Over the past several years, the Washington Redskins nickname has been criticized for its racist nature, but the pressure to force the team to change the nickname has never been as great as it is now. Columnists have spoken out against it. News outlets have said they will refuse to print the nickname. Even President Barack Obama has said the team should consider changing the name. That’s why it was so mystifying last month when such a well-respected columnist like ESPN’s Rick Reilly, formerly of Sports Illustrated’s back page, would express his support for the name.
In September, Reilly published a column on ESPN.com explaining why he supported the Redskins nickname. He cited a poll and quoted a few individuals in his explanation for why he supported the name. But the real kicker for the column came when he quoted his father-in-law, Bob Burns, who is a Blackfeet Indian.
Here’s what Reilly wrote:
I just don’t quite know how to tell my father-in-law, a Blackfeet Indian. He owns a steak restaurant on the reservation near Browning, Mont. He has a hard time seeing the slap-in-the-face part.
“The whole issue is so silly to me,” says Bob Burns, my wife’s father and a bundle holder in the Blackfeet tribe. “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.”
Burns was not happy with the way he was portrayed in the article and says he even tried to get Reilly to change the quote. Since Reilly would not change it, Burns resorted to writing a lengthy column for Indian Country Today Media Network to explain that he was misquoted and why he finds the Redskins nickname offensive.