Episode 23 of the "Communication Breakdown" podcast is a look at the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins nickname. There are two sides to this issue, people who believe that the name is a tribute to Native American culture and the other side who believes it is a racial slur and should be changed. You can guess who is on each side - mostly sports fans love the name and parts of the Native American community don't like it.
I have actually had the idea to do this podcast for over a year, even before I had a podcast. Like I've mentioned, the podcast had been an idea in my head for a long time before I actually did it. I'm a nerd and keep a running list of ideas in the notes section of my phone. Either stuff I can write or discuss in some way. When I started the podcast, I thought "I can talk about this & this & this" and the Redskins name was one of the initial issues.
With that, the issue was finding somebody who could effectively speak about the issue and come across as credible. So, as other issues and topics came up, the Redskins podcast got pushed to the background. A few weeks back, I started thinking about it again. Then, as it does periodically, the Redskins name issue comes up again as a news topic. That has happened recently. I was watching the issue get talked about on SportsCenter and I thought, "Now it's topical, I need to jump on this."
My idea was a debate. But, not a debate since those suck. It's never a discussion of the issues, since it just turns into people getting mad at each other and arguing. I had the idea to do two interviews on the subject - one from each side and play them back-to-back in the same podcast. That way, you could listen to both sides and make your own conclusion.
Right away, I knew who I wanted to talk to on the pro-Redskins side. I've known Mike Stanton since 2005 or 2006 from Concord University. He was a sports writer on Concord's newspaper staff when I was the Editor-in-Chief. And the year after I left the staff, he became the Sports Editor. He is a huge Redskins fan and I knew he would be down. A simple Facebook message later and he was in. Now, I just needed to find the other side.
I have connected with an older Native American woman from Princeton on Twitter over the last couple years. I had read tweets from her around football seasons where she did point out her anger at the Redskins name. I sent her a message asking for her email address and I sent her an outline of what I wanted to talk about and if she would be interested.
She told me that she didn't feel as though she was a credible expert to speak on the subject, as she said it made her so angry she didn't feel like she would be able formulate any good points. She had a lot more in her email and I asked her if I could read some on the podcast. I ultimately didn't go that route, but I'll share something she sent to me on the subject:
"This is not just some abstract issue with me. I know a lot of people are wanting to know why we are just now making a stink about it. Truth is, we have been fighting against this for years, but are just now getting some traction. Social media and the internet have finally allowed us to tell our side of the story. We are tired of it, we are mad as hell, and we aren't going away."She directed me to a twitter account called @ImNotYourMascot. I checked out their account and wanted to see if I could talk to somebody from their organization. It's sometimes hard to explain these things in 140 characters, so I saw that they had a Facebook account as well. I sent them a Facebook message and waited for a response. Two days passed and I didn't get one. I then sent them a tweet in the morning and didn't hear anything. I tweeted them again that night and they responded the next morning with a list of 4 or 5 people they said I should speak with.
I looked through the list and tried to find the one that I thought seemed similar to Mike. I didn't want it to be like "There was 29-year-old recent college graduate Mike, now here's 50-year-old CEO" or whatever. I went through and found a woman named Johnnie Jae. I emailed her and we set it up.
When you listen to the podcast, Mike goes first and then we hear from Johnnie. Below are a couple quotes from the two of them on this subject.
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Mike Stanton: I think the main reason there’s a controversy is because we’re in a place of overblown political correctness where people just look for something to be offended by. With the Redskins name, it comes up every so often, but it also usually comes up when the team has success. Whereas, usually when they’re struggling and out of the media’s eye, you never really hear anything. I think you’re hearing it a lot more because more people in higher influence, like for example, Kerry Reed, President Obama, have jumped into the controversy saying it’s offensive. The thing about them is, they might be saying it’s offensive but they might not know the background of it. They’re just saying it’s offensive because we’re going off of a few Indian tribes who are saying it’s offensive and not going over the whole landscape where the whole majority do not find it as an offensive term.
Johnnie Jae: I crack up, because the term PC has been thrown around a lot with this issue. It’s not being politically correct. I really wish that term was erased from history, because what it is now is it’s just another way to marginalize people. It’s just another way to silence their voices or to kind of dismiss their concerns. My favorite is when they call us liberal. Right now, the way they throw the term around, Native Americans have a new name and that is Liberal.
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Mike: To me, it means pride and all that good stuff and tradition. It’s essentially an old Indian word, with the media right now, you’d almost think it was a racial term brought forth by a white man. But, it’s actually an old Indian word. Basically, you know how you have war paint and all that. With Indians, they would actually have this paint, I forget what kind of berry it came from, but it was actually like an insect repellent that they would use and it would make their skin look red. That’s how redskin came about that way. It wasn’t a derogatory term about a skin color or anything. It was basically the way the skin looked after getting a little bit of food coloring from the berries and stuff that way.
There are some, but I think some are offended by it to be offended by it, if that makes any sense. You also have a majority of Indian tribes who love the name and have even come forth saying that they find it offensive if they change the name. They find it as pride and tradition, and you have a lot of Indian reservations that actually have high school nicknames as the Redskins. You have a lot of Indian tribes who find the name to be a positive.
Johnnie: I want to say show me one good thing that’s come from the name. Show me something positive that has come from the use of the name because when you’re looking at it from a Native perspective, if you go to a game and see people mocking your culture, you know, wearing the headdresses, just kind of mocking the whole thing. It promotes mockery of our culture and our people and it’s dehumanizing. Like, there’s no pride in this. I mean, when you go to the game and you see these people dressed up, that’s not pride. That’s not a way of honoring Native Americans. That’s a way of mocking Native Americans. Even if you don’t understand that, that’s what it’s doing and that’s what it’s promoting.
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All that and more is included in the podcast. Both Mike and Johnnie get about half an hour to discuss their side of the issue, so the podcast clocks in around one hour and 7 minutes I believe. I'll have a more complete transcript when everything goes up and is official.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know either here or Facebook or wherever you want to talk to me at.