I should probably start by introducing
myself. But instead of boring you with my résumé,
I thought it might be fun to share an anecdote from my boyhood.
You're only four years older than I am, so you should be able to
The year was 1977. I was eight years old, and my family had just
moved to a small college town in the Texas panhandle. (We moved
a lot. You get used to it when your dad is a football coach.)
My prize possession was my NFL lunchbox. It featured a tiny embossed
helmet for every team in the league--all 28 of them. I carried that
lunchbox with me everywhere because I never tired of studying the
As usual, we moved during the summer. My mother made sure that I
met some of the local kids before the school year began by getting
me involved in church and Cub Scout activities right away.
And so it was that, during my first Cub Scout meeting in my brand
new home of Canyon, Texas, I shoved my foot so far into my mouth
that I can still taste my Achilles tendon.
The other boys were talking about the wilderness skills they looked
forward to learning, but then someone said, "None of that stuff
is new to me. I'm part Indian."
"Oh yeah," another boy challenged, "what tribe?"
"I'm one-sixteenth Blackfoot," the first boy said.
"That's cool," the challenger replied. "I'm a quarter
Then the other boys started making claims more quickly than I could
process them. Apache and Comanche went next, which distressed me
because those were the only tribes I could have named at that age.
I had never heard of the Kiowa, the Sioux, or the Choctaw, but they
all sounded authentic.
I didn't say anything because I had no idea what to say, but before
I knew it, every other Cub Scout had claimed some kind of lineage
from a specific Native American tribe. They were all looking at
me. Then one of them said, "Hey, new kid, you got any Indian
"Sure," I replied.
"Oh yeah? How much, and what tribe?"
"Umm," I stammered as I looked at my NFL lunchbox and
tried not to panic. I dismissed the Chiefs because I understood
that chiefs were something tribes had, not something they
were. Redskin, on the other hand, seemed to have a lot
in common with Blackfoot. I decided to take my chances. "I'm
. . . one-tenth . . . Redskin," I said at last.
After a few agonizing seconds of silence, the older boys pointed
at me and laughed. The younger boys soon followed suit. Some of
them thought "one-tenth" was the funny part. Others insisted
"Redskin" was the true punch line.
I spent years trying to push that moment of humiliation out of my
consciousness, but it came back to haunt me when I stumbled upon
a book by Vine Deloria called Custer Died for Your Sins.
The book is equal parts outrageous, funny, and thought-provoking,
and Deloria got my attention right away by explaining, in the first
During my three years as Executive Director
of the National Congress of American Indians it was a rare day when
some white didn't visit my office and proudly proclaim that he or
she was of Indian descent. Cherokee was the most popular tribe of
their choice, and many people placed the Cherokees anywhere from
Maine to Washington State. . . . At times I became quite defensive
about being a Sioux when these white people had a pedigree that
was so much more respectable than mine.
I realized something as I read that passage. Yes, I was a jackass
when I claimed to be one-tenth Redskin. But I decided those other
boys were probably jackasses too. How likely was it that in a room
full of white Cub Scouts in a middle-class college town, every single
boy apart from me could claim a genetic tie to a different Native
Deloria is right. White Americans love to claim that they have Native
American ancestors whether it's true or not. I've seen it. I've
done it. We can argue about why so many white people do it. But
even if our motives are questionable and self-serving, that doesn't
mean we're being hateful.
I know myself, and I know what my motives were for claiming to be
one-tenth Redskin. I was just trying to fit in with a group of strangers.
There wasn't an ounce of hatefulness towards Native Americans in
the nonsensical claim I made as an eight-year-old boy.
Moreover, I don't think there's an ounce of hatefulness in your
desire, Mr. Snyder, to hang onto the name of the team whose games
you grew up watching with your father. I see nothing objectionable
in your desire to cling to the glorious history of your storied
I really don't. I don't think that desire is rooted in mean-spiritedness
or intolerance or bigotry. What's more, I don't think you're getting
a fair hearing from the many people who have been weighing in on
the subject of "demeaning mascots" for decades.
