I’ve learned to ignore Rick Reilly by now, which is made easier by the fact that he blocked me on Twitter. He gets paid a lot of money to write columns that your dad might laugh at. Whatever, he’s the sports world’s version of NCIS or How I Met Your Mother.
But ho-lee shit. His column on the Redskins name change is so tone deaf, slapdash and insensitive that ESPN could try to get out of its (sigh) contract renewal with him by firing him for cause. He makes Andrew Sharp’s Hot Sports Takes look like the Paris Review. Let’s take a look at the carnage.
I guess this is where I’m supposed to fall in line and do what every other American sports writer is doing. I’m supposed to swear I won’t ever write the words “Washington Redskins” anymore because it’s racist and offensive and a slap in the face to all Native Americans who ever lived. Maybe it is.
Yeah, nobody ever said that it’s a slap in the face to all Native Americans who ever lived. Nobody even says that about the n-word and African Americans.
I just don’t quite know how to tell my father-in-law, a Blackfeet Indian. He owns a steak restaurant on the reservation near Browning, Mont. He has a hard time seeing the slap-in-the-face part.
“The whole issue is so silly to me,” says Bob Burns, my wife’s father and a bundle holder in the Blackfeet tribe. “The name just doesn’t bother me much.”
Congrats to him. There are plenty of other Native Americans who find the name a horrible reminder of 400 years of genocide and marginalization based on skin color. As Sherman Alexie put it “[I]t’s almost like Indians can easily survive the big stuff. Mass murder, loss of language and land rights. It’s the small things that hurt the most. The white waitress who wouldn’t take an order, Tonto, the Washington Redskins.”
Reilly then goes on to mention three high school football teams who use the nickname. Can’t wait to see his next expose on the reasonable parking prices at Fedex Field!
And even though an Annenberg Public Policy Center poll found that 90 percent of Native Americans were not offended by the Redskins name, and even though linguists say the “redskins” word was first used by Native Americans themselves, and even though nobody on the Blackfeet side of my wife’s family has ever had someone insult them with the word “redskin,” it doesn’t matter. There’s no stopping a wave of PC-ness when it gets rolling.
Ah yes, the Annenberg Poll that every Redskins defender trots out. Leave out the fact that if 10% of any minority group is offended by your team name that’s still a major problem. The poll also happens ten years old and its methodology was terrible. But hey, screw those 10% of Native Americans, aka WUSSES.
I mean, when media stars like USA Today’s Christine Brennan, a white woman from Ohio, and Peter King, a white man from Massachusetts, have jumped on a people’s cause, there’s no going back.
Why the fuck can’t a non-racial minority feel empathy for a minority group? I can imagine Rick Reilly writing about the civil rights movement. “What are Walter Reuther and Nicholas Katzenbach doing standing up for those damn negroes? They’re both white guys from the north, what do they know about the South’s problems? They’d rather be picking cotton, at least that’s what my black friend told me!”
Oh, and King is actually from Connecticut. Again, Rick Reilly has never been good with facts.
Guess we need to listen to people who are offended by the Kansas City Chiefs‘ name, too. That’s one that offends my father-in-law. “You see some little guy wearing a headdress made of chicken feathers,” he says, “painting his face up, making a mockery of us. I hate that. Those are things you earn.”
Wait, so your father-in-law isn’t offended by Redskins fan who does the same exact thing?
One person? I know an atheist who is offended by religious names like the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. There are people who who don’t think Ole Miss should be the Rebels. People who lost family to Hurricanes. There are people who think Wizards promotes paganism. Shall we listen to all of them?
Hey look, it’s a man who’s paid to write for a living who doesn’t understand context! First of all, I’d love to see an actual atheist go on record and say he was actually offended by “Saints” and “Angels.” Second, if he actually were offended, neither name distills centuries of ugliness and oppression into a word that some people simply cannot ignore without being reminded of those indignities being forced upon them.
Oh, and there’s the fact that Redskins is A FUCKING RACIAL SLUR.
Edmundo Macedo, vice president of ESPN’s Stats & Information group, told ESPN ombudsman Robert Lipsyte that the term Redskins is abhorrent. “We would not accept anything similar as a team nickname if it were associated with any other ethnicity or any other race,” Macedo said.
Oh, yes, we would.
In fact, ESPN and many other media companies cover the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves without a single searing search of their social conscience.
Reilly’s totally abandoned logic now. Macedo said that we would never accept a name like “Redskins” that referred to any other ethnic group and Reilly brings up…two other names that refer to Native Americans. Oh, and the Notre Dame fighting Irish, a name that has never reminded anyone of reducing a person’s identity to their skin color.
Trust us. We know what’s best. We’ll take this away for your own good, and put up barriers that protect you from ever being harmed again.
Kind of like a reservation.
This sentence is a fireable offense. The railroading of Native Americans into reservations upon removing them from their lands is one of our nation’s biggest embarrassments. Reilly uses it as a fucking punch line. He’s proven himself so insensitive throughout the article that it almost doesn’t shock by the end, but this is the equivalent of making sharecropping or concentration camps into kickers for a column. Not only should Reilly be fired, but his editor should probably be fired for even letting this come to light.
Which is why I’d like to announce a brand new KSK policy. The site will never refer to Rick Reilly by name again – it just offends too many people. He will henceforth be known as The ESPN Columnist. We want to be on the right side of history, after all.