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The Football Name Debate: Are We Missing the Point?

“The debate is over about the R-word; it’s now about whether if it’s proper to have a football team in this country carry on using a defined slur.” That was the closing statement by Jacqueline Pata, the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Her comment capped off a forum at the Center for American Progress, Missing the Point: The Real Impact of Native Mascots and Team Names on American Indian and Alaska Native Youth. The Center released a new report that examined several bodies of research about the harmful impact of mascot representations on the self-esteem of AI/AN youth, how they create a hostile learning environment, and the decades-long movement to retire them. The report by Erik Stegman and Victoria Phillips looks at recent key findings and incorporates statements from several Native youths, providing context that is relevant today regarding the use of these mascots and imagery.

Sitting on today’s panel was Pata; Travis Waldron, Sports Reporter,; Mark Macarro, Chairman, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians; Dr. Michael Friedman, Clinical Psychologist; and Erik Stegman, Associate Director, Center for American Progress. The forum started with very poignant remarks by fifteen-year-old Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown, a student at Argonaut High School in California, and a Champion for Change at the Center for Native American Youth. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) also spoke briefly at the event.

Over the last year, the debate over the use of the slur by the Washington professional football team has largely centered on issues of economics and fan nostalgia. The larger issue at hand, however, is beyond the sports soundbites that dominate this discussion. Data and research now shows that the use of such racist and derogatory team names (and by association, ‘traditions’ and fan antics) have real and detrimental effects on Native youth today. With fifty percent of the Native population being of 25 years of age or younger, the danger of perpetuating this practice and continuing the cycle of defeatism, hostile learning environments, and poor self-esteem is all too real. Continue reading

History, Opinion, Sports Fix, The Features

Hey R**skin Fans, Snyder Cares! (Not Really)

With little fanfare, Washington pro football team owner Dan Snyder slipped a letter out to the team’s fan mailing list this past Sunday. It was a masterful work of self-service. In it, Snyder finally realized there were problems in Indian Country, based on a supposed 26 visits to various reservations around the country. The visits – all cherry-picked to councils who “agree” with him about the “non-offensive” nature of the team’s moniker – apparently opened his eyes to the plight and ills of reservation residents.

Let’s set aside for a moment that Snyder refuses to meet with tribal councils who oppose the name, including the still-open invitation from the Oneida Nation in New York. Snyder quickly jumped to the “hey, there’s more important issues to deal with than changing a football team’s name” defense, pointing out the horrific poverty rates, unemployment, poor health, and abysmal education found on many Native reservations. And yes, these are real problems. Big ones. Continue reading

History, Sports Fix, The Features, WTF?!

What’s In a Football Name? Snyder Thinks He Knows – And He’s Wrong

So this popped out the other day.

It’s no secret how I feel about the whole name thing with the Washington football team. I oppose it. I think it’s racist. I have several personal issues with the name. But that’s not why I decided to post something about it.

The letter is a poor public relations attempt, mostly to mollify diehard team fans who will, unto the bitter end, support the racist moniker. Not out of reason, but blind emotion.

Hey, I get it. I understand why. Team fandom is a complicated, deep, personal thing that involves a lot of emotional investment and history. It’s difficult to hear that your beloved franchise is doing something wrong – simply by using a name (and by extension, mascot and other fan accoutrements).

The problem comes when that moniker is unveiled to be racist. The Washington issue isn’t anything new; it’s been around for decades. The movement today has found new momentum and has begun to find rightful traction in righting a wrong. (Just like the Civil Rights Movement began finding traction nearly one hundred years after Emancipation.)

The first third of Snyder’s letter is a play on his loyal fanbase’s emotional strings. “I still remember…the passion of the fans…the ground beneath me seemed to move and shake…he’s been gone for 10 years now…” All phrases and words evoking emotions and certainly causing the reader to recall their own cherished memories. Setting them into their defensive stance, so that the rest of the letter, which uses standard PR spin and deft deflection, only ratchets up the emotional volume for their impassioned – and misguided – defense.

