Miami stumbled in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, but a Native American tribe turned up the heat. The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation of California ran a 60-second spot protesting the Washington Redskins nickname during Tuesday's game—a cutdown of the two-minute version below, which broke online just before the Super Bowl.
In the spot, "Proud to Be," a narrator lists many of the ways Native Americans describe themselves. These include "proud," "forgotten," "Indian," "indomitable," "survivor" and "patriot." In the end, we're told, "Native Americans call themselves many things. The one thing they don't …" and a shot of the Redskins helmet fills the screen.
The commercial, produced by goodness Mfg., aired Tuesday in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Sacramento, Calif., and, of course, Washington, D.C. The tribe ran the same spot in Miami during Game 2 on Sunday.
Last year, the Oneida Nation produced a series of pointed, high-profile radio ads on the subject, and the timing of the Yocha Dehe Wintun TV buy, against the backdrop of the Donald Sterling racism scandal, adds significant fuel to the fire.
You know what else Native Americans are? Media savvy, and skillful at playing the PR game. Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who famously told USA Today he'd never change the name—"NEVER. You can use caps"—looks more tone-deaf, mean-spirited and, in the eyes of some, flat-out racist the longer he holds the line. A Redskins rep declined to comment for this post, but Snyder has steadfastly maintained the name is not offensive but a badge of honor, and respectful of Native Americans.
Even if that's what Snyder and many die-hard fans truly believe, bad feelings will fester the longer this drags on. With each NFL season, we'll get more parking-lot protests at Redskins games, more commentators parsing the controversy on halftime shows and more indignant sports columnists who refer to the club as the R*dskins or "The Washington Football Team."
Ultimately, Snyder will be remembered as the villain, a guy who fumbled an opportunity to stand up for change and perhaps inspire a new generation—a legacy he could have been proud of.