October 09, 2013

Snyder defends "Redskins" in letter

Apparently Redskins owner Dan Snyder is feeling the heat. He sent a letter to season-ticket holders defending the racist nickname.

It was the usual compendium of honor and tradition, dubious polls, and "some of my best friends are Native." Here are a couple of representative paragraphs:

Letter from Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder to fansIn 1971, our legendary coach, the late George Allen, consulted with the Red Cloud Athletic Fund located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and designed our emblem on the Redskins helmets. Several years later, Coach Allen was honored by the Red Cloud Athletic Fund. On the wall at our Ashburn, Virginia, offices is the plaque given to Coach Allen--a source of pride for all of us. “Washington Redskins is more than a name we have called our football team for over eight decades. It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect--the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.

I’ve listened carefully to the commentary and perspectives on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name. But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans too.
Since Snyder offered nothing new, nobody except maybe Redskins fans bought it. Here are some of the responses:

Dan Snyder Addresses Redskins Controversy in LetterIt's a more sympathetic tone from Snyder, but does tone matter at this point? Twice, he says he is listening to those arguing for a change--but gives no indication that he's considering change. Snyder cites a poll by Annenberg of self-identified Indians that many debate observers have criticized, and he also cites the anecdotal evidence of an article in which Virginia Indians said they were Redskins fans. Snyder also says that the logo on the Redskins' helmets was designed with input from the Red Cloud Athletic Fund, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.Oneida Indian rep responds to letter from Redskins' owner SnyderWe are glad to see that Mr. Snyder is listening to the growing number of critics on this issue that include the President of the United States, senior members of the U.S. Congress, civil rights organizations, public health organizations, and Native American tribes. These leaders and groups, who collectively represent millions of people, understand why a professional football team should not be promoting a racial slur.

In his letter, Mr. Snyder made mention of his team's history. He opted to omit from his letter, however, that the original owner who gave the team its current name was an avowed segregationist. That suggests the team's name was deliberately designed to denigrate people of color. Unfortunately that ploy was successful. The marketing of this racial slur has had--and continues to have--very serious cultural, political, and public health consequences for my people and Native Americans everywhere.

It is clear from Mr. Snyder's letter that he does not understand those consequences. So in the spirit of the dialogue that Mr. Snyder says he is willing to engage in, we are inviting him to join the NFL delegation in its upcoming meeting at our Homelands. During his visit, we will organize a special meeting of Oneida Nation families where Mr. Snyder can personally explain to them why he believes they deserve to be called "redskins." He can then hear directly from them why that term is so painful.
Some highlights from a satirical version of Snyder's letter:

Washington Redskins team name: Another letter, the same spirit

By Sally JenkinsAs the Owner and a lifelong hero worshipper, here is what I believe and why I believe it: If something is personally nostalgic to me, it isn’t racist.

None of the offended people are particularly important to me because they aren’t members of my family. I don’t see how I am responsible for them or why I should care, and anyway, they seem to be doing all right.

In my experience, the worst thing you can do about a problem is pay attention to it.

I still remember the first time I went to a [Redskins] game. I was only six. I will never forget going through the tunnel into the stadium, and being struck by the enormity of all that licensing revenue opening up before me. When we scored a touchdown, and the crowd roared, I literally felt the thunder of all that cash.

When I think about the old-fashioned epithet my team is named after, I consider what it stands for. As some of you may know, it was given to us 81 years ago by an avowed segregationist who liked to play Plantation Owner and Pickaninny. He saw an opportunity to cash in on the public fascination with Indians, the popularity of dime-store pulp and westerns such as the 1932 film “Ride ’Em Cowboy.” It was all a marketing gimmick.
NFL is pondering it

Some contradictory notions about what's happening within the NFL--from Commissioner Goodell saying Snyder will do the right thing to officials saying nothing's changed to owners admitting they've discussed the issue.

