As the calls for the Washington Redskins to change their shamefully racist name have gotten louder, the organization has doubled down on its insistence that the slur is a point of pride. An 81-year-old newspaper article unearthed this week, however, makes that claim a little harder to stake.
In defending the name, both franchise owner Dan Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have invoked William "Lone Star" Dietz, who coached the team when it took up the Redskins name in 1933. Then-owner George Preston Marshall chose "Redskins," the story goes, to honor Dietz and his claimed Sioux heritage.
Never mind that Dietz was in all likelihood a regular old white guy who posed as a Native American for some easy publicity and a chance to dodge the World War I draft—the team name was never about him in the first place.
"The fact that we have in our head coach, Lone Star Dietz, an Indian, together with several Indian players, has not, as may be suspected, inspired me to select the name Redskins."
The Redskins, who played in Boston at the time, simply made the change to avoid confusion with baseball's Boston Braves, with whom they originally shared a name.
The team's attorneys used the Dietz story to fight a lawsuit from a Native American group last year, and as ThinkProgress points out, Dan Snyder named Dietz explicitly in a letter to fans last October:
As some of you may know, our team began 81 years ago — in 1932 — with the name "Boston Braves." The following year, the franchise name was changed to the "Boston Redskins." On that inaugural Redskins team, four players and our Head Coach were Native Americans. The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor.
Goodell did the same in a letter to Congress last June:
As you may know, the team began as the Boston Braves in 1932, a name that honored the courage and heritage of Native Americans. The following year, the name was changed to the Redskins — in part to avoid confusion with the Boston baseball team of the same name, but also to honor the team's then-head coach, William "Lone Star" Dietz.
Any reasonable person would at this point throw in the towel and agree to a new name. There's at least one good option that would allow the team to save face without totally overhauling its branding. Dan Snyder, however, is no reasonable person.