It shocks me to hear people comparing the Redskins logo to Chief
Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians. Folks who can't tell the difference
between cartoonish caricature and stylized portraiture shouldn't
be allowed to sign petitions. When I encounter screeds from pundits
against the logo for the Redskins, I never see anyone engaging the
excellent point you made in your
letter to Redskin fans:
In 1971, our legendary coach, the late George
Allen, consulted with the Red Cloud Athletic Fund located on the
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and designed our emblem
on the Redskins helmets.
No one mentions the similarities between your dignified logo and
the Indian head nickel that remains a favorite among coin collectors
not because it's a demeaning caricature, but because it's a powerful
image. I have a hard time keeping a straight face when people try
to compare your logo to Chief Wahoo. Those comparisons would make
me spitting mad if I were the owner of the Redskins. Are you mad,
bro? Because it's totally cool if you are. I get it. People are
screwing you over every time they make that comparison.
But the logo isn't the real bone of contention, is it? The main
problem is the name. We've all seen the objection that practically
writes itself. "What if there was a team from Detroit called
the Blackskins?" the argument begins. "Or a team from
San Francisco called the Yellowskins? Or a team from Phoenix called
the Brownskins?" Would names like that even be thinkable? So
why is "Redskins" even thinkable as a name?
Duh! If people just say those names aloud, their ears will tell
them that Redskins sounds way cooler than any of those other options.
No lie. It's got a nice ring to it.
But that doesn't mean it's not racist, say the pundits.
And the second you bring racism into the argument, it's impossible
for anyone to think straight anymore. It's certainly impossible
for people to talk straight. Everybody starts dancing around the
This is when dialogue shuts down. You have some people who cling
to the racism of their forefathers as if it's some kind of comfort
food. They say things that make everyone uncomfortable. Then you
have the people who are sick to death of arguing about language
while we do nothing to change reality. "Instead of spending
our energy trying to police people's vocabularies," they object,
"why don't we use this as an opportunity to enact real reforms
that will improve the quality of life on reservations?" Then
someone says, "Why do we even use a system that relies on reservations?"
Then everybody gets nervous because real change makes people nervous,
and everybody agrees to focus on forcing you (as the owner of the
Redskins) to make a trivial, cosmetic alteration.
Making meaningful improvements is hard and expensive. Ganging up
on an NFL owner is easy and pretty much free.
That sucks for you, Mr. Snyder. I understand that it sucks for you.
But here's the thing: I need to talk to you man-to-man, football
fan-to-football fan, realist-to-realist. Maybe it's outrageous that
we now live in an age in which people who turn a blind eye to the
racism happening all around them nevertheless become hysterical
in response to racist language. Maybe that's a problem that we as
a society should work harder to correct. Maybe you want to help
with that one; maybe you don't. I don't know, and I don't even care
because this argument has never been about reality; it has always
been about language.
We can argue that language doesn't really matter, but we all know
that's not true. If the words we use don't matter at all, then you
would have changed the name of the Redskins by now. But you're standing
up for your right, as the owner of an NFL team, to retain the name
of the franchise that you purchased.
Once again, I get it. You didn't want to fight with a bunch of strangers
in the media about language. Other people have backed you into a
corner. You would much rather argue about more serious matters,
but this was the fight they picked with you, and now you're just
standing up for yourself.
Cool. Cool. Keep fighting the good fight I guess.
Or maybe . . . don't.
Remember when I said I wanted to talk realist-to-realist? As a realist,
let me tell you that the controversy about the Redskins name has
become wearisome . . . stultifyingly wearisome. When a subject is
so wearisome that you find yourself digging up words like "stultifying"
to describe it, then you know you're dealing with something that
is pretty intense in its wearisomeness.
Look, Dan--can I call you Dan? I'm gonna call you Dan--I think we've
both been a little surprised at how tenacious the media has been
with this story. I thought they would have dropped it by now, but
they're not dropping it. I groaned when I heard Mike Tirico call
your team the Washington Washingtons, but that's just one of the
many euphemistic workarounds that I've had to endure this season.
