‘Daily Show’ Ambushes Redskins Fans in Unfair Segment
These segments are usually unfair; they outdid themselves this time.
An as-of-yet-unaired segment of “The Daily Show” confronts ordinary fans of the Washington Redskins about the team’s nickname. WaPo‘s Ian Shapira describes the segment:
The four die-hard Redskins fans thought the opportunity was as golden as the vintage helmets of their favorite football team: “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” wanted them to appear on the Comedy Central program to defend the team’s name, which has been under relentless attack.
The Redskins Nation citizens eagerly signed up, most of them knowing that they might be mocked in their interview with correspondent Jason Jones. But several hours into the Sept. 13 taping of the yet-to-air episode, the fans, all from Virginia, said they were suddenly confronted by a larger group of Native American activists — all of whom were in on the showdown prearranged by “The Daily Show.”
Participants claim they were specifically told that they would not have to engage in such a confrontation. Aside from the ambush, the deck was stacked:
The Native Americans who confronted the Redskins fans — including Amanda Blackhorse, the lead plaintiff in the case that stripped the Redskins of their trademark protections this year and is being appealed — said in interviews that they marched into the room and accused the fans of backing a racist mascot.
“My heart goes out to them because they are people, too,” said Tara Houska, an Ojibwe from Couchiching First Nation who lives in the District and works for the grass-roots group Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry. “But it’s a weird position for them to take, because someone is crying over the loss of their offensive mascot when I am right there, standing in front of them. I don’t think they’re racist. I think their mascot is racist.”
On the morning of Sept. 13, the four Redskins fans arrived at the Park Hyatt hotel and began taping an interview with Jones in a small conference room. Their interview lasted about three hours, with Jones playing the role of a sarcastic reporter, accusing them of supporting a racist mascot and using props such as dictionaries, which define the Washington team name as a slur.
The fans found Jones mostly funny. “We kept telling him that we felt the name honored Native Americans,” O’Dell said. “And then we just felt like, ‘Are we done yet?’ ”
Meanwhile, the group of Native Americans — which included members of a comedy group called the 1491s — hung out in a separate room, waiting to make its surprise entrance.
“They essentially explained days in advance that the fans are going to be in there, and they’re just going to be essentially justifying the use of the word Redskins and the use of racial imagery, and they’re going to say a lot of things they would most likely not say in front of American Indians — and that we were going to go in there and see if they’d actually say all of that in front of us,” said Bobby Wilson, 29, a 1491 member who was flown to Washington from Phoenix for the segment. “That was definitely something we could get on board with. It didn’t seem strange or unfair on our end, considering that each of us has always been confronting racism on this level.”
As Jones wrapped up his interview with the Redskins fans, he made an unexpected transition, according to O’Dell. “Jason says something like, ‘Well, don’t you think it would be great if you could just have a conversation?’ ” she recalled. “He turns around, and Native American people came in, just glaring at us. ”
Jones pulled out some beer and chicken wings, O’Dell remembered, and sat back and watched. Both the fans and Native Americans said the room first filled with awkward silence, then vitriol.
“I said to them, ‘You sound like an alcoholic, someone who’s in denial and who doesn’t want to believe what they’re doing is not right,’ ” recalled Blackhorse, who said the interaction with fans left her feeling “dehumanized.” “They don’t see anything wrong with it. . . . That’s what the owner [Dan Snyder] is feeding their fans.”
O’Dell said she felt trapped. “I was told that I was ‘psychologically damaging Native American children,’ and every time we tried to say something, we got cut off,” she said.
“Going up against Amanda Blackhorse? It’s like playing football and they’re going to have RGIII,” Hawkins said, referring to injured Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. “I am just an average fan. These are activists who have media training and talking points.”
While I’ve long since come around to the argument that the Redskins name ought be changed, Hawkins is right.
These segments are a “Daily Show” staple. They take bits and pieces out of very long interviews in order to portray the interviewee, representing a political opinion they intend to skewer, in the worst possible light. They usually supplement the treatment with spliced close-ups of the interviewer rolling their eyes or otherwise mocking the interviewee, intended to give the impression they were doing that at the time rather than in a separate shoot. It’s completely one-sided and uninformative. But usually, at least, the subjects are public figures, if minor league ones, who reasonably know what they’re getting into.
To use these techniques on ordinary fans, presumably hand-picked to be ripe for mocking, and subject them to Jason Jones’ skillset is unfair. To then pile on by stacking the panel with professional activists and comedians is just shameful.
Making fun of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder or other team executives, spokesmen, and the like is fair. Ditto sports columnists and other professionals who defend the nickname. But accusing ordinary people of racism, dehumanization, and psychologically damaging children for nothing more egregious that supporting a team whose nickname is out of touch with modern sensibilities is beyond the pale.
The average football fan is not a season ticket holder and tailgater. These are financially well off people who had the bad luck to have to face the victims of their favorite team’s racism.
The fans knew the meeting was a possibility because they asked specifically if they were going to meet any Native Americans.
It was fair because it’s the fans who will force the name change.
They wanted to get on TV and are now complaining about the results. No sympathy whatsoever. Sucks to be them.
Rich white people who support a team with a racially offensive name are confronted by real Native Americans?
Yeah, sounds totally unfair. Out of bounds even.
But in all fairness, the Daily Show probably doesn’t have access to smallpox-infected liscensed NFL gear.
I think the premise of the episode is fair.
Yes is may have been uncomfortable for the participants. But they were told they would be talking to Native Americans. It was hardly an ambush, or a an “unfair” segment.
I think the Redskins name is terrible. And since Synder won’t respond to reasoned discussion, perhaps more aggressive discussions like this are in order. And why not engage with fans, they are fair game. Nothing about the supposed heritage of the name gives them a free pass.
This shows how politics will function in the future. The establishment will select some totally irrelevant issue to get excited about and then find a group to subject to a two minute hate. What is humorous is probably none of the “Native Americans” involved in this has probably ever read 1984. even though they seem to support the idea of thought crimes and the two minute hate.
