The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Racism must be rooted out of American football

Jon Gruden leaves a news conference on Oct. 10 in Las Vegas. Gruden has stepped down as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Jon Gruden leaves a news conference on Oct. 10 in Las Vegas. Gruden has stepped down as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. (Rick Scuteri/AP)

We read with dismay in Mike Wise’s Oct. 14 op-ed, “Where’s the accountability for Dan Snyder?,” that Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder retained Bruce Allen as its president because of Mr. Allen’s steadfast refusal to change a racist name. It is also revolting that Mr. Allen and then-Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden mocked name-change efforts.

Rebrand Washington Football, a grass-roots advocacy organization, joins with the players union and others in calling on the NFL to release all 650,000 emails and documents that the NFL reviewed in its investigation into Mr. Snyder’s toxic workplace. The public has a right to know the extent of the racism and misogyny. As Mr. Wise stated, Mr. Snyder has never apologized for the hurt inflicted upon Native Americans over nearly nine decades of using a racist name. The team president, Jason Wright, did so in a blog this summer.

Dozens of high schools still use the name R--skins. We call on the Washington Football Team to establish a $10 million fund, an amount we estimate would fund name changes at the schools, to help them eradicate their racist names, many of which were probably copycats of the old team name. The team should also work with the Native American Heritage Fund, which also funds rebrands, and leaders such as Suzan Harjo and Amanda Blackhorse, who have led the fight against Native American mascots.

Bill Mosley, Washington

Ian Washburn, Arlington

Josh Silver, Bethesda

The writers are co-founders of Rebrand Washington Football.

As the Oct. 14 editorial Mr. Gruden needed to go” correctly noted, Jon Gruden going is “hardly the full story.” Indeed, beyond the concerns about Washington’s football team, we need to worry about a possibly toxic atmosphere at ESPN infusing its coverage of sports nationally.

The media’s treatment of athletes is now more balanced than before. No longer are “smart” or “hard-working” systematically associated with White players, with “wasting their talent” directed at Black ones. But issues remain. For example, how many times in fan forums and elsewhere are injured high-priced White athletes described as “so frustrated because they can’t get back on the field,” while Black players face questions about their commitment to return.

For years, Mr. Gruden announced games in prime time. We can only wonder whether the views he expressed in the privacy of his emails seeped into the coverage that went out to millions of homes, including millions of young fans.

And given the nature of Mr. Gruden’s hostility expressed in so many emails to those outside ESPN, is it credible to believe that he didn’t express them to colleagues within ESPN?

The issue is less what ESPN knew and when about the biases of its star announcer, but, rather, what it is going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again and isn’t happening now. This also applies to other stations. We get too many subliminal messages when we watch sports and other televised events. Our society needs better from our announcers and the stations that employ them.

Philippe Benoit, Washington

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