At first I agreed with you. I thought that if you refused to change
the name, then it wouldn't change. But it is changing.
Everybody who wants to get in on the argument is coming up with
their own way of referring to the Redskins. The verbal acrobatics
are making me tired. And I haven't even mentioned the long, earnest
lecture from Bob Costas to which I was subjected while trying to
watch a football game. I'm sorry, Dan; I know I should stand by
you, but I can't help the way I respond to lectures delivered by
Bob Costas. The first time it happened, I blamed him. But the next
time he does it, I think I might blame you. I know that's not fair,
buddy. But I just need you to make those lectures stop--by any means
Somewhat more seriously, I want you to think of your legacy. I'm
not talking about what happens to your memory after you die. You're
a billionaire, so I'm sure you'll be fine. I'm talking about what
happens to the Redskins when someone else takes over the team. I'm
pretty sure the first thing the new person in charge will do will
be to change the name--probably to something really stupid. I don't
want to see the Redskins become the Washington Districters or Senators
or Potomacs. I don't want to watch a game between the Giants and
the Lobbyists or the Eagles and the Campaign Finance Reformers or
the Cowboys and the Founding Fathers. We already have the Houston
Texans; I'm not sure the league can survive another completely stupid
So, while you're still alive and in charge, would you please consider
shortening the name to the Skins (which is what everyone calls the
Redskins anyway)? Stop for a moment to consider how many good reasons
there are for making this change:
1) People already refer to your team as "the Skins" (just
as we call the team from Arizona "the Cards" or the team
from Green Bay "the Pack").
2) If you print the name "Skins" in red ink, people who
value tradition will understand that you still are (and always have
been) the red Skins.
3) When kids want to play football even though they have no uniforms
to distinguish one team from another, they routinely pit "Shirts"
against "Skins." The shortened name would therefore tap
into the youthful exuberance that the NFL loves to celebrate.
4) The new logo wouldn't have to be ugly or problematic. It could
be a plain, crumpled T-shirt on the ground--suggesting a piece of
clothing abandoned by any kid who plays for a "Skins"
5) People in the media would stop coming up with annoying euphemisms
just to avoid saying "Redskins."
6) We could all get back to focusing on the important things (such
as how bad the NFC East is) rather than spending our energy debating
how terrible a person you are. (Fun fact: NFL fans care a lot about
how much the NFC East sucks; they care a little about whether you
are a more meddlesome owner than Jerry Jones; but they don't care
at all about whether you are a heroic figure or a despicable human
being. After all, Al Davis fell into both categories simultaneously
7) Most importantly, changing the name of the team won't prove that
your opponents are right, and it won't prove that you are a weakling.
It will simply demonstrate that you are a gracious man capable of
making conciliatory gestures.
I know that last point is tough to swallow. I know that you bought
a team that has enormous sentimental value to you because of how
much you enjoyed watching Redskins games with your father. I know
that you didn't name the team and that it's unfair for you to be
labeled a racist just because the team you bought has a name that
some folks find objectionable. I know it's super-unfair that people
compare the Redskins logo to Chief Wahoo. Everything about the situation
But here's something I never thought I would have to say to a billionaire:
Life isn't fair. And seriously, Dan, you're in a much better position
to be gracious about this particular unfairness than the folks who
had a hemisphere taken from them.
I never met your father, but I understand he was a gifted freelance
writer, presumably the kind of writer who could appreciate the effective
deployment of rhetoric even if he didn't necessarily agree with
the speaker. I don't know if you ever had a chance to discuss Custer
Died for Your Sins with your dad, but I suspect he would have
admired much of Deloria's prose, such as this passage on Native
Experts paint us as they would like us to be.
Often we paint ourselves as we wish we were or as we might have
been. The more we try to be ourselves the more we are forced to
defend what we have never been.
