The Washington NFL team has used a good-cop/bad-cop approach, sort of, to Senator Harry Reid’s ongoing opposition to the franchise’s name. The bad-cop strategy entailed hatching a retreat-and-declare-victory Twitter hashtag debacle aimed at exposing Reid to intense public support for the name. The good-cop idea was to invite him to attend a game, presumably so that he could witness that the name is used in a manner that honors, not denigrates, Native Americans and their culture.
Via the Washington Post, Reid predictably has declined the offer until the team changes its “offensive name.”
In his letter to team President Bruce Allen, dated June 12, Reid says “I will not stand idly by while a professional sports team promotes a racial slur as a team name and disparages the American people.”
That sentiment invites criticism over his past position of, well, standing idly by. Which in turn fuels one of the knee-jerk arguments raised by the supporters of the name — where has the opposition been for the past 80 years?
The answer, of course, is that times have changed. Language has changed. People have changed. Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer made the argument last year that the debate isn’t about political correctness but about shifts in the vernacular that aren’t the result of agendas or biases or a master plan to overhaul the process of naming sports teams but a simple exercise in that which was and that which no longer is socially acceptable.
The opposition to the name has become more than acceptable. It’s becoming mainstream, as evidenced by the treatment recently given to the issue by HBO’s John Oliver, who crafted a commercial of his own to demonstrate that the time has come to change the name.