Also, I find it humorous that progressives will support lying and deceptiving people just as long as they are the ones who benefit from the lying.
From the Raw Story:
But you want me to feel sorry for these fans?
Washington has already seen a team change its name from the Bullets to the Wizards, so we know it can be done. There is no justification for the delay except racism.
@Nikki: Allegedly, one group of people, probably under the influence of alcohol, acted boorishly. How does that justify treating a different group of people unfairly?
@Dan: Actually, they were specifically told they wouldn’t.
@Nikki: That’s rather silly. The Redskins brand is one of the most valuable in all of professional sports. There are lots of reasons, none of them having anything to do with racism, for the ownership and fans to want to keep it. The fact that it’s racially offensive to a significant group of people is sufficient argument for changing it; but there’s next to zero anti-Native American sentiment in the National Capital Region and it’s certainly not a motivation for keeping the name.
When you are trying to defend the indefensible, you don’t get to cry about hurt feelings.
James, would the Washington N@gg ers be appropriate? Because, to the Native Americans, it is the EXACT SAME THING.
@Nikki: This doesn’t have anything to do with racism, so don’t try to pull that on us. What is going on here is that a small group of individuals is bullying others and trying an end run to put some kind of phony pressure on the team owner. In this case it would be unfair to put blame on him since the team already had the name. I think he feels bound by the Redskins team great tradition and owes it to the fans and players of the past. There are so many Redskins players in the Hall of Fame that I can’t even count them. Do these people want all that past glory and achievement erased ? If the team name is changed that should be left up to the owner and he could base that on how most of the fans and players feel. He should not bow to the demands of a small, vocal, disrespectful group. The manner in which they treated these people on the tv show reveals a lot about their motives. They could have sat down and had a civilized discussion. What they did brings disrepute to their cause. This is the way it is now; small groups of misguided individuals try to run roughshod over the majority.
A few years ago the local school board in some sort of ill conceived and misguided effort decided to change the name of our local high school team , a name that was given years ago by the student body that showed honor to native American courage, skill, and athleticism. Evidently a few misguided individuals were offended. This name change cost the taxpayers about $60,000 to change signs and the scoreboards. The students and supporters of that school were not listened to. One native American even said that it was not offensive. Talk about a group of people wanting to go on the warpath!! We still are mad. Then of course we now have the phony Columbus Day stuff going around; some people are finally speaking out about recent insane actions of some misguided school boards and city councils.
We live in the pc age in which so many things are being changed simply because a small group of
misguided individuals gets offended and creates a big scene, calling everybody racist. It is so sad and ridiculous. Next thing you know some misguided group will want the American flag removed from schools and public buildings, and even ones’ own home ! Now that is when the American people will stand up and say “enough”
We have had enough of this pc stuff.
Read “Americas Budding Tyrants”, by Walter Williams.
Ok, IJames, my apologies. I misread your second reply to me.
Not for nothing but changing the name of the Washington Bullets to the Washington Wizards was one of the silliest things ever, and I’m not even a fan
@Doug Mataconis: Perhaps, but it still can be done.
Is it the name that makes the team great or is it the players?
And it will be done if and when Dan Snyder believes it to be in the business interests of his franchise. Not before then. Given that the team continues to sell out FedEx Field on a regular basis, I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.
Maybe the Ravens ought to change their name to the Baltimore Wife Beaters. I am sure no one would object since it would be more accurate than the Washington team’s moniker.
@Nikki: My objection here isn’t to lampooning the Redskins name or those who defend it but rather the unfairness of the methods. The justness of the cause doesn’t change the standards of professional decency.
It’s always problematic when a Jon Stewart, Mike Wallace, Stephen Colbert, or other seasoned pro at this sort of thing goes against someone who’s an amateur at the process. Even a corporate CEO, much less a small town politician, is going to come off badly even if they’re well intentioned. But at least they’re public figures and fair game. Leveraging that disparity against ordinary schmoes is just unseemly. And, in this case, they actually lied to the people, some of whom apparently anticipated such a confrontation.
I’ve long maintained a rule here of not attacking amateurs. I don’t write nearly as much as I used to but, even when I was prolific and my fodder mainly came from other blogs, I tried to keep the discussion at the level of peers or bigger-deal bloggers. If an Andrew Sullivan or Matt Yglesias was making an argument I thought stupid, I thought it fair to go after them. I figured the fact that some schmuck with half a dozen readers on a Blogspot site was saying something stupid didn’t deserve ridicule.
Stewart and Jones are just better than this. They’re extremely good at what they do and have a national spotlight. They should pick targets their own size.
Jason Jones calling them out on the team mascot then doing some unfair edits? Fine. If you watch the Daily Show, you should expect that. But I’m going to call shenanigans on bringing in the Native American activists. Here’s why:
Even if you’re a comedy show, don’t break your promises.
@Nikki: Good point, but why do I hear no complaints about other team names that could be offensive: Fightng Irish, Blackhawks, Padres, Mohawks, Indians, Barons, Seminoles, Trojans, Packers, Vikings, Browns, Buccaneers, Raiders, Redmen, Devils, Reds, Saints, Redwings? I could see how each of those could offend someone. Or is this whole thing an attempt to divert attention away from the sorry record of the Redskins under owner Snyder? No Super Bowls, few playoffs, a revolving door of coaches. What is going on here?
One possible name could be : Winners ! Maybe that would change the whole mindset of the Snyder organization. “Warriors” would work too: retain the best characteristics of Native Americans (brave, athletic, fighters – Americans love fighters). A new name would have to fit the team fight song, the best and most well known in all of football. And how about team apparel? I do have some money tied up in team merchandise. It would cost a lot to replace it.
James is right. Do this kind of thing to public figures. While I can’t feel too sorry for these guys since they had to know the show would make them look stupid, this was overboard.
Would it even be possible to offend a pirate by calling them a buccaneer?
I agree with James, the name should change. This kind of duplicitous bullying doesn’t advance that cause. It just makes some proponents of the change look petty and mean.
