By Ken Reed
Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, has been called a spoiled brat, an egomaniac, and a good old fashioned jerk. Peter Keating, writing for ESPN, makes a strong case that by proclaiming that he’ll never change the Washington NFL franchise’s nickname, Snyder can also be called a bad businessman.
Look, there’s a strong faction (including myself) that believes the Redskins nickname is racist and degrading and should be changed immediately, There’s another strong faction — and based on opinion polls, a bigger one — that believes there’s a lot of history, tradition, and brand equity in the Redskins name and that it should be left alone.
There’s also a group that lingers in the middle of these two positions and it’s my contention that the way Snyder has thrown a tantrum on this issue, stomped his feet and screamed “Never!” over and over again has pushed more people toward the “Let’s dump the Redskins name” faction. Most people believe the Redskins name is a reasonable issue to consider, but Snyder’s childish and adamant opposition rubs a lot of people the wrong way.
Let’s face it, Snyder’s not a very popular owner to start with. As Keating writes, “If anything, Snyder has done more to wreck the Redskins brand than a name change ever could. For 14 years, his misadventures have ranged from signing Albert Haynesworth to hiring Jim Zorn, from charging fans to watch practices to suing a local reporter.” Acting like a jerk on this Redskins name issue isn’t going to help his image in the minds of a lot of reasonable observers.
This issue, if we’re honest about it, is really about racism vs. tradition, and currently a lot of people are coming down on the side of tradition.
“Of course “Redskin” is racist,” writes Keating. “The term’s origin is disputed, but some say it derives from the bloody scalps of natives, for which the Massachusetts Bay Province began offering rewards in 1755 — 50 pounds for each murdered adult male, 25 pounds apiece for women, 20 pounds per child. There’s no way to pretty that up, so be honest: Your real argument is that your enjoyment of the team’s name, and your connection to its folklore, is more important than its genocidal history.”
Snyder is obviously driven primarily by money. But, as Keating points out, what if he could be persuaded that changing the Redskins name is actually better for his pocketbook than keeping the name? In other words, how about hitting him with an economic argument he can relate to rather than a moral one he’s clearly oblivious too? Keating points out that research convincingly shows that teams that have changed their racist names have actually benefited financially in the long run.
“It’s easy to see why,” writes Keating. “Teams modernize their logos and apparel every few years whether they keep their mascots or not, and fans keep buying new stuff, however vociferously a few complain about the changes.
“And I think the same would happen if Washington flips. It might seem that the Redskins, who have represented our nation’s capital for nearly 80 years, have a uniquely powerful brand. But pro football teams get most of their value from the sport they play (62 percent, Forbes says) and the market they’re in (17.4 percent). Just 6.5 percent, on average, comes from their brand equity — the value teams get from fans being able to identify with individual franchises. Put an NFL team in DC and it would be worth more than $1 billion even if you called it the Washington Smallpox.”
Now, I could live with “Smallpox.” In 2013, it’s hard to accept the ongoing use of “Redskins.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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