Friday, February 28, 2014

5 comments Matt Labash Tries to Have Most Tone-Deaf Take on Redskins Naming Controversy, Wins Hands Down

Matt Labash writes for "The Daily Caller" and also for "The Weekly Standard." His bio shows he is a full of snark and isn't afraid to shoot from the hip. You ask him a question, prepare to get the answer. So please pay attention to him, because attention is great and it seems to be what he wants. Matt has a column creatively titled "Ask Matt Labash" where he answers questions. Well, someone asked him a question about the Redskins naming controversy and he answered in possibly the most tone-deaf way possible while making terrible analogies. But hey, he's shooting from the hip so we can't blame for what he writes. He's just telling it like it is.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Have a burning sensation? Consult your doctor. Have a burning question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.


Dear Matt, 

Any truth to recent reports that Iron Eyes Cody was shedding a tear not over pollution but due to a passing motorist with a Washington Redskins car flag? Or is this just a convenient attempt at revisionist history? I’ll hang up and listen. -  Ramon H. 

I feel like there is probably a few inside jokes in here I don't get, but what I do get is the gist of this question, which is "Give us your opinion on the Redskins naming controversy." 

If Iron Eyes is pitching his teepee in these parts, my guess is he was crying over rush-hour traffic on 395, or maybe the new speed camera that tagged me under the same overpass not once, but three times in the same week, due to the commuter-mugging pickpockets who oversee the D.C. government.

I have a feeling I would agree with Matt Labash on some issues, since I think the speed cameras and traffic lights that take pictures of your license plate is a lazy man's way of policing, but I'm afraid he is doing a crappy job of advocating the Redskins don't change their name. 

Not to play the part of the jaded old-timer, but personally, I had a lot more sympathy during the days when Iron Eyes Cody’s people had something real to cry about, like Indian massacres, bad eminent domain takings, or the land getting despoiled by rapacious developers and litterbugs.

Somehow I feel like Matt Labash wouldn't/didn't have a lot of sympathy for Iron Eyes Cody during these days. I get the feeling Labash would just think Iron Eyes Cody was just being a whiner when crying about Indian massacres. 

If he were still around nowadays, he’d probably shed a tear over the silliness of the Oneida Nation’s manufactured controversy.

Manufactured controversy? I'm not sure that's the correct phrase to use here. It seems like there is a real controversy about the Redskins name change, to the point Dan Snyder had to hire Lanny Davis to help manage the situation after he released a statement saying the name wasn't changing. This is real controversy right now and I wouldn't consider it manufactured since this argument has been brewing for a few decades now.

I don’t particularly care to weigh in definitively on whether the Redskins should or shouldn’t change their name.

The mocking way he treats those who think the name should stay the same, as well as his snide comments about Indians probably gives his position on this issue away. 

Why would I need to, when everybody and their idiot brother-in-law already has?

I see Matt Labash is doing the whole "I'm going to make sarcastic comments, but not take a side on this issue so I can always have the defense I NEVER claimed the Redskins shouldn't change their name" method of discussing this issue. 

Of course, as a Cowboys fan,

Well of course you are. 

a part of me would enjoy seeing Washington’s name changed to something more appropriate, like the Washington Foreskins.

(gets back up from rolling on the floor laughing, just without the laughing, rolling on the floor, and getting back up parts)

While the libertarian in me holds that a name change is between Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his God

Actually the libertarian in you would hold that the name change is between Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his God or just between Dan Snyder and himself if Snyder doesn't have a God. A libertarian would probably allow Snyder the free will of choice to choose whether he would have a God or not and not assume he does have one. 

I personally hate name changes, as I think team names, even if unintentionally, tend to reflect the character of their region.

Well, not always. I'm not sure if rams have anything to do with St. Louis or Los Angeles. I'm also not sure how a panther reflects the character of the Carolinas. I guess I can't argue that Texans reflects the Houston NFL team, but you get my point. Team names don't always reflect the character of the region. I give you the Utah Jazz.

In the mid ‘80s, I was briefly a ball boy for the Washington Bullets, before the powers that be worried they’d offend murder victims (hard to, since they were already dead)

This comment comes off as more uneducated than funny and less snide than trying very hard to be controversial. Washington simply didn't want their basketball team to be affiliated with the idea of a bullet. The purpose wasn't to avoid offending murder victims, but to remove any affiliation with a bullet from the NBA team in Washington. 

As any suburban Marylander knew at the time, heading into crack-ravaged Prince George’s County, where the Bullets then played, you were liable to encounter a real-life version of the team mascot through your car window.

Which is why the NBA and Washington didn't want the NBA team to be affiliated with or called the Bullets.

The name, then, gave us a hard-earned sense of civic pride.

Really? "Us" felt civic pride in the team name the "Bullets"? Even if it wasn't a name associated with violence it doesn't exactly give me a sense of civic pride. A bullet provides civic pride? I don't get it, but of course I'm not from Washington nor am I a Cowboys fan. 