Oh, and then there’s the trite “Our past isn’t just where we came from–it’s who we are” phrase. Bolded and italicized, even. Because it’s important!  Continue reading

Sports Fix, The Daily Feed

The Best Week in DC Sports just got better

Photo courtesy of BrianMKA
Harper glare
courtesy of BrianMKA

The Wizards finished their season with six straight wins, D.C. United is 2nd in the Eastern Conference after a hot start, the Redskins have drafted Robert Griffin III to be their next quarterback, the Capitals won a pivotal Game 7 against Boston to advance to the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and lastly, the Nationals have started their season 14-5 and have the best pitching staff in the National League and possibly all of baseball.

Late today, the Nationals announced that Ryan Zimmerman would be joining Brad Lidge, Michael Morse, Drew Storen and Chien-Ming Wang on the DL, and that Bryce Harper would make his major league debut tomorrow night at Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles.  So far, Harper’s not lighting up the AAA league quite as he had with the lower levels of the minor leagues, but it’s hard to deny the talent of the youngest member of the elite athletes club of Washington.

Can Harper make a difference at the Major League level? That depends on the Bryce Harper we get. This is one of those wonderful moments where a team has decided, “Alright, screw it, let’s give the kid a chance.” There’s no guarantee that Harper’s ready, though the expectations for him are nothing short of towering. Will he have a Strasburg moment tomorrow night in Dodger Stadium? Can he bring some offense to left field, where the Nationals have struggled to put anything in the offense column?

DC sports fans have been waiting for answers to these pressing questions since the summer of 2010 when the Nationals took Harper with the top pick of the draft. Will he be the next Ken Griffey Jr., or will he be the next Todd Van Poppel? It all starts tomorrow night at 9:10pm. Don’t miss it.

Sports Fix

The Meaning or Lack Thereof of the Redskins 3-1 Start

Photo courtesy of
‘Fred Davis’
courtesy of ‘Keith Allison’

I have spent this past week digging through so many football stats I started to dream of numbers spiraling through an immense blackness. I am filled with confusion at what all these numbers mean, what story they tell. A stat is useless unless it tells a story, contains meaning. The numbers I have looked at tell what has happened so far in the Redskins season. The numbers tell the story of a much improved team. The Redskins are a team who are controlling the game, but how much of an impact what has happened on what will happen remains a mystery.   

People smarter than me have compiled and analyzed these numbers against past history and against the strength of schedule to deduce that the Redskins have a 43.3% chance to make the playoffs. Before the season began most people would have guessed that percentage to be much closer to zero, and now it is just a bit below the odds of a coin flip. There are still those that say the Redskins have no shot at the playoffs, and this baffles me. I have never understood how some can make such declarative statements about something as unpredictable as sports. The Redskins 3-1 start is no fluke as they have outscored their opponents by a 20 point margin. Mostly on the strength of their defense.

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Sports Fix

Redskins 2011 Season Preview

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Danilo.Lewis|Fotography’

The story of the 2010 Washington Redskins needs no retelling. If the images of McNabb sulking on the sidelines and Haynesworth rolling on the ground aren’t burned into your memory then you weren’t paying attention. It can be argued that the issues with McNabb were partly his being taken out of comfortable surroundings and then feuding with the Shanahans. What cannot be argued is that McNabb threw a career high in interceptions with 15 and his lowest number of touchdowns since 2003 with 14, and his 77.1 passer rating was his worst since his rookie season in 1999 when he had a passer rating of 60.1. At the age of 34 Donovan McNabb had the worst season of his career, and he found himself benched for Rex Grossman in the final three games.

The main issues with the Redskins in 2010 were the same as they have always been. They continued to try and be the off-season champs with the trade for McNabb and stuck with Albert Haynesworth in the 3-4 defense despite his objections that he was not that type of player. Haynesworth swore that by working out with his personal trainer he would be ready for the 2010 season, but he failed multiple fitness tests and missed time in training camp. This season the Redskins do not have a McNabb, Portis, or Haynesworth, but what they might have is a team. The 2010 Redskins were seen as a disappointment more because of the expectations than the results. The team finished with the record the talent dictated it should.