Asked whether ‘Redskins’ should go, Goodell says NFL must make sure it does ‘what’s right’

By Associated PressAsked directly whether the Washington Redskins should change their name, Roger Goodell said the NFL needs to “make sure we’re doing what’s right.”

Speaking at the conclusion of the league’s fall meetings Tuesday, the commissioner noted that he grew up in the Washington area rooting for the city’s football team and “by no means ... have I ever considered it derogatory as a fan, and I think that’s how Redskins fans would look at it.”

The topic was not part of the formal agenda for the meetings—Goodell said “there may have been discussions between some of the owners, but not on the floor”—and yet it was the subject of four of the first five questions posed at his news conference at a Washington hotel.

“Whenever you have a situation like this, you have to listen and recognize that some other people may have different perspectives, and clearly there are cases where that’s true here,” Goodell said. “And that’s what I’ve suggested and I’ve been open about—that we need to listen, carefully listen, and make sure we’re doing what’s right.”

Asked whether Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who has vowed that he’ll never change the club’s name, has been listening, Goodell said: “I am confident that the Redskins are listening and I’m confident that they’re sensitive to their fans—to the views of people that are not only their fans but are not their fans.”
Redskins name controversy intensifies, but no immediate change afoot

By Mark MaskeOne person familiar with the league’s position on the matter said Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has remained adamant that he has no plans to change the team’s name. That person said he continues to see little or no sentiment among other owners or top league officials to take forceful measures in the foreseeable future to try to convince Snyder to make a change.

The likelihood of a change would increase, the person said, if the Redskins and the NFL were to feel economic pressure to take action and, at least for now, that isn’t the case, according to that person. The current feeling is that the Redskins would be likely to suffer economic harm if they make a name change, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Another person familiar with the league’s view on the matter also expressed the view that nothing had changed at this point and added that there is no current movement by the Redskins or the NFL toward a name change. That person added, however, that some within the league do wish the Redskins would be more receptive toward listening to opposing views on the matter and considering the concerns of those who express such opposing views.

League officials do appear intent upon listening to opposing views and giving opponents of the Redskins” name a chance to voice their concerns directly to the NFL.
Goodell: ‘Different views’ on Redskins’ name but it’s part of team’s ‘proud tradition’

By Mark MaskeRedskins owner Daniel Snyder did not speak to reporters as he left the meeting. Other owners declined to comment on the controversy surrounding the Redskins’ name. Several owners and Goodell said the issue was not discussed by the owners during Tuesday’s meeting.

“I don’t have any thoughts on it,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “It did not come up today.”

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said the matter was discussed during a dinner he had Monday night with the league’s lobbyists who are stationed in Washington.

“We had a long dinner last night discussing all issues and certainly that’s been one that’s been on the agenda,” Irsay said. “The president’s comments certainly—when the president speaks, it’s going to raise attention to any issue. But really at this point I don’t really have any comment on it right now. I think the first person to speak on that is going to have to be the commissioner at this point.”
More spin from Snyder and his lawyer Lanny Davis:

Owner wants those opposed to ‘Redskins’ to ‘try to respect’ what it means to team, fans

Redskins lawyer says ‘put it in caps’ language will change

A Mysterious Defense of The Washington Redskins Name

Washington owner Dan Snyder has hired Lanny Davis, a veteran D.C. crisis manager, to vouch for the team's nickname. In an interview, Davis' logic falls short.

Final answer

Dan Snyder to Native Americans: We're Cool, Right? Native Americans to Dan Snyder: [Redacted]Snyder's right—people should respect what the name means for Native Americans (and not just sensitive white journalists). After all, it has been more than two decades since American Indians suing the team over its trademark first went on the Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about Native Americans as mascots. Around the same time, Seminole and Sioux activist Michael Haney told the Chicago Tribune, "As long as white America feels that Indians are not quite human, that we can be construed as mascots or caricatures or cartoon figures, then they will never deal with the issues of education and economic development for our people."

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