So the fans expected to go on TV and defend their favorite team’s use of a racial slur completely unopposed and got their feelings hurt when they discovered that they were going to have to defend the racial slur in front of the very people that the slur denigrates.
I repeat: When you attempt to defend the indefensible, you don’t get to cry about your hurt feeling later.
If you can only defend the slur in front of white people (and that’s EXACTLY what they wanted; hence the questions about whether they would meet any Native Americans), then you KNOW you are wrong and pretty much suck.
Sorry, but in my book, they DO get to whine about a breach of contract. It’s like I promise you chocolate double fudge ice cream, then give you a bowl of frozen Brussel sprouts.
I’m sorry, this is all deliberately obtuse. They knew they were going to be mocked, they’re just upset over HOW they were mocked. Read the Time article, “The Daily Show told the Redskins fans that there would be a panel with Native Americans, but was unclear about whether there would be a cross-panel discussion.” If you agree to be interviewed by Jason Jones on The Daily Show, and that there is a panel with Native Americans, there is NO reason to believe you will not be confronted by them.
Ridiculous. You know better, James…
@JWH: It wasn’t a breach of contract, silly. There was no contact that said you won’t have to meet the people your team’s name denigrates.
“Hi, Nikki, would you like some double fudge ice cream?”
“Sure. I love double fudge ice cream. But I hate macadamia nuts! So no nuts, please. You won’t give me any macadamia nuts. Promise?
“I promise I there will be no macadamia nuts in your double fudge ice cream.”
“Well …. OK. I’ll have the double fudge ice cream.”
“Here’s your ice cream!”
“Wow! This ice cream is great!! Thanks, JWH!! You’re a prince among men. … wait … what’s that box for?”
“It’s macadamia nuts.”
“Why are you opening that box?”
“I’m pouring the macadamia nuts on the ice cream.”
“But … but … you said … ”
“Yeah, well, this show gets better ratings if you cry. Enjoy the macadamia nuts!!”
This is true–but the then again the value of the new name and logo will likewise be as valuable.
Indeed, I am to the point where I am wondering why they don’t change the name just to a) generate a ton of goodwill, and b) sell on heckuva lot of merch.
@Steven L. Taylor:
Considering the Redskins no longer have a trademark, I’d question the “value” of the brand..
The team’s history does not go away if they change the name. This really doesn’t make any sense.
And which of these are considered, out their sports usage, slurs? (I do think that the Cleveland Indians have a problem–especially with their Chief Wahoo logo, which needs to go. I am not familiar with the Redmen off the top of my head, but it does raise questions).
If you really think that Browns and Packers, for example, have any potentiality of being offensive to someone, you are just demonstrating that you really either don’t get the problem with Redskins, or you are rationalizing your defense of it to the extreme.
The macadamia nuts have a professional sports team that proudly calls itself by the very racial slur that has been used for centuries to dehumanize and debase the nuts?
Do you see yet why your analogy is stupid?
You should probably be asking yourself right about now why you are unable to identify with the Native American/minority point of view.
Really. Ask yourself.
@Crusty Dem: Keep in mind that that ruling doesn’t prevent the organization from continuing to profit from the name and logo. While it causes a problem for Snyder, it hardly takes away his ability to make money off the name.
I have to admit–this ends up being the bottom line. The point at which one could reasonably be upset about one’s treatment in a Daily Show interview was quite a few years ago.
Of the things it is like, this would not be one of them.
That decision has been appealed and, as I noted in my post on the subject, is legally dubious.
60 minutes would be proud, another reason i stopped watching that show. in all fairness they could have had some indians who support or are indifferent to the name. that would be boring though…..
these are people who watch the comedy channel for their “news”- and they vote.
I will say this: I do have some qualms about the structure and content of the segment as described, insofar as it is true that it is was an unfair fight (although I must confess, there is something artistically correct about turning the tables in terms of unfair fights in this context).
However, ultimately, a) the participants were being naive if they thought that they wouldn’t be mocked, and b) if one is going to publicly defend the name and logo, then one has to be prepared for negative reactions (again, especially in this context–it wasn’t as if they were invited onto Hannity to defend the logo). At the end of the day, were not these fans having to directly deal with the fact that their own rationalizations were not as persuasive as they thought they were?
I ultimately have to admit that as a piece of commentary, the basic structure works.
@Steven L. Taylor:
Fair enough … how would you analogize it?
Dr. Joyner, for future reference you may feel free to attack me in any way you think necessary.
Just wanted to get that out there.
First off, Nikki, unless you’ve been following me with binoculars and taping my phone calls, you know precisely zero about my personal background, or my political beliefs. You don’t like the fact that I disagree with you and belittle your point of view in your analogies, so you resort to some assumptions. I will kindly thank you NOT to put words in my mouth or to assume I hold a particular point of view. But, since you want to throw a challenge to me, I’ll answer you.
Here’s a point of view, shorn of analogies. I’m a longtime fan of the Washington football team. I don’t particularly find the Washington Redskins’ team name offensive or controversial. Then again, I’m not particularly attached to the name, either. Change the name to the Washington Warriors, the Washington Redtails, or the Washington RGKnees, and it’s fine. I can still cheer for the football team, and I’ll still hate Dan Snyder.
But I also recognize that a lot of Native Americans have a legitimate beef with the Redskins name. This isn’t something made up by a well-meaning activist, but a legitimate movement led by members of the Oneida nation. Whether they represent a majority of Native Americans or a minority is irrelevant. They consider the name to be offensive to their ethnic group. I certainly can see their point of view. Even if I don’t consider it a big deal, it’s a big deal to them, and it’s not my right to tell them not to be offended. I’m not particularly moved to help them — it’s not an issue important to me — but I’m not going to stand in their way, either.
