Dan Snyder’s Redskins Letter Wasn’t a PR Win At All

We’d just finished analyzing Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder‘s damage control letter today when a commentor alerted us to this afternoon’s satirical Washington Post op-ed by Sally Jenkins, along with this one and this one. The three articles collectively demolish each of the supposed strong points of Snyder’s strategy:

  • The Native American coach who Snyder claims led the inaugural squad was almost certainly not Native American.
  • The stated purpose of the “Indian” school this coach attended was “forced assimilation”, aka seizing children from their parents.
  • The late-period coach Snyder claims consulted with a local Native America groups before approving the team’s logo actually created the group himself.

  • Snyder adds that the group later honored him as a form of validation. But, again, he was not Native American and he created the group himself.
  • The Oneida Indian Nation that placed the radio ads calling for the name to be changed has offered to meet with Snyder and allow the two parties to make their respective cases. He has not in any way indicated his willingness to do so.
  • One more: he’s defended by Lanny Davis, former big-time political advisor now best known for working to ease sanctions on genocidal dictators.

A contact who has worked with other NFL team owners also tells us that “respect and appreciation” are not words commonly included in Snyder’s vocabulary—especially when discussing those who disagree with him.

So, while the owner may well have attended Redskins games with his father as a child and located an Indian chief to make comments about how inoffensive his team’s name is, pretty much everything else about his letter was classic substance-free spin. And we fell for it.

We still have no real opinion on whether the team should change its name. But we will definitely no longer take anything Snyder says seriously.

UPDATE: In yet another refutation of Snyder’s claims, the Native American father of ESPN’s Rick Reilly, who claimed last month that the name isn’t racist because his dad is just fine with it, wrote a response today in which he says his son misquoted him, finishing with “Let me be clear: The racial slur ‘redskins’ is not okay with me…it’s time to change the name.”

Oh boy.