ESPN columnist Rick Reilly recently likened the clamoring to change the Redskins nickname to putting Indians on reservations and said he will not “fall in line” with other sportswriters that are refusing to call team by their nickname.
Reilly noted his Native American father-in-law “has a hard time seeing the slap-in-the-face part.”
“The 81-year-old Washington Redskins name is falling, and everybody better get out of the way. For the majority of Native Americans who don’t care, we’ll care for them. For the Native Americans who haven’t asked for help, we’re glad to give it to them,” Reilly writes. “I mean, when media stars like USA Today’s Christine Brennan, a white woman from Ohio, and Peter King, a white man from Massachusetts, have jumped on a people’s cause, there’s no going back.”
He continues, “Trust us. We know what’s best. We’ll take this away for your own good, and put up barriers that protect you from ever being harmed again.”
That mentality, Reilly writes, is “Kind of like a reservation.”
In 1991, though, Reilly was one of those sportswriters clamoring for change, well ahead of today’s writers. Reilly wrote then in a Sports Illustrated column:
Would you be offended if your dog fetched a morning paper that had this item inside?
NEW YORK–The New York Negroes defeated the Houston Astros 2-1 Friday in front of a stadium full of wild fans waving fried chicken legs and singing gospel songs.
Or this item?
CHICAGO–The Chicago Jews defeated the Houston Astros 2-1 Friday in front of a stadium full of wild fans waving yarmulkes and singing Hava Nagila.
You would be? Then why shouldn’t the two million Native Americans in this country be offended when they read something like this?
He then added:
So why shouldn’t sports fall into line? Why are we still stuck with antiques of that old racism–the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians? Why are we still stuck with the Florida State Seminole riding onto the football field in a headdress and planting a flaming spear into the ground? Why is a poster depicting the Kansas City Chiefs defensive line in war paint and Indian getups selling like hotcakes in that city?
Reilly wrote in 1991 that, “If we can have the Washington Redskins, why can’t we have the Los Angeles Yellowskins? And if we can have the Cleveland Indians–whose grinning-injun logo is to American Indians what Stepin Fetchit is to African-Americans–why can’t we have the San Diego Chicanos?”
In that column, Reilly wrote that though “Dartmouth and Stanford have dropped their racially insulting Indian nicknames, but no professional sports team has felt enough heat–or, perhaps, has enough conscience or respect–to take a similar step.”