Redskins propaganda takes vile turn: How team seeks to buy off opposition

Dan Snyder's PR team is now releasing videos of Native Americans saying the name's fine with them. That settles it!

Published August 13, 2014 3:02PM (EDT)

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder    (AP/Lm Otero)
Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder (AP/Lm Otero)

Here's the latest: it's Aug. 13, 2014, and there is a still a National Football League franchise named the Washington Redskins. The owner of this team, a priceless asshole named Dan Snyder, has lawyered and P.R.'d up in the past year to weather the growing pressure for him to just change his team's name to something else -- something Snyder will "never" do, because it's just that important to him for his team to continue being named the Redskins.

As NFL training camps began a few weeks ago, so did the P.R. effort by Redskins executives to defend the name. A new website called Redskins Facts is up and being advertised heavily across the Web. "The group’s Web site," the Washington Post reported, " lists a five-man steering committee of former players — Gary Clark, Chris Cooley, Mark Moseley, Ray Schoenke and Roy Jefferson." Three of those players "traveled to the Rocky Boy’s Reservation in Montana on Monday and Tuesday, meeting with Chippewa-Cree tribal leaders and visiting a football practice and a rodeo session, which was sponsored by the team’s Original Americans Foundation." The reservation has received an "influx" of money from the Original Americans Foundation (again, for some reason not named the Redskins Foundation), including "150 iPads for the schools on the reservation," sponsorship of a "33-member rodeo team that travels the country to compete, and a playground.

In return for the charitable contributions, the reservation allows Redskins Facts to shoot new videos like this, wherein a handful of Native Americans contend that the name does not bother them and this isn't a big deal.

The team is also buying up Redskins artwork from reservations, and has ramped up efforts to buy off the D.C. media.

None of this massive P.R. effort, Snyder says, is part of a P.R. effort. (Never mind that the organization didn't consider doing anything charitable until the team name came under pressure in the last year.)

"It's sort of fun to talk about the name of our football team because it gets some attention for some of the people who write about it who need (internet) clicks," the owner of the Washington Redskins said on ESPN 980, the radio station he owns. "But the reality is no one ever talks about what goes on, on reservations."

Snyder told Chris Cooley, a former Washington tight end who conducted the interview from the team's training camp in Richmond, Va.: "What I did see that got me and touched me and really moved me, and I think you know because you've visited a lot of reservations yourself, is the plight of Native Americans. Things that people don't talk about."

Snyder ticked off a list of woes, including high unemployment and issues involving health, education and the environment.

"No one wants to talk about that stuff because it's not cocktail chit-chat talk," he said. "It's a real-life need, real-life issues. I think they don't want to focus on that, and I dedicated an effort to do that. What I saw, and listened and learned, it moved me. … We would go back to the airport afterward and say, 'We've got to do something. We've got to help.' "

How daring of Snyder to give this interview to "the radio station that he owns," and to a hostile interviewer like the aforementioned Chris Cooley, who sits on the board of the P.R. effort launched by Snyder. Is this for real? This happened? Bless the sports media. They make the political media look like saints by comparison.

What you won't hear in Dan Snyder interviews with people who work for him on stations that he owns are stories like these, about what else happened when Snyder makes photo ops at reservations.

Jim Enote, director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center in Zuni, N.M., says he met Washington NFL owner Daniel Snyder at the museum last November and objected to the club's embattled team name.

"He snapped back with, 'We are a football team,' " according to Enote's account on the website Indian Country Today on Monday. "I saw at that moment quite clearly, my objection did not concern Snyder." [...]

Also on Monday, representatives of the Washington team's Original Americans Foundation purchased artwork from tribal members of the Zuni Pueblo tribe, including art in team colors with team logos, according to tribal administrator Hanna Weeke.

"There is a long line of artists waiting to get into the room" where foundation representatives made purchases, Weeke told USA TODAY Sports as the sale was ongoing. "I've seen pottery, jewelry, wooden statues." [...]

Enote, who is a tribal member, called the art sale "spin doctoring" in his first-person story.

"While the foundation's name appears charitable," Enote wrote, "I question whether it is genuinely altruistic because it grew from an unwillingness to understand and acknowledge the damage the Redskins mascot causes to Native American identity."

What Dan Snyder and Chris Cooley and the rest of the phalanx of P.R. people are doing is paying off certain Native Americans and media outlets in order to keep using an obvious racial slur -- just say it, "Redskins," and ask yourself if it sounds right -- for fun and profit. Enjoy the YouTubes.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Chris Cooley Dan Snyder Football Native Americans Nfl Original Americans Foundation Racism Redskins Sports Video