Similarly, the Redskins are a healthy reminder of the people we took this country from.

Yes, but it is a healthy reminder that some groups of people who we took this country from find offensive. So to Matt Labash it's a healthy reminder and to other groups of people it is a slap in the face. I'm all for a reminder of the Indians, but perhaps a team name that some factions of the Native American population doesn't find to be a slur could be the Redskins new team name. 

This is like if a German soccer team named themselves the Heidelberg Hymies. They are just providing a healthy reminder of the Jewish people who died in World War II! 

I have deep  respect for Native peoples, mind you. As a boy, playing cowboys and Indians, I usually opted to be an Indian,

By saying "as a boy, playing cowboys and Indians, I usually opted to be an Indian" it shows you don't have a deep respect for Native peoples. It shows you prefer to be snide and attempt to be comical instead of sincere in trying to make a point. 

even going so far as to join the Boy-Scout-like Indian Guides

And because you were in Indian Guides as a child this means you have a unique perspective on this Redskins naming argument. 

But of course, these days, all statements must be political ones, and all outrages, manufactured or otherwise, are of utmost urgency, requiring our immediate attention.

The Redskins naming controversy has been simmering for almost 20 years now, so I wouldn't say it has utmost urgency nor has it required our immediate attention. Tony Bruno was talking about the Redskins name 20 years ago and Rick Reilly wrote a column almost 20 years ago saying the Redskins name should be changed. As much as Matt Labash wants to make this Redskins naming controversy as a new, politically correct thing that has happened since the liberals took over Washington, it's simply not true. The argument and discussion has been simmering and now it seems to be gaining more momentum. 

Never mind that people have  somehow managed mostly not to be beside themselves with outrage that the Redskins have been so named going back to their franchise origins in Boston in the 1930s.

The argument the Redskins name is historical and that's why it should stay around fails on so many levels. The most basic level it fails on is that something being historical doesn't mean it is right in the current place and time. Humans progress, women get to vote, blacks and whites get to share the same water fountain. 

Never mind that before the PR machine really got cranking and every windsock commentator in America had to weigh in on the “controversy,” a 2004 Annenberg Public Policy poll found that 90 percent of Native Americans themselves did not take offense at the name...Never mind that even before the team revised the Tonto-talking fight song of the Skins, “Hail to the Redskins,”  which contained stereotypical language such as “Scalp ‘em/ Swamp ‘um/We will take ‘um big score,” it still managed to refer to “redskins” reverentially as “braves on the warpath” and “sons of Washington.” Never mind that as’s Rick Reilly wrote, a high school team, the Wellpoint (Wash.) Redskins, which has a 91.2 percent Native American student body, considers the name a badge of honor.

These are all relevant points that can be used to argue against changing the Redskins name. Remember earlier in this column when Matt Labash wrote: 

I don’t particularly care to weigh in definitively on whether the Redskins should or shouldn’t change their name.

It sure seems like he is weighing in definitively on whether the Redskins should or should not change their name doesn't it? Matt Labash has a funny way of not weighing in by only presenting the view he seems to agree with. 

And never mind that according to TheDC’s own Patrick Howley, the head Indian in charge of the current protest, Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, might be about as legitimate a member of his tribe as I was during my Indian Guides years.

Oh well, then his opinion wouldn't count because Halbritter isn't a real Oneida, just like Matt Labash's opinion doesn't count because he isn't a legitimate Indian despite his fast history of being an Indian Guide. 

When you survey the landscape of team names, it’s a wonder grievance groups aren’t sprouting up everywhere. Yet we don’t see gays protesting the Green Bay Packers,

After making relevant points, Matt Labash starts to throw out his unfunny jokes again which ruins his credibility. 

or the Dutch marching in the streets that Packer fans are called Cheeseheads. (A racial slur that originated in Nazi Germany.)

If a Dutch or German athletic team used the name "Cheeseheads" then possibly the name should be changed if it offends someone. I don't know why the Dutch would have a problem with a team name that doesn't specifically refer to the Dutch. The Redskins logo specifically has an Indian in the logo, so "Redskins" refers to an Indian, while "Cheeseheads" isn't even the Packers team name and clearly does not refer to the Dutch. 

Similarly, sexually frustrated Satanists aren’t demanding the Duke Blue Devils change their moniker.

This isn't even funny. It's stupid and pointless. 

And Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish would probably get drunk and hit you (as is their people’s custom) if you tried to take their nickname away.

Neither "Fighting Irish" nor "Blue Devils" are considered slurs by any member of the Satanist or Irish population. That's a difference in the use of those team names and the name "Redskins." 

