in 1991 but okay now?

Who knows? Perhaps Reilly is getting paid too much these days to bite the hand that feeds him. That's about the only reason I can think of for his reversal.

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