Hog Heaven is pleasantly surprised by the Washington Redskins’ response to the Senate Democratic moralists’ attempt to guilt the team into changing its name. (I lean Democratic. I get to call my children ugly.)
Here are four signs the Redskins are getting better defending themselves:
1) Swift response. The Senate Democrats addressed their letter to the NFL and then sent it to the New York Times (not to the Washington Post) before sending it to the league. The Redskins responded in 24 hours directly to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. That swiftness is an incredible improvement. (Read the letter at the link here.)
The Redskins have been slow and clumsy in the defense of their name. The first and frankly best response was Daniel Snyder’s off the cuff “NEVER” statement. That was concise and to-the-point with an unmistakable meaning. Those are hallmarks of good mission-goal-vision statements. However, it also was a lightning rod that inflamed the opposition.
A winter symposium at the Smithsonian on the topic kicked-off the latest round of the controversy. Snyder said “NEVER” the following May. Snyder’s well received [by Redskins fans, anyway] defense of the team name published in October 2013. Snyder touched on every point meaningful to Redskins fans. Not one of them was demeaning to anyone else. But the Redskins have been silent for months, leaving its defense to the NFL and to blogger-fans like me.
2) Not Dan Snyder. Team President (?) Bruce Allen signed this response.
Snyder is the most disliked owner in the NFL, even by Redskins fans. There is no way to separate controversy about the name from controversy about him. Allen’s is the better face in defense of the issue.
3) Not Donald Sterling either. The most disingenuous argument used by Harry Reid and his cohorts is that Daniel Snyder = Clippers owner Donald Sterling. The Redskins did not take the bait. They stuck to the point.
Attempts to connect Snyder to Sterling and to George Preston Marshall are lame. Snyder has never been heard to utter statements about African and Latino-Americans as Sterling and Marshall have. Snyder bought the team from a trust established by Jack Kent Cooke, who also defended the team name. Marshall died five years after Snyder was born. His attitudes about employee make-up died with him.
Edward Bennett Williams and Cooke controlled the team between Marshall and Snyder. One has to be a shallow thinker to tie Snyder to Marshall instead of to Cooke or Williams.
Sterling was baited into revealing to his hot ex-girlfriend his racial attitudes, which turn out to be his attitude toward Magic Johnson. The only similarity between Sterling and Snyder is that Snyder has been baited into wrong-headed roster moves by Vinny Cerrato.
4) “Our Logo was designed by Native Americans.” That’s a line from their letter. The Redskins were clueless about their own history in earlier responses, including documents submitted to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and to the U.S. District Court. Those documents said that founder George P. Marshall named the team to honor Lone Star Dietz, the Redskins coach in 1933-’34. That’s an interesting myth. The facts are more telling.
The present logo was designed in consultation with Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, a Blackfeet leader and DC lobbyist from Montana. Wetzel initiated the discussion because he wanted to see a Native American image on the helmets of the football. They put a lot of work into a design that is strikingly similar to the old Indianhead nickel. In Washington DC, that’s marketing currency.
Here’s why that is important. Federal law sets a five-year time limit on when the community may contest a trademark. The Redskins worked with a Native American leader (Wetzel) within five years of their first trademark award. Legally, this case is closed, in spite of anything you have read by shallow-thinking Senators.
I wonder if Harry Reid knows that the Redskins have a higher approval rating than Congress?
Marshall might have renamed the team the Senators in 1937 in keeping with the practice at the time of naming NFL teams after the local MLB team. The franchise started as the Boston Braves when they played at Braves Stadium, home of the Boston (baseball) Braves. The Redskins in 1937 played in Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Senators. The Redskins that year played against the Brooklyn (football) Dodgers, the Pittsburgh (football) Pirates and the New York (football) Giants.
The Washington (football) Senators. Ugh.
Marshall was known to admire Indians. He saw them (oddly) as Confederate sympathizers, so perhaps was disinclined to change the name. After the Redskins won the 1937 NFL Championship, both name and tradition were locked in cement.