Did the “#CancelColbert” hashtag and subsequent uproar really, as so many are saying, let Washington football team owner Dan Snyder off the hook? Did protesting Stephen Colbert’s at best tired use of anti-Asian satire really take all the focus off of Dan Snyder’s wildly offensive “Washington Redskins for Original Americans” foundation, and thereby do him a colossal favor?
So many are saying “yes” to this that it seems to be becoming a self-evident fact, but to really answer this question, you need to know something about Dan Snyder. One of the great curiosities throughout the Washington DC area is Snyder’s wealth. The official word is that he made his fortune through “communications” yet it strains one’s mental faculties to think of someone who has ever been worse at communicating to the public than Dan Snyder. We all have our favorite Snyder gaffes, all mercifully catalogued by Dave McKenna, although nothing can match his aggressive and ill-fated effort to sue the Washington City Paper, ironically spurred by his belief that the City Paper’s cover presented him as a Jewish caricature. Yes, the owner of the Redskins attempted to drive a publication out of business for what he believed was a culturally insensitive cartoon. Snyder’s gaffes are impressive in their variety, yet most of them arise through his ham-handed, meat-fisted attempts to defend the use of “Redskins” as something other than a racist caricature.
There was the time he sent a public letter to fans stating that the “Red Cloud Athletic Fund helped design the team logo in 1971” only to have it revealed that this was a lie and the Red Cloud Indian School was virulently opposed to the name.
There was the time his minions, including hall of fame coach Joe Gibbs, promoted ESPN columnist Rick Reilly's article about Reilly’s Native American father-in-law's love of the name. His Native American father-in-law later said that he not only opposed the name and not only had Reilly misquoted him, but his dear son-in-law had refused to make a correction. There was the time the team aggressivly promoted the endorsement of Chief Dodson, “a full-blooded American Inuit chief” who loved the name and said, “We don’t have a problem with [the name] at all; in fact we’re honored. We’re quite honored…. When we were on the reservation, we would call each other, ‘Hey, what’s up redskin?’ We would nickname it just ‘skins.’” It turned out, as Dave McKenna wrote, Dodson was “not a chief, and probably not an Indian.”