The question of whether the Washington NFL franchise should continue to be known as “Redskins” continues to be an issue, in part because the team continues every Monday to publish “Community Voices,” a collection of messages supposedly from Native Americans or family members of Native Americans supporting the name.
The latest collection, Community Voices VI (Roman numerals make everything more official), comes a day the spiritual leader of the Six Nations suggested that the Redskins have been trying to find ways to undermine the efforts of Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter by attacking him personally.
“I felt like they were looking for something, that they wanted me to discredit Ray, and I wasn’t going to go there,” Sid Hill told Sean Kirst of the Syracuse Post-Standard regarding a phone call Hill received from a representative of the team. “The backlash Ray’s received is kind of scary,” Hill said. “It’s like they’re trying to discredit the witness.”
“It is hardly surprising that the team marketing a racial slur against Native Americans is evidently working to further denigrate Native Americans with personal attacks,” Oneida Indian Nation Vice President for Communications Joel Barkin said in a press release. “For all its rhetoric about respect, the team officials’ ugly tactics prove that they lack real respect for Native Americans.”
Hill, for his part, disagrees with the name. He says the term is a taunt and an insult. But the team’s increasingly sophisticated P.R. effort has found a way to twist opposition from Native American leaders like Sid Hill into a way to further support the ongoing use of the name.
“The conversation with Mr. Hill helped us to see how important it is to listen and respect the points of view of all people, even those who disagree with us,” team P.R. representative Tony Wyllie told the Post-Standard. “We hope those who disagree with us will also be willing to listen and respect our point of view as well.”
That’s where the logic of the effort to keep the name begins to collapse. Either the name falls within the realm of subjects on which reasonable minds may differ or it doesn’t. And if the Redskins acknowledge that reasonable minds may differ on the question of whether the team’s name is offensive to Native Americans, some would say that’s enough to justify a change.
But the approach to dealing with seemingly reasonable opposition is to say, basically, “We hear you. And we hope you hear us. Because we’re not changing the name.”
That may work for the next few years. At some point, however, the polls will show a level of opposition that can’t be ignored or shouted down or discredited. The ongoing effort to support the name via weekly press releases likely represents an acknowledgement that, at this point, the only victory comes from delaying the inevitable as long as possible.