Snyder's devil is in the details - and a name

February 7, 2011

Psst, Dan Snyder, ready to kick some behind? Want to get even with the jerks who say all you care about is money and not building a winning football franchise? Then huddle up, buddy. Let's put some points on the board.

First, though, you have to punt on the libel lawsuit against the Washington City Paper that was filed last week. Look at it this way: Your reputation is backed up to the end zone; it's fourth down and a long way to go to restore it. Now is not the time for trick plays.

"In its cover art," the suit alleges, "the Washington City Paper depicted the Jewish Mr. Snyder in a blatantly anti-Semitic way, complete with horns, bushy eyebrows and . . . "

Time out.

I know history matters. But we're talking about devil doodle, Dan, like the scribbling on newspapers made by people biding time in a toilet stall. Forget about it.

Now, start loosening up your throwing arm.

On the next play, hurl that offensive "Redskins" name out of bounds the way a quarterback would to keep from being sacked.

Bench the faux Indian mascot, while you're at it.

That's how you attack the use of disparaging images. Don't complain about your ox being gored when there's money to be made, then keep silent about wrongs done to others if money might be lost. Putting profit before principle - that'll grow horns on anybody, Dan.

In an interview on WJFK (106.7 FM) the other day with Washington Post columnist and radio host Mike Wise, you said, "The name [Redskins] is not meant to be offensive whatsoever. To compare that [to the illustration] is silly."

Dan, every major Native American organization in the country supports the lawsuits that have been filed against your team seeking revocation of that racist trademark. Thousands of public schools and colleges throughout the country have stopped using Native American images as sports mascots.

"One of the ways I determine whether bigotry applies in a situation is take the same scenario, change some of the players and see if the same results apply," Ken Stern, director of anti-Semitism and extremism for the American Jewish Committee, told me.

For instance, Dan, if someone drew the same horns and goatee on me, there'd be no difference between us: We could be just two brothers from Hell. On further review, we might look more like bullheads.

The results are different when applied to your football team, however.

"Say, instead of Washington Redskins, we had a football team called the New York Jews that had a logo with an image of an Orthodox Jew and used paraphernalia that trivialized Jewish religious symbols," Stern said. "I'm sure many would find that totally unacceptable."

Suzan Harjo, a Muscogee and Cheyenne Indian who lives in the District, has been hoping for years that you'd come to see it that way, too, Dan. Harjo was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the team that was filed in 1992. A panel of three trademark judges ruled unanimously in her favor and canceled the trademark licenses, but Snyder won on appeal.

"We were happy when Snyder became the team owner in part because he was young and Jewish," Harjo told me recently. "We thought he would get the connection between the historic oppression of Jews and Native Americans and understand the role that stereotypes and caricatures played in it. We were stunned to learn that he had zero understanding."

Dan, remember what your wife, Tanya, said about you in a TV interview last year? She said you had "grown and evolved." Don't start devolving on us now.

I remember asking Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman, the late Sioux poet and human rights activist, back in 2003 why he thought Washington's football team had become unimaginably lousy since you took over.

He replied, "There is a karma that comes around when people are disrespectful and arrogant, and it develops discontent within the ranks."

Of course, karma is not really part of the Jewish spiritual tradition. So I asked Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international Jewish affairs at the AJC, for something that might help me make a breakthrough.

"In Judaism," he said, "you get your rewards and punishments in the here and now."

So let me put it this way, Dan: You can be a winner here in Washington, and you can start acting like one now by changing the name of that team.

Football fans won't love you any less for doing so.

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