Which brings us to this Daily Show segment. The Daily Show brought in a few Joe Schmoe fans to defend the team name. After a few hours of interview, they invited in Native American activists, who promptly did their best to make the Skins fans feel bad for defending the name. And this accomplished … what, exactly? Did it promote dialogue? Did it promote understanding? Did it persuade anyone at all? Nope. It let the activists feel a little bet better about themselves for ambushing a few unsuspecting football fans. It’s going to make the team’s defenders more determined and paranoid. And, oh yeah, it generated a segment for a satirical news show. One of the fans went home crying. That’s comedy gold.
As I said, the activists have a legitimate agenda. But this doesn’t seem a very good way to advance it. If they want to bring pressure on the Danny to change the team name, they’re going to have to convince a lot of people outside their group — including some Skins fans — that the name should be changed. This isn’t a good way to do it.
Does anybody else hear this in a sultry voice? No? Just me? I need to get out more …
It is like offering a bunch of people who have difficult to defend opinions and who want a taste of fame the chance to get that fame trying to defend those opinions and then having to come face to face with the opposition. (And doing so knowing that your hosts do not approve of your opinions and who regularly and publicly mock people with whom they disagree).
I absolutely think it is long past time for Washington to change the name, but am alspo 100% on board with James. This is why I never liked Letterman. He would go out on the street or to some trade show and completely humiliate some average slug who had no idea what was going on. This smells too much like that.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I will slightly amend this statement: I have several friends who are Browns’ fans and have been offended by the team for years…
@Steven L. Taylor:
What really sticks in my craw (if it’s true) is that a Comedy Central producer specifically told them they wouldn’t have to face the other side. If they were told that, then this was basically an ambush.
Perhaps, but refusing to change your racist team nickname might seem a little “petty and mean,” too.
Me, I think if you were expecting “fairness” and journalistic type practices from a Daily Show correspondent, you are expecting WAY too much. What you should expect is to be made part of the joke.
I went to a Galagher show once. I sat in the front row. I expected to get pelted with flying bits of foodstuffs. I did not expect the soy milk to smell so bad.
But then again, I went to a Galagher show. I sat in the front row. I expected to get hit with flying food. In other words, I was asking for it.
@Crusty Dem: Is that what we have come down to today? Why not sit down to some good food, have a civil discussion, give opinions, thoughts, feelings, experiences, no put downs, no hollering, cursing, or disrupting others. Everyone walks away feeling a little better and appreciative. That is how change occurs. That is the way things used to be. And I would feel the same if the tables were turned.
Read “Americas Budding Tyrants”, by Walter Williams. Of all places, the college and university campuses have now become intolerant of any varying opinions, any difference of beliefs or thought. Speakers are not allowed if there is the slightest chance that they might say something that a few of the people disagree with or are afraid might shake their belief system. This by radical student associations and professors, some of whom get paid with taxpayer money; the same taxpayers who the professors often put down. Many of these “schools” need to have all their government funding revoked.
@Steven L. Taylor:
Reminds me of a joke that keeps getting passed around on social media.
In light of the fact that association with an offensive name is a problem for many people, the Washington Redskins will no longer identify themselves as being associated with Washington, D.C.
@Tyrell: Well, my friend, in the case of Florida State University, there is an agreement between the University and the Tribal Councils in FL and OK regarding the use of the name. It appears to me — 15yrs a Floridian — that the Seminole people are fans and that the University handles their use of the name with taste and respect. So it can be done.
@steve: If a pirate thought that he was being compared to the Tampa NFL franchise, yes. Being called a ‘buccaneer’ would probably offend him.
@JWH: MUCH better than the stupid ice cream/macadamia nut analogy.
A few thoughts:
1. I am all for the type of dialog you describe. However, this does not describe, in the least, a Daily Showsegment.
2. I would note that those who think the logo need to be changed have been trying calm discourse for a while now. You will notice that the name has not changed,
3. On a topic such as this, there is ultimately going to be a winner and a loser, so mutual satisfaction is impossible.
If you’re Dan Snyder, sitting on a few billion, you can afford to be polite. You can buy or generate whatever coverage you want. You can drop a few million on idiotic PR campaigns (http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/06/bruce-allen-redskins-twitter-success) and stick with friendly outlets to convey your message..
If you’re not, and you want to fight the Redskins name, you may have to get your hands a little dirty. Feelings may be hurt. Tears may be shed.
As far as the non sequitir regarding college campuses, generally potentially offensive speakers have trouble because students don’t want their money spent on offensive speech. While I fully support an extremely broad range of discussions, I don’t really have a problem with that.. And to label it “tyranny” is stupid.
Evidence suggests it refined the thoughts of a single Redskins fan.
Sorry, these are not just regular fans. They’re self-proclaimed “super fans” who don’t have any problem with the team name, who wished to be interviewed by Jason Jones of “The Daily Show” to discuss the team name, and who knew there would be a panel of Native Americans, but assumed they would have no interaction with them. And with all that, they thought, “Yeah, this should be fun”. It didn’t turn out as they had expected, so now it’s someone else’s fault.
Is this nice? No.
Is this “gotcha journalism”? I would say no. Because it’s not journalism at all. It’s “gotcha comedy”.
Are these “super fans” idiots? Yes
And perhaps Washington sports fans who aren’t as enlightened as you will watch and imagine themselves mocked for their stupidity… There are many roads to enlightenment..
So someone cried from this one. You guys realize a GOP operative in NC lost his job because of a Daily Show segment? Are we lowering or raising the bar in this respect?
I think it was unethical to say the fans wouldn’t be confronted by Native Americans, but I don’t have much sympathy beyond that.
@Steven L. Taylor: Right?! Holy hell, you’d instantly turn the old merch into collector’s items. People talk about having to replace it for games, and I’m like, “Jesus, you’re sitting on a gold mine if you vacuum-seal that sucker and wait a decade or two.”
I’ve never heard a good argument for keeping the name as-is beyond inertia.
I come at this from a slightly different angle.
Often the liberal argument for getting rid of offensive terms is “sensitivity”- which while well intentioned, is a terrible argument.
Offensive terms and words are just metaphors, proxies for the underlying disenfranchisement and oppression of certain groups.