Deloria passed away in 2005, but you probably know he was part of
the group that put pressure on the Redskins to change their name
back in 1992, seven years before you bought the team. I don't know
how different things would be now if the Redskins had caved into
that pressure before you came into the picture. Maybe you wouldn't
have even wanted the team anymore.
But I don't think that's true. I think you can love that team no
matter what it's called. And I think you can do us all a favor by
letting this one go. Like most football fans, I like the NFL to
steer clear of political nonsense. The main reason I enjoy talking
to strangers about the Chicago Bears is that it means we aren't
talking about the sacred donkeys of the Democrats or the sacred
elephants of the Republicans. The never-ending controversy surrounding
the name of the Redskins means that the more we talk about your
team, the less we talk about football. That controversy has become
a tedious distraction. And what would you expect any football coach
you've ever met to say about unnecessary distractions?
I'm not asking you to admit to having done anything wrong because
I don't think you have. I'm just asking you to take the high road
on this one because the low road is getting crowded with a bunch
of silly people who just keep chattering non-stop about the Redskins
even though they don't know who RG3 is.
If you simply quote that passage from Deloria about Native American
identity being complicated and concede that it's possible the Redskin
name needlessly complicates the subject even further, you can immediately
start calling your team by a name that we're already using (the
Skins). Then we can all get back to arguing about the important
things in life, such as the Shanahanigans of benching your most
electrifying player for the final weeks of the season.
Survivor Picks - Week 17 (Courtesy of
With most of the games a total crap shoot this week because no one
is really sure who will play their starters, I took the "safe
route" and stayed with games that had meaning. If this is your
"Super Bowl," then why risk your pool on a game where
John Doe may be trying out for a job for next season?
#3: Indianapolis over Jacksonville (12-4: KC,
NEP, MN, NO, SF, DEN, MIA, GB, SEA, IND, NYG, HOU, DAL, BAL, AZ,
Andrew Luck and company have clinched the AFC South and now are
only playing for seeding. Their final regular season game against
lowly Jacksonville should be a cakewalk, right? Not so fast. The
Jags have covered the spread five of the last seven games and
won four of those games. Still, they haven't won a game against
a team with a winning record all season. This won't be a pushover
as Chad Henne will try to coax as much as he can from his backup
wide receivers, but with a home playoff game at stake for the
Colts, put your fears to rest and ride them to your Survival Pool
#2: New England Over Buffalo (12-4: DEN, PHL,
SF, IND, STL, HOU, GB, SEA, DAL, NYG, SD, DET, JAX, KC, CAR, CIN)
Is there a better December football team than Tom Brady and the
New England Patriots? Probably not. The Pats are still playing
for the number two seed and a playoff bye week, and if you haven't
used Brady and the boys, now is your chance to lock up your pool
with one of the best teams at closing out a season. The Bills
will try their best to keep up with their division rivals, but
their continued futility should continue this week in a game that
means a whole lot more to New England than it does to Buffalo
#1: Pittsburgh over Cleveland (11-5: IND,
OAK, SEA, DEN, ATL, CHI, SD, SF, CAR, TEN, HOU, NO, NEP, AZ, JAX,
Unbelievably, the Steelers still have a chance to make the playoffs.
They will need help from the Chiefs, Bengals and NY Jets, but
first they have to go out and win against a Browns team that has
lost its defensive edge. Cleveland has lost nine of ten and six
in a row since their three-game winning streak early in the season.
This week, they should fare no better against a Pittsburgh team
that still isn't out of it. This is not going to be a pretty game,
but if you are worried about all the other divisional matchups
that the NFL has in store for the final week of the season, and
don't trust the Dolphins against Rex Ryan and crew to lay down
and die, then take a gamble on Big Ben as he tries to rally the
troops for what might be his final game in western PA.
Mike Davis has been writing about
fantasy football since 1999. As a landlocked Oklahoman who longs
for the sound of ocean waves, he also writes about ocean colonization
under the pen name Studio Dongo. The latest installment in his science
fiction series can
be found here.