The father-in-law of ESPN columnist Rick Reilly is now claiming his son-in-law took a conversation with him out of context to support his defense of the Redskins name.
Last month, Reilly, who had been strongly against the Redskins name two decades ago, voiced his strong support team’s name and railed against political correctness.
Reilly quoted his father-in-law, who is Native American, as having said to him:
“The whole issue is so silly to me,” Reilly’s father-in-law, a bundle holder in the Blackfeet tribe, said. “The name just doesn’t bother me much. It’s an issue that shouldn’t be an issue, not with all the problems we’ve got in this country.”
Now, his father-in-law, Bob Burns, alleges that is not what he told his son-in-law. He wrote in the Indian Country Media Network:
So you can imagine my dismay when I saw my name and words used to defend the racist Washington Redskins name. My son-in-law, ESPN’s Rick Reilly, completely misunderstood the conversation we had, quoting me as saying “the whole issue is so silly. The name just doesn’t bother me much. It’s an issue that shouldn’t be an issue, not with all the problems we’ve got in this country.”
But that’s not what I said.
What I actually said is that “it’s silly in this day and age that this should even be a battle — if the name offends someone, change it.” He failed to include my comments that the term “redskins” demeans Indians, and historically is insulting and offensive, and that I firmly believe the Washington Redskins should change their name.
He continues, “When Rick’s article came out, it upset me to be portrayed as an ‘Uncle Tom’ in support of this racial slur. I asked him to correct the record. He has not, so I must do it myself.”
Reilly’s father-in-law then describes the “sting of racism” felt by the “Blackfeet people” in Montana:
I grew up seeing store signs in the nearby town of Cutbank that read “No dogs or Indians allowed.” Our Indian families who live on reservations continue to feel the sting of racism. I could never support the term “redskins” because we know first-hand what racism and ignorance has done to the Blackfeet people. Our people grew up hearing terms like nits, dirty redskins, prairie nigger, savages, heathens, lazy Indians and drunks — all derogatory terms used to label us. It is better today, but the underlying mentality is still there or obviously people would change the name.
Let me be clear: The racial slur “redskins” is not okay with me. It’s never going to be okay with me. It’s inappropriate, damaging and racist. In the memory of our Blackfeet relatives, it’s time to change the name. That would honor us.
Burns, Reilly’s father-in-law, never addresses, though, whether he told Reilly that the Redskins name did not personally bother him that much.