Latest Redskins nickname outreach is a step, but without a direction

Mike Wise
Columnist March 25

Jennie Stockle is a 34-year-old mother of three who, along with several other mothers of American Indian children, posted a selfie with a $10 bill across her mouth on Twitter Tuesday morning. Above the picture was a pointed barb at Daniel Snyder: “You can’t buy your way out of racism. #Not4Sale”

You ask her what she thinks about the charitable foundation set up for Native Americans by the owner of the Washington football team.

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

“It’s the old colonial playbook, divide and conquer,” she says by telephone from her home in Claremore, Okla. “He’s basically turning Native Americans against each other on this issue. He’s saying, ‘We’ll trade you coats and a backhoe for your silence on the name.’ It makes me sad. It makes me angry.”

I’m actually going to give Snyder the benefit of the doubt on this much: He may have witnessed something so horrible and depressing — maybe a child sleeping in a hut on a floor or a diabetic father who lost his leg because he had no health insurance — on one of the 26 reservations Snyder or his representatives visited in the past year that he was compelled to give.

Regardless of whether he traveled to Indian country solely to protect his brand, he finally made this debate about what it always should have been about: the plight of modern American Indians.

The Post Sports Live crew discusses Dan Snyder's announcement of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation to help Native Americans and whether the move brings any good will to the team's embattled owner. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

But that’s where the credit for his charitable endeavors in this matter ends.

Stockle is a Cherokee citizen. She belongs to a grassroots group founded late last year called E.O.N.M. — Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry.

Maggie Hundley is also a member and a 34-year-old mother. She also put a $10 bill across her mouth, snapped a photo and posted it on Twitter. A paralegal and member of the Muscogee tribe, she and her husband, from Northern Virginia, have two girls.

“I actually used to work in Indian education outreach at San Diego State and UCSD,” she said from her office in San Diego. “We all are trying to solve deeper issues in our communities. But this is nothing but a P.R. ploy. I’d really like to know, in dollar-for-dollar amounts, whether the money he’s donating is going to make it any easier for us to send our kids to school and not be called Redskin.

“By refusing to even acknowledge the people hurt by the name, he’s canceling out his own efforts. It feels so artificial to me.”

The most brazen thing that struck me about the four-page foundation announcement letter is the word “heritage” is used four times — always in referencing the “heritage” of the fans and team, as if 81 years of being named something is more important than the heritage of a people before 1937.

“It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans,” he writes, ignoring the thousands who have said they don’t feel honored. “We must do more.”

Oh, and the actual R-word was used 22 separate times, including the team logo, Web site and address on the top of each page.

“Even if we give [Snyder] that the history of the name is debatable, the present is not debatable,” Stockle says. “There is a long history of this being a racially insensitive term. You knew that when you bought the team. You refused to address the problem or even meet with us. And now, after we put money into it — after we waged protests and national radio campaigns — you finally do what everyone else does: try to win the argument for your own purposes. “

She and others are furious at some of her people, claiming they sold out. But she also gets it.

“It’s one thing for Dan Snyder to show up at my door with steak and I only have pancakes and tell him, ‘I don’t need your steak, I’m making pancakes for dinner,’ ” Stockle says. “ It’s another for him to approach a tribal leader with money, who feels he can’t turn it down simply because his tribe needs it. It’s almost like he’s going against his own people.”

“This kind of charity forces us to make a choice to accept the funding or to claim our identity as Native people. We don’t deserve a life where we should be forced to make that choice.”

Before we hung up, Stockle began to talk about a conversation she had with one of her daughters, who wanted to know why a cow in a Chick-fil-A commercial was doing the tomahawk chop. Suddenly the mother began weeping.

“There are mental-health studies what this does to our kids and no one ever brings them up,” she says, sniffling. “It is emotional to explain the ignorance to your children. They think it’s just a name, but our identity is still so controlled by other people.”

Helping the neediest in Indian Country is, on its face, a good thing. If only it came with no strings attached. If only it happened organically and not because of an owner’s desire to keep the name of his football team, to keep his heritage.

For more by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.

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