The sad desperation of the “Redskins Facts” site

Who's really behind the "growing online community"?

Topics: Redskins, Washington Redskins, Football, NFL, Native Americans,

The sad desperation of the "Redskins Facts" site (Credit: AP/Nick Wass)

Say what you will about what the team itself does on the field, but there’s no denying that the institution of the Washington Redskins is flailing like freshly caught carp on a dock right now. Last month, the U.S. Patent Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that the team’s name was “disparaging to Native Americans,” canceling six federal trademark registrations and inching its hotly debated nomenclature closer toward a change. But while the fight to keep the name rages on, the “community” behind the team has launched a new “Redskins Facts” site to sway public opinion — and oh, Lordy, is it hilariously misguided.

This week, ads on the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated sites began trumpeting the new outpost for “a growing online community of passionate Washington Redskins fans and others” and vowing to offer “historical evidence to fair-minded opinion leaders on both sides of the issue so ongoing discussions can be constructive.” That community, however, is so far made largely of its official sponsors, team alumni Gary Clark, Chris Cooley, Mark Moseley, Ray Schoenke and Roy Jefferson. Speaking to Slate Tuesday, team spokesman Tony Wyllie did not directly state how the site was being funded, but declared, “The alumni and the Redskins have a long history of supporting each other and this education effort is no different. So where it is appropriate for the alumni to pay for expenses then they will and when it is appropriate for the Redskins then the organization will. Since it is so early in the education effort there is no easy breakdown available.” Slate also notes the compelling connection between the site and Burson-Marsteller, a P.R. firm that touts itself as one to call on “when the stakes are high: during a crisis, a brand launch or any period of fundamental change or transition.” And Deadspin further finds that among the first followers of the site on Twitter were Burson-Marsteller employees. Smooooooooth.



Let’s take a gander at this “education” effort anyway. In a video on the site, Tony Woods, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe and manager of the Team Redskins Rodeo club, says, “I’m offended, really, that somebody’s out there claiming that they speak for me … There are bigger issues to deal with than a name.” The team’s foundation, by the way, sponsors the rodeo club, and has provided iPads for the reservation’s schools. And there’s more. As writer Jesse Berney pointed out Wednesday on Twitter, nothing’s so convincing as “a photo of white dudes yelling and shaking their fists to prove our team name isn’t racist.” I’m fond of the “We’re all Redskins” on game day image — featuring a sea of white arms. And there’s the site’s explanation that “We believe the Redskins name deserves to stay. It epitomizes all the noble qualities we admire about Native Americans — the same intangibles we expect from Washington’s gridiron heroes on game day. Honor. Loyalty. Unity. Respect. Courage. And more.” That sums up Native Americans. In general. Did you know that there are 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives in the U.S.? Did you know that different social and ethnic groups have different traits, or that sweeping generalizations that put separate groups under one label, even when those generalizations are favorable, are still kinda dumb and insulting? The “facts” go on to argue that “the Redskins name is a self-reference in the context of the football team itself — and in no way should it be considered a slur targeted at a specific ethnic subgroup of Americans.” And if you do consider it a slur, you’re wrong! I haven’t seen this much boastful ignorance since HuffPo decided it’d be cool to do a slideshow of “Proof That Once You Go Black, You Never Go Back.”

If you have something of true integrity to offer, you don’t really need all the subterfuge and the argument that “full-blooded Native American entertainer Wayne Newton” is on your side. You don’t need to launch a dubious “community” to “educate” the public about all your reasons to cling desperately to a name that’s a relic of an era long past, a relic that has an undeniably offensive history. You grow up and move on. That’s a fact.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...