October 05, 2013

Obama open to "Redskins" change

A big development in the campaign against the "Redskins" nickname:

Obama open to name change for Washington Redskins

By Julie PacePresident Barack Obama says he would "think about changing" the Washington Redskins' name if he owned the football team as he waded into the controversy involving a word many consider offensive to Native Americans.

Obama, in an interview with The Associated Press, said team names such as the Redskins offend "a sizable group of people." He said that while fans get attached to the names, nostalgia may not be a good enough reason to keep them in place.

"I don't know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things," he said in the interview, which was conducted Friday at the White House.

An avid sports fan who roots for his hometown Chicago Bears, Obama said he doesn't think Washington football fans are purposely trying to offend American Indians. "I don't want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team and rightly so," he said.

But he appeared to come down on the side of those who have sharply criticized the football team's name, noting that Indians "feel pretty strongly" about mascots and team names that depict negative stereotypes about their heritage.
And:"What a prudent and wise use of the bully pulpit," Suzan Shown Harjo, a plaintiff in that case, said in an interview Saturday. "I am so glad that he said that and I hope that people hear a reasoned response from the president and will pay attention to this issue."

Harjo said the issue "involves lots of hurt and pain and ongoing name-calling and bullying of our children that goes with this name. We just need to have an end to it."

"There's no such thing as a good stereotype, no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how good people feel about it," Harjo added. "It still has negative ramifications for our people."

"These are relics of the past. They should be consigned to museums and history books and people can feel good about them there," she said. "But they should not be allowed in polite society."

Opponents of the Redskins name plan to hold a symposium Monday at the Washington hotel hosting the NFL's fall meeting.

"We really appreciate the president underscoring what we've been saying," said Ray Halbritter, leader of the Oneida Indian Nation, a tribe from upstate New York that's been campaigning against the name. "There's just no place for a professional football team to be using what the dictionary defines as a racially offensive term."
Redskins respond

A Redskins lawyer responses to Obama:

Obama: If I were Snyder, I’d think about changing Redskins’ nameLanny Davis, an attorney and spokesman for the Redskins, told NBC’s Kristen Welker: “As a supporter of President Obama, I am sure the president is not aware that in the highly respected Annenberg Institute poll (taken 2004) with a national sample of Native Americans, 9 out of 10 Native Americans said they were not bothered by the name the ‘Washington Redskins.’ The president made these comments to the Associated Press, but he was apparently unaware that an April 2013 AP poll showed that eight out of ten of all Americans in a national sample don’t think the Washington Redskins name should be changed.

“We at the Redskins respect everyone. But like devoted fans of the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks (from President Obama’s home town), we love our team and its name and, like those fans, we do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group. The name ‘Washington Redskins’ is 80 years old–it’s our history and legacy and tradition. We Redskins fans sing ‘hail to the Redskins’ every Sunday as a word of honor not disparagement.”
So fans sing Hail to the Redskins as a badge or honor? Good thing they change the racists lyrics after 60 years of "honoring" Indians as follows:Hail to the Redskins!
Hail Victory!
Braves on the warpath!
Fight for Old D.C.!
Scalp 'em, swamp 'um
We will take 'um big score
Read 'um, Weep 'um, touchdown
We want heap more
As I tweeted to my followers:

Activists to #Redskins defenders: Yes, we know ethnic slurs have a long tradition. Is "long tradition" your whole argument, or what? #racism

Yes, #Redskins defenders, we know what the dubious polls say. As with legal rights, we're not putting an ethnic slur up for a popular vote.

#Redskins fans argue the ethnic slur has been around a long time, and the ethnic slur doesn't offend most people. Key point: ETHNIC SLUR.

Not a big deal?

A couple of people on Facebook thought this development wasn't that big--perhaps because Obama doesn't influence NFL policy directly. This led to a debate with one of them.

My position:

Obama's speaking on this is huge. As when he spoke on gay marriage, it signals to the public and the media that this is a serious issue. That it's not just some tiny minority of do-gooders advocating "political correctness."

His stance encourages everyone to think and talk about it--to debate it in public and in the media. It encourages fence-sitters to rethink their apathy, apply their liberal principles, and take a stand similar to his. In short, it provides a big push to public pressure--and that pressure is what will persuade Dan Snyder and the NFL to cave.Well the article doesn't say and it makes a big difference whether he brought it up or was just responding to a question. Also don't forget that that effect works both ways. There's going to be a lot of people suddenly staunchly against the name change just because Obama is for it.I think he was just responding. But still, he could've ducked the question if he wanted to.

