You rise and cheer as the Washington DC football team emerges from the tunnel, as do 90,000 others around you. Why? Because everyone else is cheering! And because the team hears the cheering, feels the energy and because you believe it helps them play better.
You are an African American male that through hard work, great talent, and good fortune has landed on The Washington Redskins football team. You are excited by the opportunity. But you hear from outside sources that "Redskins" is a racial epithet. Even some of your family question the name You know Native Americans lost their land and much of their identity to the white man. You come from a racial background in which your ancestors were enslaved and called "niggers" by their controlling white "masters." Your teammates tell you that "Redskin" was never intended as a epithet. You agree, but in the back of your mind you wonder if you are insulting Indians. Do you think that might affect your play? Even the tiniest bit? Well, if you believe the good energy from the fans feeds the team then it follows that the negative energy around the team's name is poison. Even a 1% difference in performance could mean the difference of winning or losing a game.
Some fans begin to wonder about supporting the team. Nationally, the team's popularity drops because people are afraid of being on the wrong side of history. It is easy to believe the now-popular myth that "Redskin" is an epithet if you just read headlines and listen to news shorts. And in a country that is desperately out of touch with it's soul, it gives some temporary pain relief to pick on others, to scapegoat. This is true for the Indians that hate the name too. They have many legitimate things to feel resentful about, not the least of which is the loss of their own soul. The Washington Redskins are an easy target to blame for the shame they feel and the suffering they still feel today.
I don't like the team I love being a scapegoat, and people sneering at me because of wearing Redskins apparel. I want the team to be successful, and I believe this controversy, as it stands today, is one more impediment to their finding their way to championships. The way I see it, The Dan needs to either change the name, or put together a massive, expensive, and highly professional PR program to sway the nation back to our support. He may love the name and the history of the Redskins, but he surely does not want our team to be a scapegoat.
The Redskins PR team has been slow, and often a step behind. They have to race ahead. The Dan did a wonderful thing meeting so many tribes after last season, and his compassionate response in forming the Original Americans Foundation is welcome and wonderful news. Unfortunately, given that it was instigated by the name controversy the gesture rings a bit hollow. It would have given him much higher ground today, had he done that five or ten years ago.
Here is what PR is needed starting now and throughout the football season.
- Invite tribes of supportive native Americans to EVERY Redskins home game. Seat them together. Pay their way in full. Invite them to bring signs of support. Film them for the entire game. Ask the network showing the game to show the section cheering a Redskins big play or score. If they do not comply guilt them by asking them if they are into honest and balanced reporting. Make your own top-quality films of support by the Native American fans at the games and distribute them on Youtube. Include interviews of Native Americans at the games saying that they love the Redskins football team in their own words.
- Go after the network for equal time for an OP-Ed to Bob Costas halftime grandstand from last year against the Redskins. IF they are going to bring politics to halftime at football games (which I think is a mistake) then they must give equal time, if they truly believe in American values. Get a great and respected speaker with a phenomenal argument for the Redskins name to speak for free because s/he is passionate about the issue. (If he is paid the argument loses power.)
- Educate the country via VIDEO and COMMERCIALS about the history of the Redskins and their name, and PROVE to the country that the name has never been used in a disparaging manner (except in a football context by opposing teams and their fans). Show the tribes in the southwest cheering the Redskins. Include The high school Redskins team on a reservation in Arizona. Pick the best interviews that explain why they like our team, with more than a touch of compassion for their plight.
- Take $1 from every ticket sale and put it in the Original American Foundation. Keep doing it even if you lose the name fight. Commit to doing it for life.
The fans need to stop whining like San Francisco fans in the 80s, stop bitching like Philadelphia fans always have, and reset to being GREAT fans, like we used to be, who were almost always supportive. When our guy drops the ball, "Go get it next time!" When our guy catches the ball, shout out your genuine joy. We have enough problems without negative fans so start being positive all the time and support your team better than ever!
Fans can support the name with signs, teeshirts and slogans. I like, "Redskins is a Compliment!" and "You can attack our name but you can't beat our pride!" What are some slogans that you like? I imagine some of you can come up with better, and more on-point slogans than that.
Newspaper editorialists can and should write for The Redskins opposing view to the name bashing bandwagon. This especially applies to The Washington Post, which has been one-sided in their reporting on this controversy.
Native Americans and their tribes who support the team can step forward now.
Ultimately, it is our success as Washington Redskins, fans, players, coaches, and management, that is threatened by the attack on our name. The good news is we may be able to beat off the attack, have a good season, restore pride in our name, and help Native Americans with their real problems. It takes virtual solidarity, focus, compassion, and a great deal of money from Dan Snyder. Are you in?