The Redskins have made it a habit to ignore problems at the bottom and middle of the roster and to try and go for the big splash. The Redskins never wanted to put a team on the field. They wanted a collection of stars they hoped would play well together and cover up shortcomings at non-glory positions like the offensive and defensive line. When the big name signings and trades failed the Redskins ended up left with nothing and struggled through season after season. This off-season the Redskins took a different approach. They traded 35 year old defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday to the Cardinals for 24 year old running back Tim Hightower. In 13 games started for the Cardinals in 2010 Hightower averaged 4.8 yards a carry and 46 yards a game with an average of only 9.6 carries a game. A league average running back average 4.2 yards a carry in 2010. With a normal workload of between 20-25 carries a game Hightower could provide a vast improvement to the Redskins running game.
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Adventures, Entertainment, Fun & Games, Life in the Capital, News, People, The Daily Feed, The District

Sign Her Up! Redskins Latest Recruit

Photo courtesy of
‘New Washington NFL Uniform’
courtesy of ‘Mike Licht,’

Today Albert Haynesworth for the third day in a row chose not to take the Redskins conditioning test, which consists of two timed 25 yard shuttle runs with a 3 1/2 minute rest in between each set. So local Fox 5 reporter, Lindsay Murphy, took it for him and came pretty darn close to passing.

Given how useless, lazy and overpaid Haynesworth has been during his time at the Redskins, I say “Sign Her Up!”

Sports Fix

Sports Fix: Redskins Win, Caps Look Good, Wiz Look Really Bad

FedEx Field
FedEx field by Gnomedude

Record: 7-4
Past Two Weeks: 1-1
Place: Tied for Second in the NFC East with the Hated Dallas Cowboys.

Two ugly games in a row for the Redskins. This week, unlike last, the Skins came out on top. Clinton Portis continues to be a dominant force in the Redskins offense, with 143 yards on 29 carries, including some second-half sprints that rocketed the Skins to victory. Jason Campbell had an off-day, going 20 of 33 for 206 yards and a single TD. The defense, though, couldn’t stop the 2-9 Seahawks from putting up 228 offensive yards, most of that on the ground. They did, however, force a turnover with under a minute to go as the Seahawks were driving toward the end zone, putting the kibosh on the Seahawks’ last rally.

Up next? The 10-1 Giants. They’ll be here at FedEx on Sunday, and the Redskins will need an impressive showing to take down the top of the NFC East. Currently, we’re tied with the Hated Cowboys, and next week they play the Seahawks while we’re facing the Giants. Not exactly the matchup that we’re hoping for. So, if they want to keep their place, it’s win or die against the Giants. I’m not hopeful. Continue reading

Sports Fix

Sports Fix: Hail to the Victors!

Crazed Fan by Leediehr

26-24. Sorry, Cowboys, no 4 & 0 for you. The Redskins looked quite good in Dallas today, with Jason Campbell starting to look like the Quarterback that the Redskins had hoped he’d become. Two TDs and 230 yards, all without a single pick. Clinton Portis came up big with 121 yards over 21 carries. It was the kind of victory that kept the TV on and the fans cheering right down to the last play. Fortunately, Shaun Suisham’s leg was up to the task, with four Field Goals and a pair of extra points.

Great day for Jim Zorn, and for the Skins as a whole, with the last Redskins Regular Season Game in Texas Stadium coming up a big victory for us. But that’s not all the sporting news…

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Sports Fix, The District

Sports Fix Light: Take Heart, Redskins Fans

Appropriate for Dallas Week by dharmabumx

I know, Sports Fix doesn’t usually air until Monday, but I’ve made a snap decision to run with it today because it’s Dallas Week. That’s right, it’s time for the Redskins, as they have several times over the last few years, to frustrate the Cowboys in new and unusual ways. As Skins’ Blogger Jamie Mottram wrote,

“But out of the ashes the feathered arrow flies. Starting with the Skins’ 14-13 midnight double-strike win on Monday Night in Big D three years ago, Washington has reversed and reheated the once-great rivalry by winning four out of six.”

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