As the Washington Redskins’ nickname has become an increasingly polarizing topic in the football world, it also became a polarizing topic in the family of ESPN columnist Rick Reilly. Last month Reilly wrote a column defending the Redskins’ name and using as the basis for his defense the fact that his Native American father-in-law doesn’t have a problem with the name. That became embarrassing for Reilly when his father-in-law accused Reilly of misquoting him and said that he does, in fact, think the Redskins should change their name.
For his part, Reilly has posted a message on Twitter saying that he thought he quoted his father-in-law accurately.
“While I stand by the reporting in my Sept. 18 column about the Washington Redskins nickname controversy, and felt I accurately quoted my father-in-law in the piece, clearly he feels differently,” Reilly wrote. “This is an incredibly sensitive issue, and Bob felt he had more to say on the subject after that column was posted on ESPN.com. We’ve spoken and cleared this up. I admire Bob and respect his opinions, and he’s welcome to express them. Bob and I are good and I’m looking forward to my next steak with him.”
It’s hard to see how Reilly can “stand by the reporting” if the person whose opinion Reilly used as the basis of the column says that Reilly completely misunderstood their conversation. Reilly ascribed to his father-in-law the words, “The whole issue is so silly to me,” suggesting that his father-in-law thinks it’s silly that anyone is offended by the term “Redskins.” But his father-in-law says that what he actually said is that it’s silly that the Redskins are clinging to a name that they know many Native Americans find offensive. That’s an enormous difference, even if Reilly did transcribe the words his father-in-law spoke accurately.
In a follow-up to his original column, Reilly wrote that while he previously opposed the Redskins name, “I’ve grown to understand that it’s not up to me. It should be an issue decided by Native Americans.”
Count Reilly’s father-in-law as one Native American who thinks the Redskins should change their name.