The Washington Post was once the paper that brought down a president. These days, what with the industry in decline and a Democrat in the White House, the Post has a more modest goal – to be the paper that brought down a mascot.
Nobody has done more to agitate for the Washington Redskins to change their name to something more politically correct. In just the last year, October 2012 – October 2013, the Post has dedicated at least 31,562 print and online words to its crusade. That’s just shy of the 32,241 words in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” It’s more than seven times the words in the U.S. Constitution. All this despite the fact that most Americans, and most American Indians, aren’t offended by the name.
But the Post’s campaign is starting to bear fruit: President Obama, Democratic lawmakers, sports broadcaster Bob Costas, NBC News and others have taken up the cause. The NFL is meeting with the Oneida Nation, and Redskins owner Dan Snyder was forced to defend the name in an emotional letter to fans.
“On that inaugural Redskins team, four players and our Head Coach were Native Americans,” Snyder said of the 1932 origin of the name. “The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor.”
That’s nice, Dan, but the Post has spotted a wrong and won’t rest until it’s been righted. The paper has pounded away on the franchise, with columns, editorials, “news” articles and, yes, cartoons. Online, blog posts ask for new name ideas, and its run galleries of possible logos for the Washington “Warriors,” “Redtails,” “Renegades” and other hypothetical replacements.
The one thing they all share is a smug sense of inevitability. Anyone wanting proof of the media class’s contempt for its audience should look no further than the Post’s treatment of the segment of its D.C. readership who are ’Skins fans.
Start at the top. On Oct. 11, the Post Editorial Board pronounced its judgment: ’Skins owner Dan Snyder “continues to defend the indefensible.” Snyder’s “refusal to acknowledge the offense caused by the team’s name or to think seriously about changing it will prolong the debate, but it probably won’t change its outcome.”
And those adorable lunatics in the stands with their face paint and feathers? Well, “No one doubts the pull of tradition or the sincerity of fans who want to keep the name. Tradition, though, can’t be a bulwark for the indefensible.” The people who buy the season tickets and overpriced beer and burgundy and gold merchandise, who live and die (die, mostly these days) by the fortune of their team, they’re out of luck. Their team identity offends the sensibilities of The Washington Post Editorial Board.
But you have to get down to the Post’s rank and file hacks to get at the real acid disdain for the fans.
Back in February, singularly unpleasant columnist Courtland Milloy condescended to address them: “Bless you for wanting to cling to those sweet memories. Sorry to have to tell you this, but the name will be changed because what you’re fighting for has already been lost.” His point was, your team stinks now, so the name isn’t worth fighting for.
That followed a January column in which Milloy was positively gleeful that the Redskins’ fortunes had turned for the worse. “So Washington football fans, how’s that offensive team name and demeaning sports mascot working out?” He gloated over the serious injury to star Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and sniffed, “Bad karma, I tell you, that team name.”
So maybe Milloy is a Cowboys fan, or just a contrarian, to wish the home team ill like that? Nope. He’s a stone ideologue: “This is a new era,” he wrote. “Attitudes are changing; progressive thinking is emerging on everything from guns, gays and gas guzzling to debt, deficits and doctor bills.” And if you imagine Milloy would be any more magnanimous to, say, traditional marriage supporters than he was to ’Skins fans, I have government health care plan to sell you.
But in the offices of the Post, the groupthink cuts across ideologies. Kathleen Parker, a “conservative” columnist (in the way journalists like their conservatives – not too), joined in on Oct. 8. “Redskins,” Parker observed, “refers to a physical characteristic. It is implicitly racial and, through its usage, has been explicitly racist.” She at least cited a recent AP poll that found four out of five Americans don’t think the name should change, and she managed to avoid insulting the fans.
That’s something liberal activist Post sportswriter Mike Wise could never be accused of. Wise hates the fans, at least those of them whose opinions differ from his. Column after column drips with disdain as he berates anyone reluctant to celebrate openly gay athletes, who never noticed the absence of lesbian smooching from the Verizon Center’s Jumbotron Kiss-Cam, and especially defenders of Indian sports mascots.
Wise is one of those who’ve stopped using the name, substituting “R-word.” He has declared the ’Skins’ name change a done deal. All that’s left is for the troglodytes to accept his wisdom.
He hates “Redskins” so much that he was accused of being a racist for his attack on Zema Williams, a black man who dresses as “Chief Zee” at home games. (Liberals eat their own!)
Supposedly, the column on Chief Zee was full of stereotypes of black Americans. It certainly was chock full of liberal charity and humility: “Chief Zee is dying ... Zema Williams just doesn’t know it.” And, “Trying to enlighten [Chief Zee] 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.” Poor Wise, working so hard to enlighten.
Well, Wise and the Post can be proud. Their campaign is starting to bear fruit. NBC News covered the controversy Oct. 10, even interviewing Mike Wise. That same day, The New York Times ran a front page story on the ’Skins and the handful of activists demanding the change. Strangely, it left the Post out. But it did include a useful explanation from activist Suzan Shown Harjo as to why the Redskins have been targeted and not, say, the Cleveland Indians: “It is king of the mountain because it’s associated with the nation’s capital, so what happens here affects the rest of the country.” So don’t get too comfortable Atlanta Braves fans. Your time is coming.
During halftime of Sunday Night football, Bob Costas, who last year punched his Official Liberal Media card with a rant insulting to law-abiding gun-owners, had a go at Redskins Nation. “With Washington playing Dallas here tonight,” said the Katie Couric of sports broadcasting, “it seems like an appropriate time to acknowledge the ongoing controversy about the name ‘Redskins.’” Translation: Come the third quarter, you will feel guilty cheering for the team with the racist name.
And his verdict was predictable. “‘Redskins’ can’t possibly honor a heritage or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent.” There endeth the lecture.
Time will tell if Snyder will cave and change the Redskins to something more palatable to his betters in the Post newsroom. What is certain is the paper’s activism, and its contempt for its readers, will go on until it shuts its doors for good.