As pointed out earlier today by MDS, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has written (i.e., someone who makes a lot of money per hour has written for him) a letter explaining the team’s decision to keep its name.
Snyder, whose prior remarks on the topic consisted simply of five words — “never, you can use caps” — has spent more time and care crafting a message that ultimately is the same. He’s not changing the name.
The letter contains predictable techniques and strategies for shaping and shifting public opinion. There’s an image of a young Daniel Snyder, beaming in pride as his father sang “Hail to the Redskins” with a smile on his face. Likewise, the letter rattles off a string of factors pointing to keeping the name in place: (1) the 2004 Annenberg Public Policy Center poll in which 90 percent found the name not offensive; (2) the April 2013 survey in which 79 percent said the name should not be changed; (3) the column from Paul Woody of the Richmond Times-Dispatch in which he found three leaders of Virginia Native American tribes who said the name doesn’t offend them; and (4) radio comments from Robert Green, recently retired Chief of the Fredericksburg-area Patawomeck Tribe. (Meanwhile, Rick Reilly likely wonders why his column on the issue was omitted. Maybe Snyder has seen Leatherheads.)
Wisely, the letter opts not to point to the many-but-ever-shrinking high schools that use the name. Under that “some of my best friend’s schools are called Redskins” logic, the decision of enough of those schools to change the name would put the Redskins in an even more untenable situation.
Of course, the letter also omits reference to Native Americans who have spoken out against the name, including the symposium organized earlier this week in Washington by the Oneida Indian Nation. (More on that in a bit.)
Perhaps the biggest problem with Snyder’s letter comes from the effort to pull George Allen, father of current Redskins G.M. Bruce Allen, into the debate.
“In 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,” Snyder writes. “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.”
Here’s the thing. George Allen created the Red Cloud Athletic Fund.
And so Snyder makes his case for keeping the name based in part on consultations Allen had with a group he created regarding the design of the current logo. Snyder then provides justification for the ongoing use of the name and the logo by pointing out that Allen was later honored. By the group he created.
But if Snyder, whose letter should for now be regarded as nothing more than a belated effort to undo the damage of months of misguided P.R. efforts, really means what he says, he should accept the invitation that came from the Oneida Indian Nation to listen and learn from Native Americans who oppose the name.
“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,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in a release issued in response to the letter. “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.”
Here’s where it gets really simple. If Snyder means what he (i.e., someone on his behalf) wrote in his letter, he’ll attend the meeting. If he doesn’t mean it, he won’t attend.