Its the oppression that hurts and outrrages, not the term itself.
A century ago, if you called Joseph Kennedy’s father a “mick”, he likely would have been hurt and insulted. But today, if you managed to make it into the exclusive private club where his decendents hang out and called them a bunch of “micks” would they be hurt, or burst into tears? Or would they snap their fingers and have security hustle you away? Then have a good laugh at your expense?
When you are on the receiving end of oppression any term can hurt- when you are fully enfranchised and embraced in the dominant culture, no term can hurt. This is why those of Scandanavian heritage aren’t insulted by the Vikings, and the Irish aren’t insulted by Notre Dame.
I raise this issue because getting all worked up over offensive terms easily becomes a form of self-righteous sanctimony for us liberals.Its our version of the flag lapel pin or “support the troops” car magnet.
OK, so I don’t use the word “Redskin”- so now what? How are we addressing the very real and very contemporary injustices of the Native American People? What are we doing about it?
@ James Joyner
As opposed to someone like Bill O’Riley, who makes a living doing it?
@JWH: I am glad you acknowledged that the story about a producer saying there would be no interaction might not be true. I think it’s dubious a producer would outright lie to them. He might soft pedal it at best.
I appreciate your point, but……
Let’s be honest here. If this country is not prepared to deal with the simple, easily fixed “problem” of a racist nickname for a sports team, what makes you think we’re prepared to “address the very real and very contemporary injustices of the Native American people?”
High profile mockery and derision to the point that the name becomes a detriment to his business interests is how that will come about. If Snyder was a more decent human being that wouldn’t be necessary.
This just reinforces the “noble savage” myth of American settlement: that the native americans were incredibly violent, thus justifying us attacking them, and that we beat them in a fair fight rather than sending professional military forces to massacre largely untrained civilians with overwhelming force.
@James Pearce: Whether or not the people subjected to the Daily Show treatment were “asking for it” or not is utterly irrelevant. What was done was bullying. It did not advance the dialog, it did not move anyone to change their opinion, it did nothing but make one group feel smug and the other feel attacked. In a word: useless.
There are a lot of people for whom the name “Redskins” signifies a great sports organization that has given them years or decades of enjoyment and emotional involvement. If we are to convince them that the name is actually a racial slur unworthy of being attached to such an organization, this kind of ambush is not the way. It hardens hearts and minds.
Hmm … people appear in television segment and come off badly and then claim they were promised that they wouldn’t be made to come off badly. It’s just too much in their interest to claim this for me not to have doubts about it.
I think I’ll just wait until I see the actual segment. I’ve seen too many people claim to be “victimized” and “threatened” by someone merely questioning their beliefs. I’d like to see just how forcefully they were confronted by the Native Americans. I’d also like to see what the fans had to say in defense of their position.
As far as the format of the interview, this is used by lots of shows, not just comedy shows. I’ll be waiting for your scathing review of Jesse Watters doing this same thing on O’Reilly’s show ( but I won’t hold my breath because something tells me it doesn’t bother you when Fox does it).
@Tillman: There’s an argument. Dan Snyder is preventing the biggest fans from getting rich off their memorabilia.
@Stormy Dragon: Other team names also invoke images of fighting and violence: Pirates, Buccaneers, Fighting Irish (why just the Irish?), Raiders, Braves, Blackhawks. But these groups also have the qualities of courage, skills, athleticism, strength, and character; qualities that we all admire. Warriors could also apply to past and present soldiers, not just native tribes.
Team names that use animals are now under attack as some misguided animal rights groups have started saying that these names degrade, trivialize, and increase mistreatment of animals (Tampa Devil Rays). So after the animal names go, I guess we would be left with – geometric shapes ? How about foods – the Chicago Pizzas, New York Hot Dogs, Washington Pretzels, Philadelphia Cheese Steaks, and the Atlanta Hamburgers. What else can we name teams without offending someone? That is what it is today: everything is pc.
@ James Joyner
All I see here is that you are unhappy because people you identify with came off looking bad. Is upper middle class white folks being uncomfortable really a cause for outrage?
@Tyrell: Yeah, I’m calling BS on the animal names until you supply evidence.
Comedians shouldn’t punch down. John Stewart was punching down.
This complaint has merit only if you misunderstand the nature and mission of Comedy Central. Let’s be clear about something:
They are comedians producing comedy. Appropriate standards should apply. Must comedy “advance the dialog?” Must comedy “move anyone to change their opinion?”
As for this:
Well, I hate to put it this way, but if something like this “hardens hearts and minds,” then that is not really a ringing endorsement for taking a gentler, more considerate approach.
You cannot reason with the unreasonable or appeal to the empathy of the indifferent.
@Stormy Dragon: By introducing defenders of racial slurs to those actually affected by those slurs? By putting a face on the people who are denigrated by the team’s name? What was that about heat and staying out of kitchens?
MUST it? Of course not. But it certainly has a great impact on the national dialog. In fact, I believe comedy has this impact specifically because it allows us to address very sensitive issues like this in ways we couldn’t get away with otherwise.
But there’s still a line between good comedy and mere bullying.
Do you really think it’s better to ridicule and deride? You don’t know these people are “unreasonable” or “indifferent.” They may be a whole lot more open to an argument for change than you would believe. But they were attacked, and by extension all those who identify with them. Is it at all surprising they reacted defensively?
You’re basically saying “they’re not worth the time.” Well, I disagree. If the issue is really as important as we think it is, then we owe it to ourselves and to the people we’re trying to convince to TAKE the time.
We won’t convince everyone, but we won’t have to.
@James Pearce: Also, by “hardens hearts and minds” I wasn’t referring only to the hearts and minds of those who support keeping the “Redskins” name.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but the issue is where or not the Daily Show told them that they would not be confronted by name-change advocates. If such a promise was made, then what the show did was unethical – irrespective of one’s opinion on the name-change.
Finally, I believe that the name should be changed, let the fans provide suggestions, turn the situation into a positive.
@Mikey: A face to face meeting with the victims of the racism that one supports and defends now amounts to an attack on white folk.
