The Last WordBy Tyler McMahon
August 15, 2013
Dear Jeff Bezos,
Congratulations on your recent purchase of The Washington Post, one of the finest institutions in American journalism, as well as my hometown newspaper. I further applaud you for immediately speaking up and calming the speculation about what changes might be on the way for the paper. It’s comforting to know that you plan to keep the values and leadership of the Post intact.
However, I’d like to humbly ask that you make one sweeping change before you step aside and let the paper get back to its good work: Stop printing the term “Redskins,” the racial slur that has too-long been the name of our beloved football franchise.
I say beloved in earnest; I’m a fan of the team, as are my friends and relatives. I grew up with the logo, the fight song, the name, the burgundy and gold. The Skins are the only sports team that I’ve ever felt any sort of emotional connection to, and the only relevant DC franchise that my generation has known. But as an expat Washingtonian who’s often watched games at public places in other cities, I’m sick and tired of feeling shame for my allegiance. That the name is offensive is beyond debate. Long the consensus of sportscasters and athletes, even the comment board trolls on sports websites now agree that it’s overdue for change.
For me personally, the last straw was a recent public relations fiasco, in which the team’s ownership propped an Indian Chief named Stephen D. Dodson in front of talk-show cameras, where he proclaimed that “Redskin” was a term of honor that flattered his people. In short order, journalists discovered that Dodson’s claims about his own ancestry didn’t add up, and that “Chief” was just a nickname. These types of shenanigans are an embarrassment to the city, the fans, and the amazing athletes who play for the franchise.
The online magazine Slate recently joined The Washington City Paper, The Philadelphia Daily News, The Kansas City Star, The Buffalo News, and many other venues in omitting “Redskins” from their coverage. In their announcement, Slate made clear that The Washington Post is one of the few institutions in a position to pressure the franchise. This is significant, as DC mayors, US Congressmen, former players, fans, and various activist groups have repeatedly failed to sway owner Daniel Snyder. If the Post were to stop printing the term, Washington would send a message to the rest of the league and the country: that the offensive name is the fault of Snyder, not the fans.
Don’t mistake “Redskin” for some sort of unfortunate but harmless anachronism. It was coined by George Preston Marshall, a world-class racist who resisted integration longer than any other NFL owner. It’s been kept alive by a series of tone-deaf and intractable owners—none worse than the current one. Snyder is not like the billionaire entrepreneurs you’re used to dealing with. He’s a backward-looking bully who seems to take perverse pleasure in gouging fans and defying local leaders. It’s too bad that Snyder isn’t as capable of defeating NFL opponents as he is efforts to rename his team.
I’ll admit to having qualms with some of the changes you’ve brought to the publishing and book-retail realms. But I’m well aware of your tremendous success at anticipating and influencing the future of those industries. This is a no-brainer by comparison. This change will come; when it does, the record of who did and did not herald it will be written in black and white.
I hope that you see a future for print newspapers. And I urge you put the Post on the right side of history by eliminating one—and only one—printed word.
Leave a Reply