WASHINGTON (WJLA) – The funny thing about the controversy regarding the Washington Redskins name is that the organization itself keeps stirring up the topic, again and again and again.
It’s a much-ado-about-nothing tempest, loudly proclaim the Redskins name defenders, yet they’re trading a tea pot for a high-profile water tower.
Talking points (marching orders?) for the team have been honed regarding whether “Redskins” is racially offensive toward Native Americans but they always appear to reflect the resolution of Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who famously declared last year that, "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. Never -- you can use caps."
So when the surrogates go out, such as former Redskins quarterback-turned announcer Joe Thiesmann on Thursday night’s telecast of the Redskins-Patriots exhibition game and keep on serving the, to paraphrase, “I’ve talked to many Native Americans and none of them find the name offensive,” Kool-Aid, opponents of the name notice.
Take this past week, for a good example.
Former Redskins kicker Mark Moseley goes on NewsChannel 8’s SportsTalk and tells host Alex Parker he has talked to more than 1,000 Native Americans and “not one” has ever indicated the name is offensive.
He also referred to Native Americans as “red men.”
Well, soon thereafter, ESPN’s Keith Olbermann’s producers picked up on it and Olbermann – of the MSNBC rants – skewered Moseley – and the team -- a couple of nights ago.
Then there’s the University of Minnesota thing. The Vikings will play there this season while a new stadium is being completed. The college is calling for the Vikings to ban any reference to “Redskins” inside its stadium during Washington’s Nov. 2 visit.
Then there’s the ESPN “Outside the Lines” thing, parts of which were previewed this week, during which Snyder steadfastly and stubbornly defends the name.
Again, opponents of the name notice.
Native American opponents notice.
There was, for example, this joint statement National Congress of American Indians executive director Jackie Pata and Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter.
“It adds insult to injury that not only does the team not take to heart the deep harm they’re causing through the use of this disparaging epithet, but that they continue to ignore our very existence by claiming that they haven’t heard from any Native Americans who are opposed to the team’s name,” the statement said.
“Dan Snyder continues to live in a bigoted billionaire bubble if he is unable or unwilling to see that huge numbers of Native Americans and others from various walks of life all across this country find the team’s name incredibly offensive.”
But the Redskins remain steadfast in their offensive strategy, somewhat of a perversely defensive strategy.
Former players are the front men for a shadow website that purports to define the true nobility of the name. Folks such as Moseley take the talking points and run.
And the more they talk, and the more coverage their efforts receive, even prominent politicians begin to weigh in, mostly in the change-the-name camp.
Somewhere inside a 345 Park Avenue office in New York, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who’s on record as supporting the name, has to be putting his chin in his hand and sighing.
He undoubtedly wishes this whole thing would just go away.
But the Redskins won’t let it.