Earlier this week, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder announced the creation of a foundation specifically designed to aid Native Americans. Snyder has been under continuous pressure to change the team's racially oriented name, and even supporters of the name must concede that the foundation is an attempt to blunt criticism of its continued use.
To make this appear anything more than a craven, cynical attempt to shield himself from criticism behind stacks of money, Snyder needed to have a flawlessly run, transparent organization whose primary beneficiary is Native Americans, not Snyder's public image. Unfortunately for Snyder, the foundation has hit its first bump before it's even left the gate.
Snyder tapped Gary Edwards, a Cherokee and former U.S. Secret Service member, to head the foundation. However, as USA Today reported, Edwards is CEO of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association, which drew condemnation from the U.S. government for its handling of Native American matters in a May 2012 report.
Tasked with recruiting law enforcement officers for Native American territory under a $1 million contract, NNALEA failed to perform its duties, according to the federal Office of the Inspector General. In short, the report noted, the federal government "received no benefit when they awarded a recruitment services contract to NNALEA, thus wasting almost $1 million."
According to the report, NNALEA provided the government with 748 applications, of which none were usable. However, the report also noted that the government's own Bureau of Indian Affairs should share the blame for a "poorly written contract" which was developed in association with NNALEA.
Edwards responded in a statement: "The NNALEA believes it met and exceeded all of its obligations under the contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Justice Services, and subsequently was paid after the contract was completed."
This is precisely the kind of public relations fumble that Snyder and the Redskins did not need. The sharpest criticism leveled against Snyder, and the one to which he has responded directly, is the charge that he is indifferent to the concerns and true needs of the Native Americans whom he claims as his team's inspiration. Snyder and the Redskins can't just avoid the perception of impropriety in this foundation; if they're to get any kind of positive press out of this, they must set new standards for transparency and honesty. And they've been thrown for a loss on the very first play.