The very definition of white privilege.
@Nikki: This wasn’t just “a face-to-face meeting.” This was a TV-sponsored ambush. There’s a difference and it matters.
@Mikey: Yes those poor defenders of a racist slur were ambushed by the very same people the slur denigrates.
Those poor, poor white people who went on the show to DEFEND THE RACIST SLUR IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Forgive me if I reserve my pity for parties more deserving.
They, and a lot of other white fans of the team, don’t see it as a racist slur. That’s my point. We who do understand it is have to convince them it is, and this is NOT THE WAY TO DO IT.
This isn’t an argument from white privilege, it’s not misplaced pity–it’s an argument from how to change people’s minds. I agree with you 100% the team name is a slur. I agree with you the people who went on the Daily Show are wrong. I agree with you they should meet with the people who are affected and offended. They should know exactly how such slurs demean and diminish.
But I don’t believe snide derision and bullying and ambush TV get anything positive done. The show’s segment was only a few people, but when this stuff gets out a lot more people are going to identify with them. They will also feel attacked and will consequently dig even harder into their position. They will become more difficult to convince.
That’s where I’m coming from on this. It’s important to address an issue like this in a way that doesn’t further divide.
The Daily Show is comedy. You know it, I know it, they know it. Everything the show does is, first and foremost, to generate laughs. If we were discussing a legitimate news show, you would have a point.
It’s comedy. They got what they deserved.
@Nikki: I think I still have a point–as I told James Pearce above, comedy is a powerful tool for addressing social issues because it allows us to approach those issues in ways we otherwise couldn’t. Ask Lenny Bruce and George Carlin and Richard Pryor (OK, you’d have to hold a seance, but still). They were comedians, yes, but do you really believe they didn’t have a real impact on national views of social issues? You can even hear some of Carlin’s famous “Seven Words” on TV these days.
The Daily Show is not just a comedy show, it’s a zeitgeist show, just as Bruce and Pryor and Carlin were zeitgeist comedians. If this had happened on Bill Maher’s show, we wouldn’t even be commenting on this post because there would be no post.
“If this had happened on Bill Maher’s show, we wouldn’t even be commenting on this post because there would be no post.”
Maher and the Daily Show, are not comparable in programming. You will not see a segment like what Jones did on Maher’s show.
And that is precisely the point. These people were beyond stupid to believe they could defend the slur and escape unscathed. To so arrogantly believe they could defend racism, they got exactly what they deserved.
And I will laugh at them as I watch the segment.
Do comedians know this?
I imagine Bill Engvall’s response to this claim would be, “Here’s your sign.”
I agree with this. I disagree that the line has been crossed, however.
You do not sign up to participate in a skit on the Daily Show and then get to claim you were “bullied” when you were made to look a fool.
Attacked? They were embarrassed and ridiculed……after participating in a Daily Show skit. That’s like signing up for a cage fight and then claiming you were “attacked” when you got knocked out.
That’s the thing, Mikey. This issue is NOT really important. It’s almost comical how not important it is to continuing calling the team from Washington “the Redskins.”
@Nikki: Well, there really isn’t anything else like the Daily Show, so it’s hard to find something with which to compare.
I see, this is about punishment, not progress.
I want to see a name change, too, and I think it is important enough to spend time trying to convince my friends and co-workers who want to keep the name why it should change.
You may not know a single person who cares one way or the other, but I live 20 minutes from D. C. and it’s a very significant issue indeed around here.
@Mikey: When you go on NATIONAL TELEVISION TO DEFEND RACISM, there is NO ONE on the planet more deserving of an ass-kicking. Especially if you are white and rich.
Of course, you and I understand that, but most of the people who identify with the team’s fans will just see another liberal show demeaning them. They won’t care it’s on Comedy Central.
@Nikki: OK, really, I see your point. There’s been more than one time I’ve watched someone try to defend keeping the team name, or push some other racist trope, and thought they needed a firm whack upside the head coupled with a “WTF are you thinking?!”
I just don’t believe concentrating on ass-kicking rather than persuasion advances the national discourse, even if the ass-kicking is done comically. That’s all.
Mikey, that was supposed to be an upvote because I agree. I apologize for that.
@Nikki: No worries, my ups and downs tend to wash out anyway…lol…
Well, I’d say it falls into the “urgent but not important” quadrant. It’s a hot topic, no doubt, but important?
The argument for why the name should change is simple: It’s an ethnic slur.
The argument for why it should stay the same is also simple: They’re emotionally attached to the name.
How you can possibly reason with someone about their emotional attachments?
It’s not easy, no doubt, especially when you’re trying to convince someone who legitimately believes the name is not a slur, but instead a way of “honoring” Native Americans. But unless a person utterly lacks empathy (which some unfortunately do), it’s possible to appeal to them by helping them see from the Native American perspective. (Which is also challenging for a white guy, of course…)
That, and a lot of patience. Sometimes people appear to reject an appeal but come around later saying “You know, I was thinking about what you said…”
Bringing up these comedians rather undercuts your point. None of them were known for pulling punches or sparing derision for the ignorant. Their style of dissecting society was much closer to the Daily Show bit than the reasoned discourse you are talking about. Both have their place.
If that is the case then they weren’t reachable by the reasoned discourse that has been going on for over 20 years on this issue.
@Grewgills: That’s true, but not really applicable to what I was trying to convey. My point was to show how comedy is a force for social change, not to relate the three comedians I named to the Daily Show segment. Obviously they are different approaches, but my intent was more meta level.
@Grewgills: Of course they are reachable, but they are much less so when being made fun of. And there’s also a generational shift at play that makes the younger people more receptive to change.
But stuff like this damages that reachability. They’re not going to watch that segment and think, “they are making fun of those four people,” they are going to watch it and think “they are making fun of us.”
Frankly, the problem is that people can´t blame Dan Snyder for the name of the team. Even if he wanted to change the name the fans would oppose it. I don´t have sympathy for them.
