July 31, 2014

Fact-checking RedskinsFacts.com

Top 10 Facts Omitted From D.C. Team's New PR Website

Some selections from this file:1. The Washington team name is a dictionary defined racial slur

4. Marshall did not use a racial slur as his team's name in order to honor Native Americans

6. Social science research has documented the continued damage the Washington team is inflicting on Native
Americans by marketing the racial slur

7. Most major Native American and civil rights groups have asked the Washington team to stop promoting a
racial slur as its name

10. Billionaire Dan Snyder has a vested financial interest in continuing to slur Native Americans
Fact checking the new Web site, ‘RedskinsFacts.com’

By Glenn KesslerThe Pinocchio Test

For a Web site that claims to be devoted to “the facts,” the history section leaves out a lot of them, in particular the highly negative connotations—instead of “noble qualities”—that the phrase “redskin” had acquired in the decades before the name was adopted by the football team. Instead, the Web site dwells on the pre-19th century usage, and skips over the fact that one of the team’s longtime assertions—that the name was chosen in honor of the “Indian” coach—now appears to be wrong.

This is one of those cases where individual assertions might have a factual basis, but so much information is missing that a false impression is left in the mind of the reader. We wavered between Two and Three Pinocchios, but ultimately tipped toward Three. If you are going to have a Web site supposedly devoted to the facts, you can’t leave out the inconvenient ones.

Washington Football Team Facts

Everything you need to know about why the nickname has to go.The team’s nickname-defending site notes that Smithsonian Institution scholar Ives Goddard published an article in 2005 noting that “the actual origin of the word is entirely benign.”* But the meanings of words evolve. By the early 20th century, the word was most often used in a derogatory context, and sports pages often resorted to “scalping” puns. In 2013, the Native American director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian said it was “the equivalent of the N-word.”

An oft-cited poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center claiming that 90 percent of Native Americans are OK with the name was methodologically flawed, as explained by Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney. In a more recent Washington Post poll, two-thirds of Washingtonians said they wouldn’t change the name. But 56 percent of the people who professed they would keep the name say it “is inappropriate.”

Another poll, by the Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies at California State University–San Bernardino, found that 67 percent of American Indians believe the “team name is a racial or racist word and symbol.”

The team’s nickname-defending site explains that “[h]igh schools on Native American reservations … continue to embrace and use the [Washington football team] name and logo.” But as Ian Crouch of The New Yorker reports: “Since 1971, nearly two-thirds of professional and amateur athletic teams bearing Native American iconography have made a change.”

The team’s nickname-defending site also claims that “in 1933, four players and then-head coach William Henry ‘Lone Star’ Dietz identified themselves as Native Americans.” The Washington Post, though, revealed that Dietz “served jail time for dodging the draft during World War I because he falsely registered as an Indian.”
Summing it up

Another article summarizes the nickname debate, including the latest developments with RedskinsFacts. Its conclusion is worth repeating:

Washington Redskins name change: A red-hot issue of race, money and politics

Opposition is growing to the Washington Redskins name, while the club have launched advertising and fund-raising campaigns in attempts to sway opinion

By Ian Herbert
[T]he pressure for change is beginning to look irresistible in a nation where baseball’s references to Native Americans–from the Cleveland Indians’ cartoon mascot named Chief Wahoo to the Atlanta Braves’ tomahawk chop gesture–have also earned censure.

The Washington Post’s Mike Wise best captures the prevailing sentiment. “I can see how a lot of people in Washington, including the owner, grew up loving the team and never used the word in a disparaging way towards American Indians,” he says. “I can see that’s part of their history and I don’t think they’re racist because they use it. But why can’t the owner and the most ardent fans of the name put themselves in the shoes of someone else?”

The name has a connotation that “doesn’t make us look civilised” says fan Gene Stevens, leaving the stadium with his family after watching United’s win over Internazionale. “You can find all the excuses and all the people you like to say ‘it’s fine’. But you need to sit down and think about how you look to the wider world.”

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