ESPN's Rick Reilly—onetime Sports Illustrated great, 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year, and all-time GIF magnet—doesn't think Washington, DC's pro football team should change its name. Why? For starters, there's this 2004 poll, in which 90 percent of Native Americans surveyed said they didn't find the name offensive. On top of that, Reilly reports that his father-in-law, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, doesn't think there's anything wrong with it, and nor do people at three majority American Indian high schools whose sports teams play under the same name.
But there's another reason gnawing at Reilly: He doesn't like that paternalistic white journos are trying to cram change down Americans'—and Native Americans'—throats. As he wrote yesterday:
The 81-year-old Washington Redskins name is falling, and everybody better get out of the way. For the majority of Native Americans who don't care, we'll care for them. For the Native Americans who haven't asked for help, we're glad to give it to them.
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.
That's right: Kind of like a reservation. For a thorough takedown of Reilly's argument, take a look at this response by The Nation's Dave Zirin. (We're just glad Reilly didn't write his piece in verse.)
In the meantime, here's a list of folks who have decided to no longer refer to the Washington [Redacted] by name. We'll update it as more publications and journalists sign on.
- Washington City Paper
- Kansas City Star
- Gregg Easterbrook (ESPN.com)
- Mother Jones
- The New Republic
- Tim Graham (Buffalo News)
- John Smallwood (Philadelphia Daily News)
- Peter King (Sports Illustrated and MMQB.com)
- Bill Simmons (ESPN and Grantland)
- Christine Brennan (USA Today)
- Matthew Berry (ESPN.com)
- San Francisco Chronicle
- Syracuse New Times
- Seattle Times
- Richmond Free Press
- Orange County Register
- William C. Rhoden (New York Times)
- Washington Business Journal
- Washington Post (editorial board)
- New York Daily News
UPDATE, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2013: In a column for the Indian Country Today Media Network, Rick Reilly's father-in-law, Bob Burns, says Reilly misquoted him:
You can imagine my dismay when I saw my name and words used to defend the racist Washington Redskins name. My son-in-law, ESPN's Rick Reilly, completely misunderstood the conversation we had, quoting me as saying "the whole issue is so silly. The name just doesn't bother me much. It's an issue that shouldn't be an issue, not with all the problems we've got in this country."
But that’s not what I said.
What I actually said is that "it's silly in this day and age that this should even be a battle -- if the name offends someone, change it."
…Let me be clear: The racial slur "redskins" is not okay with me. It's never going to be okay with me. It's inappropriate, damaging and racist.
In the memory of our Blackfeet relatives, it's time to change the name. That would honor us.