The Redskins petition – and what it does (and doesn’t) mean

25 May 2014

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It was interesting to see that 49 United States senators signed a petition pointing out that the nickname of the NFL’s Washington Redskins is racist and urging the NFL to push the team to change their name. (Yes, I know that the graphic above says 50, and that it’s been reported in the news as 50. I’ve seen the petition and counted the signatures; it has 49 of them.) My immediate reaction was that this was a pretty damning indictment – nearly HALF the U.S. Senate saying you should do something is a pretty strong hint.

But then I looked into two things: the petition, and the signers. First of all, the petition is completely non-binding – it only “urges” Roger Goodell and the National (dramatic pause) Football League to “endorse a name change.” It only carries what I believe in legal circles is called “the force of moral suasion” – and given that these are politicians we’re talking about here, I don’t know how much moral force that really carries.

And second, there’s the matter of who signed it. There’s an online copy of the petition (you can take a gander at it here), showing specifically who put their John Hancocks on this piece. I recognized a lot of the names immediately … but I also realized a lot of big senatorial names weren’t on it. And the more I started looking, the more I started suspecting what might be missing … Read the rest of this entry »

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