The effort to continue to defend the Redskins name continues to backfire.
From the reliance on high school teams using the name (which has been quietly abandoned) to the “all caps never” approach (which has been publicly abandoned) to stubborn reliance on the results of a nine-year old poll (which should be abandoned) to Rick Reilly misquoting his father-in-law (which could lead to Reilly’s wife abandoning him), it has been a mess for the Redskins.
And now it gets even messier.
In his “we hear the opponents but we don’t care” manifesto to Redskins fans, owner Daniel Snyder shoehorned a reference to one of the most popular figures in team history.
“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 wrote. “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.”
Apart from failing to mention that George Allen created the Red Cloud Athletic Fund, Snyder and/or his people also neglected to check with the group about its views.
In response to Snyder’s letter, the primary beneficiary of the Red Cloud Athletic Fund has denounced the ongoing use of the team name.
“As an organization, Red Cloud Indian School has never — and will never — endorse the use of the name ‘Redskins,’” leadership of the school wrote in a letter to the Washington Post. “Like many Native American organizations across the country, members of our staff and extended community find the name offensive.”
The group also contends that Snyder misrepresented the Red Cloud Athletic Fund’s role in the development of the team’s helmet logo.
“We call on Dan Snyder and managers to engage in further discussion with Native groups across the country and, ultimately, to move toward changing the name, once and for all,” the letter states.
So the people who gave that plaque to George Allen — the plaque that according to Snyder remains on the wall at the team facility as a source of pride — want Snyder to change the name.
On Sunday morning, Oneida Indian Nation called upon Snyder to write a new letter acknowledging the errors and omissions in his first letter.
“Mr. Snyder must set the record straight and immediately send a new letter to season tickets holders highlighting these misrepresentations and omissions,” Joel Barkin, Vice President of Communications for the Oneida Indian Nation, said in a statement. “Mr. Snyder should stop trying to rewrite history and instead rewrite his misleading and inaccurate letter and stop pretending that the targets of the R-word slur support his agenda.”
Meanwhile, if Snyder or any other members of the organization dial up while in Dallas the Cowboys’ flagship radio station, they possibly will hear a commercial touting the bipartisan opposition to the name.
“This country may still be politically divided, but as leaders of both parties this week said, we should all be able to agree that racial slurs are unacceptable, and they shouldn’t be used to market this country’s capital city,” Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Indian Nation says in the ad. “As Native people who heard this painful slur when we were taken at gunpoint off our lands, we aren’t asking for anything more than basic respect. We don’t deserve to be treated to racial slurs. We deserve to be treated simply as what we are: Americans.”
It’s unclear what the next step will be, but it is clear that, no matter how badly Snyder wants this controversy to go away, it isn’t. The debate now has legs in large part because of the way Snyder’s organization has handled it.
Correction, mishandled it.