Break the 'Redskins' Stalemate With a Media Boycott

Stanley Heller

Dan Snyder has said he won’t change the racist name of the Washington football team. One thing that could help change his mind is a campaign to get the Washington Post and all media to refuse to mention the team or its activities. If there were no reporting of games, no feature stories, no listing in box scores, no mention of schedules, and no interviews with top players there eventually would be a drop in attendance at games, a decline in TV viewing and a fall-off in merchandise revenue. Advertisers would start to complain.

It would motivate players to say something to their boss or at least give him the cold shoulder at team functions. Though the head of the player’s association has complained about the “racial insensitivity” of the “redskins” name several of the Washington NFL players have come out in support of the “tradition” and only one player, DeAngelo Hall, is publicly in support of the a name change.

Maybe the vanity effect would be more important than the economic. After all Snyder supposedly has a billion dollars so the team could run at a loss and not cause him to visit a soup kitchen. However, if the media didn’t talk about the team, that would be a big blow to Snyder. How could the owner of an invisible team hold his head up high among the 1%?

This may sound a bit extreme at first, but would the media report on teams with similarly offensive names if other ethnic groups were involved?. What if a city in Germany “honored” Jews there by calling a soccer team the “K*kes”, or if an Alabama town had a “tradition” of calling its basketball team called the “N***ers”, or “W*tbacks” was the team name in the U.S. Southwest.? Would media outlets in the 21st century just go along with the bigotry?

To this end there is a new petition housed on the Move On petition website. Its title is: “Stop All Media Coverage of the Washington NFL Football Team”. The petition is two sentences long. It says: 

“We call on the Washington Post, Washington DC TV stations and all media to stop covering the Washington Red***** NFL football team, to end reporting on its games, scores, prospects, etc. Shrink the team’s value and Dan Snyder’s income.”

Here is the “petition background”:

On June 18, 2014 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the trademark for the Washington Redskins, ruling the name is “disparaging to Native Americans”. It’s just another sign that the public is realizing that the “R” word is as racist as the “N” word. The word is never used by Native Americans to speak about each other, but as a slur for others to mock them. It is derived from the days when bounty hunters took part in Indian extermination and when they were paid for every “redskin” or scalp they could bring in. 

The owner of the team, Dan Snyder, is on record as saying he will “never” change the team name. The NFL Commissioner has not taken action to remove the team ownership from Snyder. This is in contrast to the actions of the NBA which is taking strong action against a team owner for merely a personal and private expression of prejudice. 

The situation is intolerable. It is inconceivable that African-Americans, Jews or any group that suffered massive intolerance and violence would in 21st century be openly ridiculed as being a mascot. 

If moral appeals to Dan Snyder don't work we should try to affect him by reducing the size of his pocketbook.

Online petitions do have their worth, but to really have an effect people would have to use it as an inspiration to go to the Washington Post and their local news media and make a case for a media boycott of stories about the Washington team. You’ll be turned down at first, but if you go again and again and get people to write letters the “crazy” idea will eventually not sound so outlandish.

And some young people need to develop some hashtags like the great #NotYourMascot. #GiveSnyderTheSilentTreatment is too long. Does #IgnoreDanSnydersTeam have zing?

To end on a high note, the editors of the New Haven Register last week called for an end to the use of offensive names for team mascots. Connecticut schools have 23 mascot names associated with Native Americans, from Chiefs to Tomahawks.

The Register writes, “But it’s not just the names. At Watertown High School, for example, a sign in its swimming pool area says “Scalp em, injuns.” No explanation needed why that’s offensive.

While these names may have initially been created with the thinking they were honoring Connecticut’s rich history, they are not only offensive, but keep us rooted in a culture of racism that has lingered for too long.”

Well said.

Stanley Heller is a semi-retired social studies schoolteacher, member of the New Haven Central Labor Council, host of “The Struggle” video news and executive director of the Middle East Crisis Committee.

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