The all-caps-never effort to defend the name of the Washington NFL franchise may soon employ as many players as its football team does.
According to NBC 12, owner Daniel Snyder has hired liberal political blogger Ben Tribbett to “help guide the team’s battle” regarding its name.
“I have been a Redskins fan my entire life,” Tribbett said. “It is an honor to help the team promote a tradition that means so much to so many people.”
It also could be financially rewarding. It was rewarding enough to prompt Tribbett to shut down his blog, wisely wiping clean any evidence of its existence, and in turn any content that could in some way be used against him now.
Meanwhile, defending the team’s name makes for strange bedfellows. Tribbett’s blog was the first to disclose a 2006 campaign-trail blunder made by Bruce Allen’s brother, George, who referred to a volunteer for his opponent’s campaign as “macaca,” an obscure racial slur about which Allen claimed to have no knowledge.
And so now Tribbett and Bruce Allen will join forces to defend another racial slur about which Snyder claims to have no intention to be a slur.
Tribbet’s first effort was to help organize the “Redskins Pride Caucus” in the Virginian General Assembly, an exercise in political expedience that will help ensure the ongoing job security of Virginia legislators in one of the only jurisdictions where the debate hasn’t become a hot potato.
Still, it not entirely fashionable for Virginia Democrats to go all in to support the controversial name. State Senator Chap Petersen explained on 106.7 The Fan in D.C. (via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post), that plenty of Democrats have opted not to get involved.
“I called a lot of people that are Redskins fans and season ticket holders that were Democrats, that were like ‘Hey man, ride on General Custer,'” Petersen said, using perhaps not the most ideal historical reference, on multiple levels. “They’re kind of like ‘Hey, I agree with you, I think you’re correct, I’m glad you’re doing this, but I can’t be there.’ And I think a lot of people, when there’s an issue like this and they feel like ‘Oh my gosh, somebody raised the race card or played the race card, I’m gonna head for the exits.'”
Tribbett’s hiring could be aimed at persuading other liberal politicians to support the effort to support and motivate the large base of fans supporting the name, possibly through the ongoing use of letters and emails from unconfirmed Native Americans — a practice the team used earlier this year on a weekly basis before abandoning it abruptly and without explanation. Petersen read such an email supporting the name during his radio appearance.
And don’t rule out the never relevant “I can’t be a racist because I have a family member of a race different than mine.” Petersen wedged that detour into the discussion when asked whether he’d call a Native American a “redskin.”
“[I]f somebody’s wearing a Redskins jersey I might call ‘em a Redskin,” Petersen said. “Otherwise I don’t go around calling people anything. I don’t walk up to someone and say ‘Hey you’re black, hey you’re white,’ either. I try to just deal with people as they are. And again, we live in a diverse community. In my case, my wife’s actually Korean-American, so my kids are half-Asian, and so what?”
Exactly. So what? None of this changes the fact that the term is a dictionary-defined slur and that the National Congress of American Indians — which until Ben Tribbett or anyone else proves otherwise is the leading national representative voice for Native Americans — regards the name as offensive.
But like any political issue, folks will have their own arguments and perspectives. The real news here is that, at a time when many supporters have decried the fact that politicians are spending their time opposing the name, the team has decided to fight fire with fire and hire folks who will cajole politicians into spending time supporting it.
Regardless, developments like this one show that the debate won’t be going away, and that the team at this point hopes merely to stave off legal, political, and economic pressure to change the name for as long as possible. While crushing the opposition would surely be welcome by Snyder and company, victory will be measured by each day that the franchise can keep a name that it inevitably will lose.