Thursday, September 19, 2013
Rick Reilly’s Redskins
So Rick Reilly, who I think has pushed Bill Simmons all the way to second place in sportswriters I loathe the most, has a column up about the Redskins' nickname, and my initial gut reaction to it has all the eloquence of a 15-year-old after their first wine cooler: I'm all, oh God, what is this, I mean how do you get paid and what the hell I mean...
...okay. Head straightened out, let's get to the rancid meat on this bone.
"I guess this is where I'm supposed to fall in line and do what every other American sports writer is doing. I'm supposed to swear I won't ever write the words "Washington Redskins" anymore..."
Sure, this is where he's supposed to fall in line, but Reilly's no yes-man or chump! He does his own thinking in this PC world gone mad! His bravery can only be described as "heroic" when standing up to the precedent of Peter King and Christine Brennan. I pose a question to the reader: who is more valorous: Rick Reilly, or Gandhi?
"...because it's racist and offensive and a slap in the face to all Native Americans who ever lived. Maybe it is."
I don't know why he included "maybe it is" at the end of that paragraph, because as the rest of his story will try to persuade, it totally isn't.
Let's start with that most watertight of scientific assertions, the anecdote:
"The whole issue is so silly to me," says Bob Burns, my wife's father and a bundle holder in the Blackfeet tribe. "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."
I agree with Bob Burns, Rick Reilly's wife's father (if only there was a term for such a person) and bundle holder in the Blackfeet tribe. There are definitely more important issues to tackle than the name of DC's NFL team. So I move that the NFL and the Washington franchise must not move on this issue until they've tackled world hunger and solved this whole Syrian mess and indeed, bring everlasting peace to the entire Middle East, nay, the globe. We can only tackle one issue at a time, in order of importance.
Reilly goes on to cite several high schools that use the Redskin nickname, that have a strong majority of Native American students. These students want to keep the Redskins name (so checkmate, liberals!). One pull quote I'd like to highlight due to its dubiousness, from Brett Hayes, a member of the Choctaw tribe:
"My kids are really afraid we're going to lose the Redskin name. They say to me, 'They're not going to take it from us, are they, Dad?'"
And then a single tear rolled down each of his kids' cheeks, each clutching their own well-worn Redskins doll (unfortunately these will soon be violently seized by federal agents). As violins swelled, Hayes replied, "Not if I can help it, dearest daughters. Not if I can help it." He steeled his gaze Eastward until, from hundreds of miles away, he could see the White House.
At least here, Reilly starts quoting polls and statistics, including one that states that 90% of Native Americans are not offended by the name according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center. But no matter, because Roger Goodell said the NFL needs to "listen even if one person is offended."
"One person? Got it. Guess we need to listen to people who are offended by the Kansas City Chiefs' name, too. That's one that offends my father-in-law. You see some little guy wearing a headdress made of chicken feathers, painting his face up, making a mockery of us. I hate that. Those are things you earn."
First of all, I guess this means he didn't use "father-in-law" before because he was going to use it later, which is taking a solid journalistic practice to a ridiculous extreme. Second of all, Burns is aware that Redskin fans do that too, right?
"One person? I know an atheist who is offended by religious names like the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim."
Hmm. He went into specifics with teeth-gnashing over the Kansas City Chiefs, but not his atheist acquaintance who is offended by the Saints and the Angels. I think it's because he doesn't exist in Reilly's life, what do you think?
But yeah, one person? Score a point for Reilly for hammering Goodell for sloppy, over-the-top hyperbole, something Reilly would never do:
"For the majority of Native Americans who don't care, we'll care for them. For the Native Americans who haven't asked for help, we're 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."
Anyway, 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)?
It's a nickname. Nothing more. Teams change them all the time, make money on new merch, and fans buy up all of Mitchell and Ness's stock of "vintage" items under the old name. Everybody wins in this very easy to solve and not-worth-neck-veins-bulging issue, on either side. Unless your veins are bulging over bad punditry, like mine are.