Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder joined ESPN 980′s “The Drive” (via the Washington Post) on Monday and had a sitdown interview with former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley in which the two spoke at length over the team's nickname and the controversy that has mushroomed over it.
[ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!]
Cooley first asked Snyder what he felt being a Redskins meant.
"It’s honor. It’s respect. It’s pride. And I think that every player here sees it, feels it, every alumni feels it, and it’s a wonderful thing, it’s a historic thing," Snyder said. "It’s a very historic franchise, it’s been a pleasure."
Snyder has sought to lay out what he believes are the pertinent facts in the argument and provide some of the history of the team, the logo and the nickname and where it fits in a historical context today.
"You know, I think it would be nice — and forget the media from that perspective — but really focus on the fact that ... the facts, the history, the truth, the tradition. People talk about the logo, and when we tell them the story, that in 1971 a chief of a tribe named Walter 'Blackie' Wetzel actually came to the Redskins. He was the president of NCAI [National Congress of American Indians] and a Montana tribe called Blackfeet Nation at the time, and he said, 'Hey, I want to create a logo for the team, because we really think it should represent us.' And he went back to Montana and helped create that logo that we all love.
"And that’s one example of just the facts, and the truth, and the things that a lot of people ignore, and I think that it’s time that people look at the truth, and the history, and real meanings, and look at us for what we are. We’re a historic football team that’s very proud, that has a great legacy, that honors and respects people."
Does that change your opinion at all on the matter?
Snyder says he has visited Native American tribes across the country, from Arizona to New Mexico to South Dakota and other places, to talk about the name. His takeaway: The name is roundly supported by them.
"And what I learned, what I listened and learned, is really that they love this team," Snyder said. "They actually have a tremendous amount of fans on reservations, not only for our team, but many teams that have Native American imagery — the Atlanta Braves, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Blackhawks. And they really are proud of these teams, and I think that I learned more of the truth.
"And what I did see that got me and touched me, and really moved me, and I think you know because you have now visited a lot of reservations as well, is the plight of Native Americans. The things that people don’t talk about. You know, it’s sort of fun to talk about the name of our football team, because it gets some attention for some of the people that write it, that need clicks, or what have you. But reality is, no one ever talks about what’s going on on reservations, the fact that they have such high unemployment rates, health-care issues, education issues, environmental issues, lack of water, lack of electricity.
"No one wants to talk about that stuff, because it’s not cocktail, chit-chat-talk, it’s a real-life need, real-life issues. And I think they don’t want to focus on that, and I dedicated an effort to do that. And I said after what I saw, and listened, and learned, it moved me. It moved me, it moved my wife, it moved my family, it moved everyone who went with us — Bob Rothman, Dwight Schar, some of my partners went on many of the journeys. And we would go back the airport afterwards, saying, 'Gosh, we gotta do something, we gotta help.'”
What Snyder said he did was focus his Redskins charity efforts on some of these communities, including a Pueblo tribe in New Mexico that Snyder said had a whopping 67 percent unemployment rate.
"I think that those are the real issues that America should be talking about," Snyder said.
Snyder's point seemed to be that the people talking about the name being offensive were ones who had not connected with the tribes and the people who supposedly were offended like he had. He chalked the discussion up to being an empty narrative.
"And this is not PR," Snyder said. "We don’t have PR people doing this stuff. This is really genuine, and from that standpoint, just like our foundation here locally, it’s 16 years running that we’ve been doing this. You talk about the millions of dollars this year, it’s been every year — and we don’t really brag about it, it’s not something that we’re going out doing. This is even more so that way, this is something that needs to be done, that ... we were moved. And it’s something that I think that in five years, in 10 years, in 15 years, in 20 years, we’ll be very proud of."
The question now, given the current movement on changing the name, is whether we'll be calling them the Redskins still in the timeframe Snyder is talking about.
- - - - - - -