February 01, 2014

Snyder and Goodell aren't listening

On Seeing Dan Snyder at an Event to Promote Racial Justice

By Dave ZirinOn the Thursday of Super Bowl weekend in New York City, I was a guest at an awards ceremony being staged by the Fritz Pollard Institute, an organization that aims to challenge the NFL to improve racial diversity in the ranks of coaches and general managers. Among those in attendance were heroes of mine, including three people in this photo, Walter Beach, John Wooten and Jim Brown. Then the unexpected took place.

Just after the lights slightly dimmed and the program began, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder walked through the door. It was bracing, and not only because this is someone I have written about critically for years, without ever actually seeing face to face (surprisingly fit!). But the shock ran deeper than my own personal feelings. Having Dan Snyder at an event that celebrates minority hiring is like seeing Michele Bachmann at a mosque. The Redskins in their entire history have never hired a full-time African-American head coach* or general manager. Snyder just continued this dismal tradition by making Jay Gruden, a coordinator with a famous name and no head coaching experience in the NFL, his new man in charge.
And:After the dinner, I contacted Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Nation, who has devoted considerable resources in the last year to push the team to change their name, including recently taking the issue to the United Nations. He pointed out that Dan Snyder not only has his own legacy to account for but the legacy of a team founded by arch-segregationist George Preston Marshall. “As the last NFL organization to integrate—and to only do so under threat of federal prosecution—the Washington team will always be remembered for being on the wrong side of history during the civil rights movement” he said. “If Mr. Snyder wants to make amends for that, he should finally stop using a dictionary-defined racial slur as his team’s name.”And:The most surreal part of seeing Dan Snyder at this event was that the Fritz Pollard Alliance devoted the heart of the evening to honoring the late Johnnie Cochran, a civil rights attorney best known for representing O.J. Simpson, but also the person whose threats of a class-action lawsuit spurred the first movement toward the NFL’s adopting of “The Rooney Rule,” which mandates that owners must interview coaching candidates of color. Several speakers, in celebrating Mr. Cochran, made reference to his relentless twenty-seven-year effort to get the wrongly convicted Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt, a Black Panther revolutionary, out of prison for a murder he did not commit. Born Elmer Pratt, Geronimo took the name of the great Native American leader out of respect. It signified Mr. Pratt’s commitment of resistance to people like George Preston Marshall. I could only wonder what Snyder thought every time speakers spoke about Cochran’s efforts to liberate to a man named Geronimo. It was a crash course, if Snyder could hear it, in the difference between honoring a culture and making it into a cruel cartoon.

Meanwhile, Roger Goodell has backtracked from his previous position, which I reported in NFL's Goodell Softens on "Redskins":

NFL's Roger Goodell endorses 'Redskins' name

By Tom SilversteinPut on the spot about whether the Washington Redskins should change their name because it is offensive to Native Americans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came down strongly on the side of owner Daniel Snyder and his insistence he won't change anything.

In his annual state of the NFL news conference Friday, Goodell was asked if he would feel comfortable addressing a Native American as a Redskin.

"This is the name of a football team, a football team that has had that name for 80 years," Goodell said. "That has presented the name in a way that is honorable to Native Americans. We recognize that many don't agree with the name. And we respect that.

"But if you look at the numbers, including the Native American communities, the Native American community poll, nine out of 10 prefer the name; eight of 10 Americans in the general population would not like us to change the name. So we are listening and being respectful to people who disagree."
Note that Goodell didn't answer the question asked. Would he call an Indian "redskin" to his or her face? It's a simple "yes or no" question, but Goodell was too cowardly to answer it.

If it isn't clear, Goodell's answer is no or he would've said yes. Neither he nor any intelligent person would call an Indian "redskin" to his or her face. Why not? Because it's a frakkin' insult...duh.

Responses to Goodell

Roger Goodell ‘Isn’t Listening’ to Native Americans on Redskins NameOneida Indian Nation has issued a response:

“It is deeply troubling that with the Super Bowl happening on lands that were once home to Native Americans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would use the event as a platform to insist that the dictionary-defined R-word racial slur against Native Americans is somehow a sign of honor,” said Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter.

“Commissioner Goodell represents a $9-billion brand with global reach, yet insists that it is somehow no big deal that his league uses those vast resources to promote this slur. In the process, he conveniently ignores all the social science research showing that the NFL’s promotion of this word has serious cultural and psychological effects on native peoples. Worse, he cites the heritage of the team’s name without mentioning that the name was given to the team by one of America’s most famous segregationists, George Preston Marshall. He also somehow doesn’t mention the heritage of the R-word itself, which was as an epithet screamed at Native Americans as they were forced at gunpoint off their lands.”

“The fact that Mr. Goodell doesn’t seem to know any of this–or is deliberately ignoring it–suggests that for all his claims to be listening, he isn’t listening at all.”
Editorial: Goodell's 'Redskins' defense betrays ignorance, indifferenceIt’s difficult to decide which is more offensive—the stubbornness with which people defend a name that they wouldn’t dare (we hope) call a Native American to his or her face, or the at-best delusional claim that it somehow honors their traditions and place in American history.

The Washington Redskins and the NFL aren’t defending people; they’re defending an iconic and lucrative brand. To claim otherwise is beyond insulting to the generations of people whose ancestors suffered centuries of unimaginable cruelty, poverty, treachery and injustice at the hands of the European conquerors, wrongs that remain unresolved to this day.

Goodale even trotted out a decade-old poll that found 9 of 10 Native Americans supported the name. Even if it were true today—and it’s not—it would be irrelevant. Public opinion is an effective ally in the pursuit of justice, but it’s no substitute for doing the right thing.

No comments: