Tomorrow, the Washington Pigskins will announce that they’re forming a new organization called the Original Americans Foundation. In a letter to fans, team owner Dan Snyder says he’s realized, in the course of his PR-driven visits to friendly Native American tribes around the nation, that things have not been going so well for most Native Americans, mostly because it was U.S. government policy to exterminate them for decades. (That’s a paraphrase.) So the team is going to try to “provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities” through the foundation, he writes.
“I’ve listened. I’ve learned,” Snyder writes. “And frankly, its heart wrenching. It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.” “Celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans,” of course, is what Snyder says is best accomplished by continuing to call his extremely lucrative National Football League franchise by a name that dictionaries define as “usually offensive.”
Let’s stipulate a few things. One, Dan Snyder is not Washington City Paper‘s favorite billionaire. Two, his team’s name is racist and needs to be changed. Three, it’s entirely possible this obvious PR ploy will turn out to be complete bullshit; the letter from Snyder (printed below) doesn’t specify how much money he’s putting into the effort, nor does it even say whether the Original Americans Foundation will be an actual nonprofit venture. Four, it’s probably Lanny Davis‘ idea. Five, this is some condescending nonsense that only underscores how obnoxious Snyder’s position is:
For too long, the struggles of Native Americans have been ignored, unnoticed and unresolved. As a team, we have honored them through our words and on the field, but now we will honor them through our actions. We commit to the tribes that we stand together with you, to help you build a brighter future for your communities.
The new foundation, Snyder claims, is working on “over forty” projects besides the handful it’s already finished, like giving coats and shoes to some tribes or helping the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska buy a backhoe. Could the Pigskins, or Snyder personally, have easily donated the full cost of a backhoe many times over without noticing it? Yes. Is the whole effort a transparent ploy to defend against criticism of the name? Certainly. But why shouldn’t Snyder give some money to people while he’s being obstinate? Ultimately, even if Snyder’s foundation buys him some more time using the racist name before he finally realizes he could cash in on sales of merchandise with a new brand, at least 3,000 people had winter coats this year that he paid for.
Read Snyder’s smug, defensive letter to fans below:
Photo by Darrow Montgomery