NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently responded to a sad Congressional plea to the league, requesting that the name “Redskins” be changed because it says: red skins. In reference to Native Americans. Which would be uncool even if it didn’t refer to a group that has been driven to near extinction, with the survivors given small reservations and casinos as consolation prizes.
Goodell gave a lengthy response, attaching articles and studies to back up his argument. It was almost completely bullshit, and we could spend all day talking about which parts smell worse than others. But one in particular reveals Goodell’s true reason for defending a name and mascot that even Idaho high schools are now backing away from:
“For the team’s millions of fans and customers…”
Let me stop you right there. The Redskins have the third-highest valuation in the league. Their brand alone is worth $131 million. This unwillingness to consider a name change has everything to do with the hit to the bottom line rather than wanting to honor “strength, courage, honor” and whatever other platitudes Goodell can find in his thesaurus for “Brave” — the team’s original name.
Are there other examples of bullshit in his letter? You bet. How about when he cites the likely white-man-masquerading-as-a-Native-American William “Lone Star” Dietz as the reason the name was changed from Braves to Redskins in 1933? Or that he has “a poll” that shows most Native Americans don’t find the name offensive? (I can find you a study that tells you daycare is bad for your children, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.) Or how he cites one Native American chief saying “We call each other redskins” as proof that the name is cool amongst all Native Americans. (I would love to see Roger Goodell walk into a reservation and say “What’s up, my redskins?”) Hell, even saying that “Redskins” connotes pride and respect is just reinforcing stereotypes. (“I named my team the “Blackskins” because black people are good at jumping high and running fast; I named my team the Yellowskins because yellow people are hard-working, industrious folks who honor family and commitment; I named my team the Whiteskins because we always win.”)
But all this bullshit is simply in service to the greatest bullshit of all: that the league cares about this issue in the slightest. Their multi-billion dollar industry has been built around teams like the Redskins — amazingly valuable brands that are worth too much money to give up on now. Who cares if even a small number of people are offended? It’s all about the paper. Teton High School in Driggs proved that.
Read the whole letter here.
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