When Redskins owner Daniel Snyder wrote (or at least read and signed) an open letter defending the team’s name, he didn’t mention Rick Reilly’s then-recent column, in which Reilly quotes his Native American father-in-law as not being offended by the term.
Not long after that, Reilly’s father-in-law claimed that he was misquoted by Reilly.
Fast forward to the latest challenge to the name, coming from a bipartisan letter from two members of Congress. The team’s initial response had been to play the “doesn’t Congress have better things to do?” wild card, and to issue a statement regarding its new, presumably as-needed “community voices” series, in which unsolicited and unvetted emails and letters of people claiming to be Native American or related to Native Americans explain that they aren’t offended by a term that an increasing number of agree is offensive.
Though not issued by the team or posted on its website or linked via its Twitter page, the Redskins issued a statement that was printed verbatim by FOX News, under the loaded headline “Dem Senator Shredded By Washington Redskins For Phony-Name Change Plea”
The statement, and the FOX News headline, ignore that a Republican also signed the letter.
In the statement (as noted by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post), the team uses quotes from Reilly’s controversial column that were provided by a school superintendent in the home state of said “Dem Senator.” The superintendent says the students at a high school with a 90-percent Native American population aren’t offended by their “Redskins” nickname.
It’s a fair point, but reliance on a column known far more for Reilly allegedly misquoting his Native American father-in-law surely isn’t the best way to make the case that the name isn’t offensive.
And the team likely realizes this, because the statement doesn’t mention Reilly by name.
UPDATE 4:50 p.m. ET: As some have pointed out, it’s possible that the Redskins didn’t actually send out the statement. On Tuesday, Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie told PFT that it is a statement from the team.