@Mikey: This isn’t some sort of racist thing at all. This is mainly fans that want to keep the name. I don’t care what Mr. Snyder calls his team. It is his team, his decision. My main concern is restoring the team to its championship tradition: the only name that counts is “NFL Champions”. That is what counts.
I think this approach is entirely admirable, but let’s not kid ourselves: In the end, this process will require the “Red Skins” fan to let go of the emotional attachments.
But of course it is.
The assumption that the name is ok because of tradition or because a dominant number of white fans don’t see the problem is, by definition, racist. It is the privileging of the attitudes of the dominant racial class because, well, they can.
Racism is not just being purposefully, consciously hateful towards a person or group. It is being in the power position and being able to get one’s way because of it, regardless of the views or preferences of the less powerful group. This whole discussion is a rather insidious illustration of that type of situation.
When a white person says “I don’t see the big deal, it is just a team name, so get over it. And, oh, by the way, I don’t have any prejudice towards native Americans–I am just supporting the tradition of my favorite football team.” that person is missing the way in which their privileged position in the society (not just now, but over time) allows them to have that view in the first place.
Thing is the comedians that have been forces for social change didn’t pull punches, they didn’t say “this might offend and harden hearts, so I should soften this bit.” The examples you cited show this very well. We could name more in that vein, but I think we would be hard pressed to find a comedian that was a force for social change and didn’t offend.
The point of the segment isn’t to ridicule. Not directly. The producers knew that these fans would say they don’t believe the name of the team is a racial slur. The segment demolishes that argument as entirely disingenuous by showing that these people are unwilling to advance that argument (or likely even say the name) in front of the slur’s targets. That’s not the way you act if you really and truly believe there’s nothing offensive about the name.
@Mikey: John Stewart is no Lenny Bruce or George Carlin. Beyond that, the days that that kind of comedy did what you would like to believe comedy should do are long gone. It’s a different world and that train has left the station.
I stopped watching those segments long ago. Jason Jones just can’t make them funny. Not like when Colbert or others did them.
Reading the comments here, it occurs to me that the loss of copyright, if that stands, may prove to be a big mistake for those hoping to kill the name. If and when the Redskins change the name, there will be nothing to stop some less influenceable producer from marketing the Washington Redskins logo merchandise. The fans could just keep buying it instead of the new logo mech.
And really, just point out that Redskins is lionizing people who continued slavery in the North America for decades after it was abolished under the US Constitution. Do they really want to continue to use a name associated with a people, regardless of their fierceness as foes in the 400 year guerrilla war between Europeans and Native Americans, who purposely took women and children to be sexual slaves long after it was finally abolished under the law that eventually covered all the territory?
@Grewgills: Let me make my point a different way. I was told “it’s just comedy.” Well, comedy isn’t “just comedy” a lot of the time. The three I named were examples of that. The Daily Show is an example of that. This is the common thread, and the extent of what I was trying to convey.
Weren’t you also trying to say that the Daily Show overstepped and that the bit was counterproductive to effecting the social change that it was presumably aimed at changing?
You then cited comedians that you say effected social change, often by deliberately offending the targets they saw as hateful, ignorant, or stupid. Those two arguments seem to run counter to each other. Perhaps I missed something.
I haven’t gone through all the comments, so forgive me if someone else has brought these points up but…
1. As best I know, there is no evidence that significant numbers of Native Americans are bothered by the name.
2. No reasonable person can possible think that the team’s name was intended to belittle or insult Native Americans.
I’ve got a news flash for you. Women and children are taken to be sexual slaves by white folks in America in the year 2014.
@Nikki: I’m Brian, one of the 4 from the supportive side of the debate that was filmed for the Daily Show. Nikki, I am anything but well off, I can’t afford to go to a preseason game let alone a reg season game. We get by but that’s about it. They found a friend of mine on Twitter somehow and he referred me. When I spoke to the producer he told me they would be filming a segment w/ Native Americans as well to be part of the show but separately. Before I got off the phone I just asked if they were certain it was separate, not because I had fears or reservations, honestly I would have loved the cross table debate, but I was assured NO, that would be too serious for Comedy Central.
@Crusty Dem: what in the world makes you think any of us are rich white people?I can barely keep my truck running and standard utilities paid. I don’t get to go to games as much as I want to take my daughter to one. The one guy on the panel from Hampton I don’t know anything about, Kelly seems to have tons of access and interaction to the team and office personnel I could only dream of. The other guy is a secretary for a heating/ac small business.
@JWH: And thats exactly what took place. I asked prior to leaving for DC simply so I’d know what to expect. The producer told me that a panel w/ the Native Americans would take place elsewhere. I asked to confirm that, mentioning a cross table discussion could be interesting, I was told “no that’d be too serious, this is Comedy Central”.
Can you explain why using a racial slur for a professional sports team is acceptable to you?
If a team has survived 80 years with the team name kikes, n!ggers, or wetbacks, would you think it reasonable for that team to retain that name? Would it matter if most of the fans of that team didn’t find the term offensive? Would it matter if the owner and supporters of the team claimed they were celebrating the positive characteristics of that group if they insisted on retaining the racial slur as the team name?
@Grewgills: This set up sounds like some stunt they copied from “Candid Camera”. So you have a group picking on a group of fans instead of going to the owner. Why not sit down and have a discussion with him instead of wasting their time participating in some misguided, amateurish Halloween style prank? Only the owner has the power to change the name, not the commissioner, the fans, or tv programs. It could be he is basing his thinking that the vast majority of fans do not want a change or just don’t care.
If the prank had been the other way around you would have seen a major outcry from certain news media, politicians, and opportunists. Attorney General Holder would have demanded an investigation. Others would demand that someone lose their job.
@Grewgills: I’m trying to say comedy can in general be a driver of social change while at the same time saying a particular piece of comedy overstepped a line it shouldn’t have.
(Which seems a more difficult concept to analogize than I thought at first… 😉 )
How do you reconcile this with your view that the owner can’t change the name because the fans don’t want him to?