I don't think many people will go from anti-Redskins to pro-Redskins because they hate Obama. Redskins fandom probably includes all the racists in the area already.

What may change is the views of liberals, especially minority liberals, in the DC area. If they start turning against the team, Snyder will have a real debate on his hands. Not a trivial little protest that he can ignore.

Again, Obama's coming out on gay marriage is a great parallel. Nobody turned against gays because they didn't like Obama. Obama haters were already gay haters, I'm sure.

But Obama's talk about his evolving position freed up "mental" space for others to evolve also. And that means more people supporting gays and opposing the Redskins. As the numbers continue to shift, the team and the NFL will have to take notice.Yes, I agree with your point about liberals taking notice. Having the president affirmatively on one side of the issue is going to make some people feel more comfortable doing the same. However, I think this effect will be minimal in D.C. area. Football tickets are still a pretty exclusive club of people with the money to afford them and any ticket buyers who feel strongly enough about the name to stop will quickly be replaced by other opportunists.

In short, I don't think there's anything on the local level that's going to sway Snyder and the team. It's going to take national pressure on the advertisers to amount to any real trouble. So I think the Variety article is really a bigger deal than Obama.
The Redskins' in-person support is relatively minor compared to the fan and media interest nationwide. And I suspect the Redskins' ticket income is relatively minor compared to the TV and advertising revenue nationwide.

Times are changing

When the US president, a Congressional letter, Variety, major newspapers, etc. speak out, they're the tip of the iceberg. As with gay marriage, Obama doesn't take a position unless he and his advisers have seen which way the wind is blowing. he isn't leading public opinion, he's reflecting it. He's summing up what he's hearing from the sports, media, business, and political worlds.

As for the advertisers, nobody has to carry signs in front of their HQs for them to get the message--although that wouldn't hurt. The public is turning against the Redskins, which is why Obama felt comfortable speaking out. Advertisers don't want to associate with anything perceived as controversial or unpopular--not to mention racist. So the pressure is already building on them--and Snyder--behind the scenes.

In short, as I tweeted:

Indian mascots = gay marriage. When the president says we should reconsider the issue, it's headed rapidly toward a tipping point. #Redskins


Anonymous said...

America champions ignorance? How is this a shock? For a country that lauds its patriotism and bears pride for freedom, Americans rape their own fellow female soldiers twice, once through violence and the other through public opinion; Americans accept the killing of their own children to preserve gun ownership; and Americans are just as clueless about America itself, its real history, not its TV drama series and its aboriginal peoples before 1492. So, how is it people are offended over the name Redskins in a country where the predominant religion involves the torture, suffering, death and resurrection, we hope, of the son of God?

Anonymous said...

"Americans accept the killing of their own children to preserve gun ownership"

Some of your criticisms have merit, but your attack on the basic human rights of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves has no merit at all. It is hard to find a better example of Americans "championing ignorance" than the current mindless rush toward "gun control".

Antikomi said...

The only thing Obama's statement proves is that he's a Commie just like the owner of this blog.

Commies agitate, fostering divisions in society and pitting them against one another for their ultimate political gain—"divide et impera," create the disease, tout oneself as the cure. It's what they do. It's all they do.

As for "gun control," it's nothing but a euphemism for "disarming the law-abiding populace in order to put them at the mercy of the government."

Anonymous said...

Wow Komi! You're dumb.

Anonymous said...

Anti is dead-on when it comes to gun control. It is arrogance and hubris by those in power who seek to eliminate the basic human rights of those they rule.

If you don't like guns, don't own any. Problem solved.

Rob said...

I assume Antikomi can't even define "communism," much less apply it correctly. As with "socialism" and "fascism," conservatives use big words so they won't look like uneducated yahoos when they spew their bile.

Sorry to burst your ignorant bubble, but the Founding Fathers said the government could regulate guns in the Second Amendment. If you don't like this regulation, don't own any guns.

Better yet, get the hell out of America. The majority determines what's legal here, not you, and we want reasonable gun laws.

Rob said...

For more on Lanny Davis's defense of the Redskins, see:


Repugnant man defends repugnant team: Lanny Davis loves Redskins’ name!

Who do you call to confront the president when he calls your sports team's name racist? Why, Lanny Davis, of course