By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) It’s pretty amazing that Daniel Snyder made his fortune in marketing, for he’s the public relations equivalent of butt cancer. In his desperate quest to have racism condoned, the owner of the Washington NFL team is back at the letter-writing thing again, explaining how he should be allowed to exploit Native Americans via mascoting them.
The latest self-serving note wastes no time in being jaw-droppingly tone deaf. Look at the first two sentences:
“Several months ago I wrote you about my personal reflections on our team name and on our shared Washington (racist team name) heritage. I wrote then – and believe even more firmly now – that our team name captures the best of who we are and who we can be, by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents.”
The guy mentions shared heritage in relation to a group of people whose heritage has been used for a sports team and push merchandise. Then in some laughable attempt at the basest of fan tribalism, he claims that being totally obtuse in the face of an offended subjugated people is “the best of who we are.” Actually, the best of Snyder gets flushed each morning by some poor servant who then has to wipe Snyder’s obstinate tushy.
Snyder goes on to cite tribal leaders who he cherry picked and who have spoken support for the complex he has of not being able to let go of something as superficial as a sports team name that has zero effect on the actual football played but does add a layer to the many that comprise institutional racism in this country. That’s great and all if you don’t consider that Snyder — and this may shock you — isn’t being completely honest with his attempt at ethos. Per a person who has banged the anti-Snyder drum for a while, Dave Zirin:
In Dan Snyder's year of "listening" to Native Americans, he has refused every single meeting w/tribal councils who've opposed name. #coward— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) March 25, 2014
Snyder garners support from passive and active racists alike who love to point out that some Indians aren’t offended by the Washington team name while failing to consider that something is wrong when a word offends any amount of people at all. Insensitivity doesn’t need a quota.
But there’s no time to consider that because Snyder quickly moves on to rounding up the “Aren’t there more important issues we should be dealing with?” crowd and points out how there are important issues facing Native American communities that are bigger than a football team name. Because sound logic dictates that we should ignore less significant issues that can easily be resolved in favor of the big ones that will take a whole lot of time and money to fix.
Snyder, of course, happens to have a bunch of money that he uses for things like resisting a call for changing a team name that many consider a slur. So at the end of page two of his love letter to himself he says that he is creating the Washington (holy crap, he actually put the offensive word in the charity’s name) Original Americans Foundation. Fitting that something named so astoundingly poorly has the acronym OAF.
The rest of the letter gives examples of what a great thing this great man is doing for these great people whose plight this great man is using to sugarcoat his vice grip on a great harmful team name and about the heritage and tradition of the team whose heritage and tradition is actually greatly awful. The letter is the quid pro quo of a bad guy who also sprinkles in some bold and italicized font to let you know he means business about this charity, which he’s using as a shield for his own bratty refusal to be a decent human being because it would mean admitting he is wrong about something, and megalomaniacs don’t do that. Then he signs it “Dan” because he’s your buddy and not the guy everyone in the organization has to call “Mr. Snyder.”
Would somebody who is insensitive to a minority group give that group money? Of course he would. “No, see, it’s OK that I’m wearing blackface because I donate to the United Negro College Fund. Because I care.” I’m sure the league’s PR is thrilled that once again Snyder is making things worse.
Helping out the poverty-stricken is a fine thing (even though poor Indians are no strangers to being used for good PR rather than actual charity). But doing so in order to deflect negative attention toward an issue of taking something very troubling to many people and simply getting rid of it in favor of a team name that does not reflect hundreds of years of rape, theft, and extermination of a people — regardless if you think that it reflects as such — rings somewhere between hollow and downright prickish. One can help the poor and disenfranchised and not continue something symbolic of what has them poor and disenfranchised in the first place.
One of the more insulting and misunderstood invectives in our language is “Indian giver.” The term comes from a cultural misunderstanding by European conquerors of native people in America and is used derogatively when someone gives a gift and later tries to take it back or when someone expects something in return for the gift.
Ironic that the marketing man Daniel Snyder does not realize this PR stunt is really much of the latter. Or maybe he does and just doesn’t care.