The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 20, 2013

Phony outrage at heart of ’Skins controversy

By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle

— If a group of people are truly outraged over what they perceive as a slight, or insult, against their heritage, then their grievance needs to be given serious consideration. However, when the overwhelming hue and outcry is primarily coming from outside sources, then such manufactured outrage should be looked at with considerable skepticism.

Such is the case over the supposed controversy surrounding the NFL’s Washington Redskins. It seems we go down this road every few years, and every few years we have to endure the cries of anguish, not from the supposedly aggrieved, but from mostly guilt-ridden white liberals who seem to believe they have to act as caretakers overseeing and protecting those they have deemed most in need of their guardianship. That, and the fact it likely assuages their own feelings of guilt and within their inner circles makes them appear compassionate, worldly and sensitive.

The latest kerfuffle over the Redskins nickname arose when far-left online magazine Slate piously announced it would no longer refer

to the Washington Redskins by using their nickname and would only refer to them as “the Washington NFL team.” Of course, really, how many people even looked to Slate for coverage of the Redskins begs another question.

Soon, fellow lefty mags Mother Jones and The New Republic followed suit. One may reasonably assume they must have been getting bored with being President Obama’s water carriers and needed a break from the drudgery of simply repeating the administration’s talking points.

As if on cue, the national press took up the suddenly reborn controversy and pressure started being applied to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the name, which he deftly batted away like David Ortiz swatting a Joaquin Benoit fastball over the fence at Fenway Park.

The NFL has been gingerly stepping around the issue and of course Bob “I’m so important” Costas had to opine, predictably condemning the nickname during a recent NFL game on NBC, much as he used a similar forum for his anti-gun thoughts earlier this season.

But, with all the manufactured uproar, one thing was missing: offended Native Americans. And just like that, the Oneida Nation in upstate New York suddenly emerged, led by Ray Halbritter, who is the CEO of Oneida Nations Enterprises.

But, wait turns out Halbritter isn’t even partially Oneida as revealed by New York State Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney who told The Daily Caller “there is not one drop of Oneida in him.

“He has no ancestry in the Six Nations, but a lot of powerful friends in D.C,” Tenney said. How connected is he? According to The Daily Caller he helped raise up to $2.5 million for Obama’s reelection campaign.

And of course Obama didn’t bother with facts when he weighed in on the issue, saying, among other things, “Native Americans feel pretty strongly about” the issue. Well, he was partially right, but likely not in the sense he thought.

Shortly after Obama presumed to speak on behalf of Native Americans, came this rebuke from Walt “Red Hawk” Brown, chief of the Cheroenheka Nottoway Tribe in Virginia: “It (the Redskins name) doesn’t refer to me as a native person,” Brown said. “It refers to the players.” He went further when he said the Redskins name is “a great honor.”

How could that be? Well, it seems the historical use of the term Red-skin would back him up as according to Smithsonian historian Ives Goddard’s treatise, “I am a Red-Skin,” the term first was used by Native Americans to identify themselves separately from white people and dates back to 1769.

It would also seem if there is one place in the United States there may be some noticeable outrage, it would be here in Oklahoma, formerly known as “Indian Territory” on most maps until 1907.

But, while there is no outrage on this end, one can’t help but wonder why certain factions, if they truly believe what they say, haven’t demanded Oklahoma change its name, since the state’s name is tranlsated from the Chickasaw words “Okla” which means “people and “humma” which means “red,” or (gasp!), “red people.”

There also likely is no outrage at Arizona’s Red Mesa Unified School District, which is administered by the Navajo. Their high school’s nickname? Redskins.

There is no dishonor toward Native Americans in how the Washington Redskins comport themselves (well, OK, their on-field play may suggest otherwise this season). There is no caricature like the Cleveland Indians’ “Wahoo Indian” mascot, and there are no white guys in makeup riding around on horses and throwing spears into the ground.

It’s time to move on and leave behind the pious dust storm that has been kicked up by those who are perpetually unhappy.

But if the Redskins are to change any part of their name, there was an interesting idea that went around Facebook this past week suggesting the team drop the “Washington” part of its name, since what has been transpiring over there has been truly distasteful and embarrassing.

Now, there is an idea that may have some merit.

Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at