Veteran sportswriter Rick Reilly, the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year, chimed in on the Redskins name debate yesterday, and in football terms he's been sacked for a loss by his fellow sports pundits.
Reilly's column, titled "Have the People Spoken?", cites anecdotal evidence from his father-in-law; references Native high school teams who play as the Redskins; digs up an old, hugely flawed poll of Indians; and ends with a laborious and offensive comparison of the name debate to an Indian reservation:
For the Native Americans who haven't asked for help, [politically-correct white people are] glad to give it to them. Trust us. We know what's best. We'll take this away for your own good, and put up barriers that protect you from ever being harmed again. Kind of like a reservation.
[The final] sentence is a fireable offense. The railroading of Native Americans into reservations upon removing them from their lands is one of our nation’s biggest embarrassments. Reilly uses it as a fucking punch line. He’s proven himself so insensitive throughout the article that it almost doesn’t shock by the end, but this is the equivalent of making sharecropping or concentration camps into kickers for a column. Not only should Reilly be fired, but his editor should probably be fired for even letting this come to light.
Reilly opted not to address the concerns of Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, who has spoken out against "the racial slur" in the team's name. … Reilly's column made no mention of [U.S. Congressman Tom] Cole, who is described as "the sole tribal enrolled Native American currently serving in Congress" at his website and was one of 10 members of Congress to send a letter to Goodell and team owner Dan Snyder urging change earlier this year.
We don't know why he's essentially equating criticism of overtly racist iconography with the forced relocation of entire nations, or how anyone could possibly publish this; we're not sure we want to know.
A simple test for Rick Reilly: answer the challenge of Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Nation. Go to his house, look at his grandchildren and say, “My goodness these are some cute little Redskins.” If it is really a name of honor, you will make the trip and say it to the Halbritters. If you won’t, then you are completely full of it. News flash: he won’t.
Reilly's attempt to position himself as some stalwart truth-teller defending the right of Native Americans to call themselves what they want is the kind faux 'courage' that one expects to find among the Rush Limbaughs of the world.
If, as Reilly suggests, some predominately Native American schools view 'Redskins' as a point of pride and wish to continue using it, that is fine. That’s different from an NFL franchise, owned by a white man and catering to a largely non-Native American audience, appropriating that culture and distorting it into a crude caricature.
While a majority of Native Americans may not care about the Redskins nickname, a lot of them do. This need not be held up to a majority vote, because it's just a nickname. If 10% of Native Americans are offended, what's the harm in changing it to the Burgundies or the Cheseapeakers or something, where no one would be offended (except ironically at that PC world gone mad)?
You know what seems just as hypocritical as white sportswriters addressing a racial slur that in no way, shape or form pertains to them? White sportswriters speaking on behalf of an entire race of people to claim that the aforementioned racial slur isn’t offensive AT ALL.
I know what you’re saying Rick. It doesn’t matter if a practice is generally condemned across the board because most people find it objectionable. If the Chicasaw and the Choctaw tribes aren’t offended by being labeled by the color of their skin, we should allow the practice to continue, in the hopes that some child, somewhere far off in the future, has the right to be identified by the color of his or her skin — and not just the content of his character.
While there will certainly be a red carpet rolled out for [Reilly] at Redskins Park the next time he lands in Washington, I’m not sure he did the pro-namers any favors with this one.
Ian Gordon of Mother Jones posted the self-explanatory "Memo to ESPN's Rick Reilly: Here Are 10 News Orgs That Won't Name DC's [Redacted] Football Team." And finally, in a post titled "Here's how little the Redskins debate has progressed in 21 years," Matt Yoder of AwfulAnnouncing.com took issue with the idea that the debate over the Redskins has not been with us all along. For context, he reprinted a 1992 article from the Philadelphia Daily News. In it, Charlene Teters of the Native American Students for Progress told the reporter:
"I've had some (fans) tell me the team is honoring the Indian people by using that name. I said there are better ways to honor the Indian people. They could start by listening to what the Indian people have to say."