WashPost Columnist So Anti-'Redskins' That He's Accused of Anti-Black 'Minstrelsy Times Two'

Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise is so aggressive in opposing the “Redskins” name that he’s being accused by commenters of being racist toward a black man who plays “Chief Zee” at Redskins games.

At TheRoot.com – a Washington Post-owned website – Richard Prince noted that the Indian Country Today Media Network reported that readers felt that "Wise's story is rife with remarks that could be taken as playing on stereotypes of black Americans.” Such as:

"[Chief Zee's] one-man, self-anointed tribe is nearing extinction."

"In some ways, it’s as if Archie Bunker or Amos and Andy were hurled forward in time, not sure what to make of all these hypersensitive, politically correct folk who want them gone."

"Trying to enlighten him is like trying to enlighten your half-cocked, old-head uncle who uses racial epithets at Thanksgiving dinner. At some point, you either let him eat or kick him out."

"Chief Zee is dying ... Zema Williams just doesn’t know it."

"[Redskins owner Dan] Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have grandfathered in Chief Zee, tone-deaf to the caricaturing of an ethnic minority."   

It's that last one (we've listed them out of order) that brings up a touchy issue. Wise's story is rife with remarks that could be taken as playing on stereotypes of black Americans. On the ever-lively Washington Post comments section below the story, Zee's defenders are calling the article a racially-charged hit piece on a "sick old man" (Williams is undergoing cataract surgery) whose intention has always been to "make people smile." Zee's critics counter that one ethnic minority parodying another (Zee freely uses the word Injun) is old-timey minstrelsy times two.

I thought perhaps someone might sniff at this passage: "Williams has fathered nine children by six women. (The headdress evidently plays well with certain audiences.) Married once, he fathered his first child at age 21 and his last at 44. He has 23 grandchildren — 'Don’t ask me about no names,' he says."

Prince noted that an AP-GfK poll in May found almost four in five favor the Redskins team name, and only 11 percent join Mike Wise in opposing it.

Writing for Forbes, media writer Jeff Bercovici noted Wednesday there are other left-wingers on the Mike Wise side: "Slate, The New Republic and Mother Jones are among those who say they’ll no longer print 'Redskins,' considering it an offensive racial slur. So is The MMQB, the Sports Illustrated spin-off site anchored by influential football writer Peter King."

[HT: Dan Gainor, Ravens fan]

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis