Monday, July 22, 2013

A Native American Defends The Racist Redskins Logo

You'd think, for obvious reasons, that all Native Americans would scorn the Washington Redskins. But, surprisingly, some are dedicated fans. .

A member of this unlikely minority is Jonathan Harris, whose mother has deep Cherokee roots. Don't dismiss him as some self-loathing kook or dimwitted right-winger or misguided loser. Actually he's a young (23 years old), smart, ultra-liberal leftist who went to Penn State. Harris, who grew up in the Washington area, is essentially saying that being a Skins fan is more important to him than the fact that their logo offends most Native Americans--his people. His mother, he says, hates the team. But his late father, a Boston native of German-Irish descent, was a life-long Skins fan. Harris sided with his father.

"I've lived through this controversy at home all my life," Harris recalls. "My father turned me into a Skins fan, in spite of my mother. She says supporting the team is dishonoring Native Americans and catering to racists. But my dad always said that being a Skins fan was in my blood, because it was in his blood, and told me not to fight it..We even went to a lot of games--and getting those tickets has never been easy."

Harris explains why his dedication to the Redskins is dominant, why any problems with the logo are secondary: "When you're a true fan, you really love your team. They're under your skin, in your head, in your heart. You don't think about logos and what they mean. I don't think of Redskins as having anything to do with a racial slur against Native Americans. It's just a word, a name, like Hawks or Cougars or Panthers or whatever. I realize that to most Native Americans, the name Redskins has all sorts of ugly stuff attached to it. It's a nasty, horrible word to them. But when I think of Redskins I think of football. I don't think of political correctness."

Apparently he's not the only Native American who's a rabid Skins supporter."There are hundreds of us out there. I've met quite a few. We're like a secret society. We can't be vocal. We keep quiet about it. I don't even feel comfortable talking to you about it. My stance on this issue hurts my mother and I hate hurting her. Our parents and relatives can't deal with us supporting the Skins. We all got sucked in somehow. My father got me into loving the team but with those guys,  I can guess what happened.You see the team on TV all the time and hear them on the radio and all your buddies love them and slowly you get hooked. The team's name may be offensive but to a fan, that's not that important."

Native Americans' distaste for the word redskin, Harris speculates, is partly generational:
"Older Native Americans feel more strongly about it. They experienced racism much more than the younger generation. They grew up on the outside looking in. That wasn't my experience or the experience of a lot of Native Americans in my generation.We don't feel that strongly about the word redskin. People say it's as bad as the n-word but it's not.When it comes to racial slurs, the n-word is the worst. The r-word, by comparison, really is mild. It doesn't even bother me that much."

Incidentally, Harris knows all about the racist history of the Washington Redskins, recounting it in detail. The word redskin, he explains, stands for the scalps of Native Americans. Bounty hunters used to murder them and bring their scalps--redskins--to government offices for money. The team's founder, George Preston Marshall, a hard-core racist, purchased the team in 1932, when it was the Boston Braves. He changed the name to Redskins, supposedly to honor the first coach, who was reportedly part Souix. But actually he changed the name so the football team wouldn't be confused with the Boston Braves baseball team. Marshall, who moved the team to Washington in 1937, always vigorously championed racism in the league, boosting the policy that banned blacks, which finally ended in 1946. Not surprisingly, Washington was the last NFL team to sign a black player, clinging to that racist ban until the government forced integration in 1962. Marshall, who died in 1969, hated nonwhites so much that, in his will, he specified that no money from his foundation could be used to promote racial integration.

Isn't this racist history enough to keep a Native American from supporting the team? And what about current owner Dan Snyder (who's Jewish, by the way), who refuses to change the logo?. "Marshall was racist scum and Snyder is an idiot," Harris replies. "But I put all that in the corner. It's a black mark. I don't like the logo. It's another black mark. The football team and how they play and wins and losses and how RGIII (quarterback Robert Griffin) plays and if he's healthy, and getting to the Super Bowl, that's what important. The rest? I put it out of my mind. I'm a fan first."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Assessing The Damage--The Lakers' Bleak Future

 The Lakers are a complete, unadulterated mess, a franchise skidding toward the cliff--with no brakes.

They were desperate to get free-agent center Dwight Howard to sign a long-term contract. He was the savior of the franchise, the player they needed if they had any chance to be competitive for the next few years. But Howard saw the future. Peering into that crystal ball all he could see was dark clouds and the sour puss of coach Mike D'Antoni.That was enough to make him pack his bags and go house-hunting in Houston.

Without Howard, the Lakers are the west-coast version of the Charlotte Bobcats. Where are they going with a second-rate coach like D'Antoni? With his idiotic, race-horse system and indifference to defense, D'Antoni is the main reason Howard left. D'Antoni has never won a championship and he never will. Even with a team loaded with talent he'd find a way to screw it up. Howard, who doesn't like DAntoni, personally or professionally, knows that. To him, any ship captained by D'Antoni is the Titanic.

The Lakers are no dummies. They had to know Howard hates D'Antoni, that he wouldn't sign as long as D'Antoni was coach. So what do they do? They ignore the negative coaching situation and even include D'Antoni as part of the team trying to convince Howard to stay. That made absolutely no sense. It was like they were sabotaging their own efforts. Owners Jim and Jeanie Buss can't be that stupid--can they?

If D'Antoni can't get anywhere with a talented team, what is he going to do with a group made up of flotsam and jetsam? The team's best player is a broken-down Kobe Bryant, due back a few months into the season after rehabbing an Achilles-tendon break, the kind that ends careers. Between age and injury, it will be a miracle if Bryant is 75% of his old self. The Lakers' big man is Pau Gasol, who is not only battling age and bad knees, but he's a horrible fit for D'Antoni's uptempo system. Point guard Steve Nash is running on empty, creeping up on 40. Metta World Peace, once a defensive monster, is a shadow of his former self.

And the rest of the bunch--Jordan Hill, Steve Blake and journeyman center Chris Kaman, who was just signed? Nothing special, none of them. The Lakers are talking about signing 33-year-old Lamar Odom who, with the Clippers, spent half of last season out of shape. When he was finally in shape, he was mostly ineffective. If he was any good, do you think new Clippers coach Doc Rivers would let him go?

Here's a sobering question. On this Lakers team, who's the defensive stopper? In fact, which of these players is any good at playing defense? The scary answer? Not one of them.

In the tough Western conference, this ragtag crew, led by a lousy coach, has just an outside chance of making the playoffs. Next season will be a lost season. The Lakers be piling up cap money to make a run at some of the big time free agents who will be available the following season. The big prize is LeBron James.

Then the Lakers will be coming off a bad season, in total rebuild-mode. Will LeBron look at the Charlotte-Bobcats West and be enticed to abandon Miami and sign up? Maybe, or possibly some other superstar will  be lured to LA, seeing something rosy in the franchise's future, something Dwight Howard didn't see..

Meanwhile the Lakers will stumble along, in tatters, a horrible mess.