October 10, 2013

Reilly misquoted Blackfeet father-in-law

Remember Rick Reilly's column defending the Redskins? I summarized it and the responses it received in Reilly: "White America" Hates "Redskins."

Turns out he lied misspoke about what his father-in-law Bob Burns, a Blackfeet Indian, said. Burns wrote an op-ed to correct the record:

Blackfeet Elder Says Rick Reilly Misquoted Him; Wants ‘Redskins’ Banned

By Bob BurnsYou can imagine my dismay when I saw my name and words used to defend the racist Washington Redskins name. My son-in-law, ESPN’s Rick Reilly, completely misunderstood the conversation we had, quoting me as saying “the whole issue is so silly. The name just doesn't bother me much. It's an issue that shouldn't be an issue, not with all the problems we've got in this country."

But that’s not what I said.

What I actually said is that “it’s silly in this day and age that this should even be a battle--if the name offends someone, change it.” He failed to include my comments that the term “redskins” demeans Indians, and historically is insulting and offensive, and that I firmly believe the Washington Redskins should change their name.

When Rick’s article came out, it upset me to be portrayed as an “Uncle Tom” in support of this racial slur. I asked him to correct the record. He has not, so I must do it myself.
Will Rick Reilly Be Fired By ESPN For Misquoting Father-In-Law In “Redskins” Column?

By Ty DuffyEither Reilly horribly misremembered a conversation, and never bothered to double check it (and wasn’t fact-checked). Or, he misquoted and exploited his father-in-law to support a lame column premise and then refused to retract it when asked. We could break down on the journalism ethics, but the human ethics may be the graver issue.If Reilly's father-in-law is Blackfeet, doesn't that mean his wife is also? I'm wondering what she thinks about all this.

Anyway, here's another problem related to Reilly's column:

Reporter Defends ‘Redskins’; Doesn’t Mention Dad Is Team’s Crisis Manager

By Rob CapricciosoWhen it comes to the ongoing “Redskins” name-change controversy, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree for one well-connected family.

Seth Davis, a basketball reporter for CBS Sports and a Sports Illustrated writer, posted a flurry of tweets in recent days supporting a column by ESPN’s Rick Reilly in which Reilly made several arguments supporting his belief that the name honors American Indians. Reilly, despite much readily available contrary evidence, wrote that he believes the main people who are outraged by the name are white sports reporters and columnists. To back up that claim, he reported that his father-in-law, a Blackfeet Nation citizen, doesn’t mind the name, but his father-in-law, Bob Burns, has since told Indian Country Today Media Network that Reilly misrepresented his views, and he does indeed feel ‘Redskins' is offensive and should not be used.

Despite the holes in Reilly’s thesis, Davis wholeheartedly agreed with it, linking to the Reilly column and writing on Twitter September 19, “Unless I missed it I don’t see a groundswell of protest from Native Americans against ‘Redskins.’”

Indeed, Davis “missed it” by ignoring American Indian protests of the names that started as early as the 1950s and continued to this week with a well-attended D.C. symposium sponsored by the Oneida Indian Nation. Oneida Nation Enterprises is the parent company of ICTMN.

Until recently, Davis also missed the opportunity to disclose to his 150,000-plus Twitter followers that his dad, Lanny Davis, has been working for the past few months for Daniel Snyder, owner of the team, as a crisis manager and lawyer as pressure has intensified for Snyder to change the name. On October 9, a few weeks after a Twitter user asked him if he was biased in this situation, Davis linked to a Washington Post article that highlights a recent radio interview with Lanny Davis, in which the lawyer explains his relationship with Snyder. “This is why I am so proud to be the son of @LannyDavis. Agree or not, he speaks respectfully and with civility,” Seth Davis tweeted.
Reilly's response

