The Washington Redskins name controversy is once again in the spotlight, and once again it is entirely the fault of the Redskins' embarrassingly tone deaf PR strategy. This time it is the launch of the website RedskinsFacts.com, an astroturf PR arm supposedly created by Redskins alumni Roy Jefferson, Gary Clark, Chris Cooley, Mark Moseley and Ray Schoenke, but in actuality is run by the PR firm Burson-Marsteller. The name, the site says, "epitomizes all the noble qualities we admire about Native Americans — the same intangibles we expect from Washington’s gridiron heroes on game day. Honor. Loyalty. Unity. Respect. Courage. And more. On this page, you can read more about the storied history of the Redskins identity."
Like the Redskins' previous attempt, this has gone horribly wrong. As the Washington Post points out:
Anytime an organization sets up a "facts" Web site, it calls out for fact checking. So how does this stack up — and what’s missing?
The RedskinsFacts Web site thus artfully tries to skate past the change in how "redskins" was used and perceived. While the earliest references may have been benign, and Indian leaders at one point may have referred to themselves as "red," "red men," or "red-skins," the phrase increasingly acquired unfavorable meanings by the late 19th century.
For a Web site that claims to be devoted to "the facts," the history section leaves out a lot of them, in particular the highly negative connotations — instead of "noble qualities" — that the phrase "redskin" had acquired in the decades before the name was adopted by the football team. Instead, the Web site dwells on the pre-19th century usage, and skips over the fact that one of the team’s longtime assertions — that the name was chosen in honor of the "Indian" coach — now appears to be wrong.
Whoops. They gave it three out of four "Pinocchios." But, Redskins fans are quick to say, if Native Americans are okay with it, then it's not offensive. There's some merit to that argument, but... the National Congress of American Indians find it horribly offensive.
So the website is a soulless PR blitz that ignores everything negative about the product. That's to be expected. Also to be expected is a "what were they thinking" moment on Twitter.
Complete this sentence: "I'm so Redskin…" #HTTR— Redskins Facts (@redskinsfacts) August 3, 2014
A website started to defend a racist name, and its Twitter account asks you to fill in the blank. What could possibly go wrong?
"@redskinsfacts: Complete this sentence: "I'm so Redskin…".... I don't care that it took a genocide to have this mascot.— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) August 3, 2014
RT @redskinsfacts: Complete this sentence: "I’m so Redskin…" ...but all I got was this lousy blanket.— TheIntersect (@spidr2ybanana) August 3, 2014
Shamless self plug:
That I was forced to relocate and all my friends died. RT @redskinsfacts: Complete this sentence: "I'm so Redskin…"— Dave Mangels (@Southern_Philly) August 3, 2014
Good job, good effort Washington Redskins. You tried to make the world think your name is not so bad, and instead you helped people remember the horrible atrocities that have been committed to the people your name slurs against.