Sports Media: Dictionary More Correct Than Native Americans on Definition of ‘Redskin’

The hurt is still quite strong within the sports media, in the wake of the Washington Post poll declaring that 9 out of 10 Native Americans are not offended by the word “Redskin.” This particular episode of sour grapes comes from NBC’s Pro Football Talk, headed-up by Mike Florio, who was one of the first members of the sports media to stop using the word “Redskin.”

Florio writes:

“…Although some supporters of the name continue to insist that this means any lingering opposition to the name comes only from white liberal journalists, multiple Native American voices have criticized the poll.

The National Congress of American Indians has called it irrelevant, and the Native American Journalists Association has questioned whether ongoing use of a dictionary-defined slur should be the subject of public opinion, regardless of the outcome. Now, the co-founder of Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry has challenged both the methodology of the poll and the decision to conduct it.

In an item appearing at TheNation.com, Jacqueline Keeler explores the flaws in the polling process, from failure to verify that the self-identifying Native Americans are indeed Native American to skewing the group polled in a way that does not properly reflect demographics like gender and age to using a geographic distribution that fails to properly represent the Native American community.

“Even if the poll was conducted perfectly and even if the results had been completely reversed,” Keeler writes, “the Washington Post did a grave disservice by utterly ignoring studies that clearly demonstrate the harm mascotting causes to Native youth — the most vulnerable population in the country by almost any statistic.”

“Keeler explains that Native American youth “suffer measurably lower self-esteem after exposure to a Native American mascot,” and that those Native Americans who claim to have no issue with terms like the name of the Washington team “actually experience a greater drop in self-esteem.”

So there you have it. Native Americans who aren’t offended by the term “Redskin” are not un-offended because they have better things to worry about, like failing schools and rampant alcoholism. Oh no, they’re not offended because they have a sad.

Also quaint is how Florio nonchalantly passes off The Nation as some kind of reasoned and thoughtful source, as opposed to the hacktastic, leftist rag that it is.

Florio goes on:

“Via Keeler, Scott Clement of the Post responded to the criticism from groups like the NAJA by pointing out that the newspaper “pursued this poll without any idea as to how it would turn out and had no vested interest in the outcome.” Clement also defended the poll by explaining that “it’s entirely appropriate for a news organization to conduct a survey to test any assertions made about the breadth and depth of offense among Native Americans” by those who oppose the name, adding that it is “customary for any other public policy issue.”

“But is this really customary?” Keeler asks. “Are pollsters judging the ‘breadth and depth’ of how offensive other dictionary-defined slurs are? Tragically, it is only Native Americans who have to suffer this kind of humiliation, especially when the multibillion-dollar brand of the paper’s local football team hangs in the balance.”

And so the Post poll definitely won’t end the debate, even though many should spark a meaningful debate over whether it’s proper to make any dictionary-defined slur the subject of polling or debate.

A couple things here. First of all, far from being disinterested in the outcome of this poll, the Washington Post has been leading the charge against Dan Snyder and the Redskins for years. Going so far as to having their editorial board refuse to use the name in any of their writing or commentary.

So, the idea that the Washington Post produced this poll, which contradicts everything they stand for, in order to help prop up the “multibillion dollar brand of the paper’s local football team,” something they couldn’t possibly care less about, is beyond absurd.

Also, hilarious is the notion that it’s somehow not “customary” for people to poll on whether or not they’re offended by “dictionary-defined” slurs. People poll on anything they want to poll about. But more to the point, would The Nation, or Pro Football Talk be so concerned about the customs of polling if the results had said that 90% of Native Americans felt mortally wounded by the word “Redskin?”

I’m guessing not.

Equally unpersuasive is the idea that Merrian-Webster is a better indicator of Native American sensibilities than Native Americans themselves. As a commentator noted, dictionary definitions are descriptive. Not prescriptive. If 90% of the affected group disagree with the dictionary definition, then maybe it’s the definition that should change and not the people?

Also ironic that Pro Football Talk seizes on dictionary definitions about slurs. While citing the opinion of a political organization like the National Congress of American Indians. Which, itself uses a non-PC, offensive term (Indians) to describe themselves.

Maybe they should change their name?...

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