Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins football team, is attempting to diffuse criticism about the fact that his team name is a racial slur by setting up a foundation for Native Americans. Obviously, Native American leaders, activists and lawmakers aren't buying it.
"It's not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more," wrote Snyder in a simply baffling letter. Remind me again of how turning dehumanizing a culture by reducing it to an offensive sports mascot is a celebration? Anyway, thus outwardly satisfied with his efforts to celebrate "Native American values" (and most definitely suffering from a case of the doth-protest-too-much'es) Snyder setting up a foundation called the Original Americans Foundation — THE ACRONYM IS LITERALLY "OAF" — in order to provide "meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities." So far, OAF has distributed winter coats to "several tribes" and purchased a backhoe for the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska. It's also pissed off activists, tribal leaders, and regular denizens of the Internet by virtue of being a cheap and transparent PR stunt.
Suzan Shown Harjo, a major opponent of the team name, told the Associated Press that Snyder's move is "somewhere between a PR assault and bribery." The staff of Indian Country Today Media Network were just as blunt in their assessment: "We're not buying it." And, in an email to ThinkProgress, Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum called the effort "equal parts public relations scheme and tax deduction":
"For almost eighty years the National Football League and its Washington franchise have exploited a racist Indian caricature, turning it into a billion dollar brand while completely ignoring the needs of real Native American children, families, and elders.
"Now, team owner Dan Snyder wants to keep profiting from his team's racist brand and use those profits to attempt to buy the silence of Native Americans... Dan Snyder should immediately change the racist name of his NFL team and then commit a portion of his profits to addressing the issues facing Native American communities across the country."
In a statement, Oneida representative Ray Halbritter said, "At the very least, we're also hopeful that in his new initiative to honor Native Americans' struggle, Mr. Snyder makes sure people do not forget that he and his predecessor George Preston Marshall, a famous segregationist, have made our people's lives so much more difficult by using a racial slur as the Washington team's name."
The harmful societal effects resulting from the exploitation and media misrepresentation of Native Americans aren't going magically disappear when enough millionaires donate enough winter coats to enough reservations. They're going to stop when everyone agrees that circulating and celebrating retrograde, inaccurate, racist images of Native Americans is unacceptable. And Bill Snyder is doing nothing to combat that — in fact, it's something he actively promotes.
Image via Getty.