@beth: @anjin-san: I haven’t watched O’Reilly’s show in years, so don’t have any insights into whether he does this sort of thing. My recollection is that his guests were almost exclusively professional party hacks rather than random dudes off the street. But, yes, if he’s browbeating ordinary citizens, I think it’s bad form.
Ambush? An ambush would be if the producers without warning rang their doorbell on a Sunday morning.
These people, by contrast, willingly volunteered to go on a very well-known comedy show in order to defend a racist slur. They were in no way “ambushed.” It’s not the show’s fault these people were too dumb not to expect to be treated with kid gloves.
67% of Native Americans think the name is racist: “The Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies at California State University, San Bernardino has conducted a study on racial and ethnic perspectives on the team name Redskins and associated issues, and found that the large majority of American Indians, when properly identified and polled, find the team name offensive, disrespectful and racist.”
Yes, Bruce and Carlin and Pryor did have a real impact on national views of social issues. And you know how they did it? By merciless mockery, derision, jeering and contempt. By harnessing their anger against their targets and making them figures of fun.By stripping away pretense and cant. By ridiculing the powerful and privileged.
Just what on Earth do you think Bruce and Carlin and Pryor would have done had they been given the comedic gift of a roomful of Redskins fans? They would have reduced those people to tears within two minutes.
@Rafer Janders: Y’know, the Redskins have a rich and storied history of being called by a racial slur for some seventy years, during the time those comedians were at their game. I don’t recall any bits from the three of them over the name, but I haven’t seen the entire oeuvre of any of them.
What do “random dudes off the street” have to do with this discussion?
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that those guys — being, after all, one-man operations — didn’t comment on each and every issue of import in the country….
Where is Senator Elizabeth Warren? As a prominent Native American lawmaker, she has a responsibility to speak out on this.
I believe Carlin and Pryor would have been natural “reporters”on the Daily Show.
Anyhow, for the local audience, here’s Carlin’s roundabout treatment of the Redskins nickname. It’s pulled from the Times-Picayune’s review of the short-lived “The George Carlin Show,” which came out on Fox in 1994.
Carlin plays George O’Grady, a semi-wacky street philosopher who spends most of his time hanging out with his friends at a corner bar where everybody knows his name. Like “Cheers,” barstools serve as comedy stages. When the bartender wonders aloud about the use of the derisive term “Redskins” as a football nickname, Carlin argues that “Fighting Irish” isn’t much better: “That’s like calling a team ‘The Bargaining Jews,’ ” he cracks.
@Gavrilo: I see the cheap point you tried to score, but Warren (along with dozens of other Senators) has already expressed her opinion.
I think why you’re finding it difficult is because as a rule comedy and I would say art in general that is transformative offends the target it is attempting to change. Transformative art is virtually always accused of overstepping. The comedians you cited are all sterling examples of that. I thought about this for a while and talked about it with my wife and tried up with comedians that it could be argued were transformative and weren’t accused of overstepping in the way you are talking about in their transformative work. In the end we came up with a list of one, Bill Cosby and his transformative work was years long.
@Grewgills: This makes sense to me. It’s difficult to make the analogy because those comedians are identified with and by a specific style, which was at times confrontational and certainly pushed far beyond many boundaries.
I see other commenters getting hung up on who I chose as examples and missing the meta-level point I was trying to make, which indicates my choice wasn’t the best, but they were the most prominent examples I could come up with off-hand.
@Mikey: when the first people you think of to prove your point actually destroy your point, maybe your point isn’t that good.
@Figs: Or maybe I just chose a poor example.
My objective was to point out comedy is often far more than “just laughs,” it can also be a powerful driver of social change. That point stands regardless of whether Bruce, Pryor, and Carlin were distractions rather than examples.
I’d say the real issue is whether it’s true they were told they would not have to talk to Indians. If it is true, this is an unethical, even if for a righteous cause.
If it’s not true – well, the Washington fans should have known better than to go on The Daily Show.
Let’s look at it this way: it’s 1964, and a TV show invites a group of white Southerners on the air to defend segregation. All goes well for them until a door opens and a group of black men and women come out, forcing the segregationists into the uncomfortable position of defending their noxious views to the victims of those views.
The next day, the white Southerners complain about how unfair it all was.
Any sympathy for them?
Actually, yep. Even if it was 2014, I would have sympathy with them. This idea that people who have bigoted views deserve to be shamed and humiliated is just not right. I know lots of people that hold bigoted opinions (and they are certainly not all white Americans). And no, they don’t deserve to be humiliated.
FWIW, I’ve been asking my 14 and 17 year old kids the following question at the dinner table: “Grandma and Grandpa lived at a time when people commonly looked down on someone for their race and their kids thought their generation hopelessly clueless. Your mother and father (that’s me) lived at a time when people commonly felt it was ok to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation, and you feel our generation was hopelessly clueless. What will your kids think that you are hopelessly clueless about?” Of course, they just look at me like I’m from Mars but even if it doesn’t get them thinking, it gets me thinking…
@MarkedMan: If they aren’t shamed and humiliated, they won’t learn anything.
@Brian Dortch: I asked this of James and now I will ask it of you.
Would you have gone on the show to defend the Washington N@gg ers?
Seriously? In 2014 you would feel sympathy for segregationists being publicly confronted by the people they wanted to make second class citizens? When do you think confronting someone forcefully about their bigotry is ok?
How is confrontation humiliation? If your views are so noxious that having to publicly confront the victims of your views is humiliating, then perhaps that confrontation is overdue.
If I’m a Washington fan going on TDS to talk about the name, I’m thinking theres a mighty good chance an Indian will show up. It’s almost an inescapable conclusion.
Now that the piece is aired, any thoughts?
They brought the activists on after “we need to talk with the people who are offended”. Obviously any decent reporter could get someone in a group of 4 to say those magic words, but once said….
Frankly, pretty soft on the interviewees. I would love to see what Colbert would’ve done back when he was on the show. He made Jason Jones look like a puppy dog…