So in solidarity with the offended, you now refuse to even use the Redskins’ name, so as not to besmirch Native peoples? Fine, but where does that leave us? Does that give everyone else license to take offense over their pet imagined infraction? Say cops, who could demand we no longer patronize the Phillies’ Triple-A club, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs of Allentown. Or what about the “Terrible Swedes” of Kansas’s Bethany College, whose name traffics in the widely-held stereotype that Swedes are terrible people.

The fact that Matt Labash is using these examples shows me that he doesn't understand the Redskins controversy and probably should refrain from commenting on it. IronPigs nor is Terrible Swedes considered a slur in and of itself, while Redskins is obviously considered a slur by some Native Americans. 

Will circle-jerksters now picket the South Carolina Gamecocks, as taking too lightly their contributions to society?

No, because the Gamecocks logo clearly shows the logo refers to an animal. Matt Labash doesn't seem to understand the reason behind the opposition to the Redskins name very well. 

Will anti-noise pollutionists take issue with Cape Breton’s junior ice hockey team, the Screaming Eagles? Will pacifists see red over the Fighting Quakers of Wilmington College (Ohio), and  will anti-arsonists burn down the Midwest Conference over the Knox College Prairie Fire?

Again, he is missing the point intentionally it seems. In and of themselves, none of these team names are considered slurs by a group of people. 

Will fans of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks rise up in anger? Maybe they’re entitled. After all, the name suggests they are Canadian, an insult nobody should take lying down.

I know he is trying to be funny (yet again), but it's hard to see where the line between being serious and just being a jackass (I think the "I played as Indians during Cowboys and Indians" was the peak of the jackassery). Labash is missing the point. There is a difference in a team name that can be considered an insult by taking additional steps to find it offensive and a team name that is inherently by itself considered offensive to a group of people.

For example, for IronPigs to be offensive one would have to say, "Well I know sometimes the police are called 'pigs' and so calling a team 'IronPigs' could be offensive if a person makes the connection to 'pigs' also being the police."

There are additional steps required to find IronPigs offensive. The IronPigs logo isn't a police officer eating a donut, while the Redskins logo is a Native American. The offensive slur specifically refers to a Native American and no additional steps are required to reach this conclusion "Redskins" refers to Native Americans. 

I don’t know where the next Campaign of Outrage will come from. But rest assured, it will come. Because if there’s one thing that offends us as a nation, it’s having nothing to take offense over.

While there may be some truth to this comment, I don't think this is a situation where the Native Americans who take offense to the name Redskins are just trying to get offended for the sake of being offended. Making bad comparisons to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and comments about playing cowboys and Indians as a child only serves to show Matt Labash just doesn't get it. Maybe he's too busy cracking jokes, maybe he is too busy complaining about the politicizing of the Redskins name controversy by politicizing it himself and turning it into a "People are always offended by something" argument. 

Either way if the author thinks team names reflect the character of a region, then he should know Washington is 1.8% American Indian, while it is 81.6% white. Maybe the Redskins should change their name to the Washington Honkies (or maybe Washington Charlies would be more appropriate to reflect the oppression by white people over the Native American population).


Ericb said...

Just call the team the Washington Potomacs (which in addition to being the name of the river that DC is on is also the anglicized version of the name of the Indians who lived in the area when the English arrived). It's relatively accessible name (I assume most people are familiar with the Potomac River and associate it with Washington DC) that has the added bonus of having a double meaning that allows the team to keep its mascot (though I'm not sure the Potomacs wore feathers so the might have to tweak it a bit). There. problem solved.

HH said...

before the powers that be worried they’d offend murder victims (hard to, since they were already dead)

Right. Murder victims don't have family members who are sick of bullets or anything. That would be ridiculous

JBsptfn said...

He could also say that pastors and clergy aren't offended by Wake Forest's name, the Demon Deacons (although, since their mascot wears a top hat and a tuxedo, I call them the chimney sweepers).

Bengoodfella said...

Eric, exactly. Problem solved and we can all go home. Of course Dan Snyder may not want to do that. I think at this point both sides of the issue are just being stubborn.

HH, that would be insane. Crazy. Who could believe the team name "the Bullets" would not be universally loved.

JB, haha. I call them worse things since they hired Bdzelik. It's a team name. If you want to get offended, that's fine. If you aren't offended, which I am not by the Redskins name, then that's fine too. I think Snyder has a unique opportunity to re-brand his team and sell a bunch of apparel while also making some people happy and changing the name. If I were him, I would probably do it because it would be fun to sell a bunch of "Washington Potomacs" apparel and make money.

Naliamegod said...

I hate how the media treats the 2004 poll as the one and only poll on the subject. There have been several other surveys among NA opinions on the matter and nothing even comes to close to Anneburg's results. Native American's are notorious for almost impossible to poll correctly and you can get crazy results, with Anneburg and Sports Illustrated generally being the most insane.

Here is a good article on the issue. It mostly focuses on SI's infamous survey, but it does cite other surveys that give you an idea on how polls on the subject differ so much: