At least one sports columnist isn’t falling in line with some of his colleagues in not using the Washington Redskins team name. In a scathing piece yesterday, ESPN’s Rick Reilly fired back at the critics — mostly white sports writers — who claim that the name is racist and offensive to American Indians and should be changed.
Reilly offers several testimonies from American Indians throughout the country, including his own father-in-law, a Blackfeet Indian in Montana. “‘The whole issue is so silly to me,’ says Bob Burns, my wife’s father and a bundle holder in the Blackfeet tribe,” he writes. Reilly also recounts conversations with a number of administrators, teachers, and parents at American Indian–majority high schools that proudly use the “Redskins” name, such as Red Mesa High School in Arizona, where “the student body is only 99.3 percent Native American.”
“White America has spoken. You aren’t offended, so we’ll be offended for you,” Reilly quips. He even fires back at his employers, including an executive who criticized the name, by pointing out that the sports network takes no issue with covering the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame, for example. He also asked if teams like the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim should change their name out of respect to atheists.
Reilly points out the irony of American Indians, who for the most part aren’t offended by the name (he cites a survey showing 90 percent support for the name among Native Americans), being told to just trust white sports columnists like Christine Brennan and Peter King, who have boycotted using the name in their work in their “wave of PC-ness.” “We’ll take this away for your own good, and put up barriers that protect you from ever being harmed again,” Reilly concludes. “Kind of like a reservation.”