Reilly tweeted his response to the controversy:While I stand by the reporting in my Sept. 18 column about the Washington Redskins nickname controversy, and felt I accurately quoted my father-in-law in the piece, clearly he feels differently. This is an incredibly sensitive issue, and Bob felt he had more to say on the subject after that column was posted on ESPN.com. We've spoken and cleared this up. I admire Bob and respect his opinions, and he's welcome to express them. Bob and I are good and I'm looking forward to my next steak with him.As you can see below, no one thought this was an adequate response:

Rick Reilly's Father-in-Law Says He Was Misquoted...By Rick Reilly

By Matt YoderWell...that changes things, doesn't it? It's one thing to misquote an athlete or a team executive or even someone in the media...but your own family member?!? Yikes. Especially considering how much attention Reilly's column has drawn (positive and negative) this is just about the worst-case scenario for him.

Beyond correcting the record from his son-in-law's quotation, Burns left no room for interpretation of where he truly stands with the Redskins nickname with this piercing, thought-provoking conclusion to his column:“Redskins” is part of that mentality from colonial times when our people were hunted by soldiers and mercenaries who were paid for the scalps of our men, women and children. How can anyone claim this is a proud tradition to come from? The labels, racism and hatred that Indian people continue to experience are directly tied to those racial slurs.

Let me be clear: The racial slur “redskins” is not okay with me. It’s never going to be okay with me. It’s inappropriate, damaging and racist.
And:While it's nice that Thanksgiving at the Reillys doesn't look like it's going to turn into a Jerry Springer special, I have a hard time reconciling these two statements. Rick Reilly stands by his reporting and feels that he quoted his father-in-law accurately...but his father-in-law says he misquoted him entirely?!?

The question that hasn't been answered is what kind of response ESPN will have to this embarrassing situation. Given the terse response from PR yesterday, the Bristol suits have to be furious that first Reilly's column and now his inaccuracies have put ESPN in such a negative light. This looks really bad for the columnist, with Burns' column for Indian Country Today very forceful in opposition to the way he was portrayed by his own son-in-law.

ESPN had the opportunity to avoid all of this, but they re-signed Rick Reilly to a new contract earlier this year. They had it coming.
Blackfeet Elder Refuses to Be Son-in-Law Rick Reilly’s ‘Uncle Tom’

By Dave ZirinDamn. While this is all certainly coated in schadenfreude, more interesting than whether Reilly is “good” with Bob Burns is why he chose to hear what he heard and write what he wrote.

Ray Halbritter from the Oneida Nation said to me that he wonders the same. “There has been a concerted effort by those who want to keep using this racial slur to pretend that the targets of the slur support their agenda. They enjoy the privilege of not being denigrated with a word that has been used as a epithet against Native people for decades. The most disturbing question about Rick Reilly and [team owner] Dan Snyder is why are they so devoted to continue slandering Native Americans with this racial slur?”

This personal and professional disaster for Reilly is a microcosm about the harmful effects of mascoting. The argument made for decades by Native Americans is that their ubiquitous presence as sports mascots enables the dominant culture to see them only as stereotypes and not as a living, breathing, visible part of this country. Here is Rick Reilly and he is so focused on defending the right of teams to have the freedom to practice minstrelsy that he is not actually hearing the Native American man under his own roof. When that same man asks for a correction, Reilly still will not hear him, and he has to write his own response.

This country has always been more than comfortable with Native Americans as brands on sports teams and military hardware such as Apache helicopters, and Tomahawk cruise missiles. It is not comfortable with actual, real-life Native Americans like Bob Burns. This is the legacy of conquest: you glory in the fighting prowess of the noble savages you vanquished because it indirectly is a way of praising your own sense of muscular manifest destiny.
Finally, if it's still not clear who's telling the truth about Reilly's conversation with Burns, here's a note from a Facebook friend:I personally spoke with Bob Burns several times and Rick Reilly is being disingenuous. He breached the ethical boundary imo by cherry-picking and twisting words to suit his agenda. He did not include all the things Bob Burns said about his opposition to the name and that it should be changed. His so-called apology is no better. No respect, Reilly, and we're calling you on it.

No comments: