Thoughts On Dan Snyder’s Open Letter


Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

I received an email from Dan Snyder this week.  I knew that it wasn’t a personal one for my eyes only, but I was still intrigued as to its content. I read it closely and wondered about its intentions, and anticipated the reaction to it over in the States.

I expected to read about how it has provoked a torrent of articles branding it as bribery, insincere, and offensive.  And didn’t really expect to see many classify it as genuine, heartfelt or sincere. I wasn’t disappointed.  As Snyder’s letter about the creation of the Redskins Original Americans Foundation has sparked controversy.

Now, I’m not a professional writer, neither am I a politician, or a public figure.  I’m just a Washington Redskins fan that contributes a few articles to a popular fan site, and wanted to express a few thoughts on this issue.

I read the letter without having seen any comments on it that might influence my thoughts and came away with an over-riding feeling of hope – hope that it is genuine and not a stunt by Dan Snyder aimed at currying favour with Native Americans.

I’ve been a Redskins fan since 1980 and have been proud to shout the name and wear the team colours for nearly 35 years (is it really that long?). From a distance, I’ve heard the occasional murmur of dissatisfaction with the name until recently when it has become a deafening roar.

Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

It seems that at first, slowly, but now rapidly, people are jumping on the band wagon so they don’t appear to be “racist”. Support the name change so you don’t appear racist; argue to keep the name and risk being accused of being prejudiced.

I don’t know if most native Americans do or don’t want the name changed. You can believe either side depending on what you want to believe. There’s plenty of dialogue and statistics to support both arguments.

Personally I would hate for the name to be changed having been shouting the name for so long – I don’t think that makes me racist. I just wonder why it wasn’t considered racist when I started supporting the team but now it is. To me it has always simply been the name of my favourite American football team.

Not living in America, I hadn’t really given it much thought as to it’s origin. Redskins, to me, were always brave warriors, fighting with honour and courage, hopefully reflected in the performance of the players I cheered for.

To me, racism is determined by intent. Intent to offend or intent to discriminate. I don’t think the use of the term redskin as a football team’s name does either of those. But maybe I’m just naïve. I see and hear famous (and not so famous) rappers use the N-word in their songs without any accusations of racism.

Ok, so most, if not all are black, which seems to make it ok.  But some of my black friends call each other by the N-word as part of their banter and this also seems ok.  So now in this politically correct world we live in, I don’t know what terms we are allowed to use anymore, black, red, colored…

if I have any doubts, I consult with my work colleague and good friend Lawrence Walker. He just happens to be American and black so he advises me what may or may not offend him and what may or may not be acceptable. I think this is more a reflection on how political correctness has taken over the asylum and that people want to be seen to be PC.

But back to the letter.  Now, I have no idea what proportion of Native Americans are offended by the term redskin, and I have no idea if the Onieda Indian Nation speaks for the majority of Native Americans. Like I’ve said, there’s plenty of articles and opinions out there that will “prove” either argument.

I just hope the creation of the foundation is a genuine attempt to help the native American people and if nothing else, this whole debate has brought their plight to the forefront of American (and even worldwide) consciousness.

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