For years, supporters of the the name of the Washington football team have provided the one sanctuary where it was socially acceptable to shout a dictionary defined racial slur from the top of your lungs. Donald Trump—in his relentless war against human decency—has changed that reality dramatically in the last year. Bully anyone at anytime, and if someone asks you to stop, then you are just being—altogether now—politically correct (although that passionate defense of saying what you like doesn’t seem to apply to Trump’s critics or victims).
That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising to hear Trump’s closing argument in this election includes an entire commercial devoted to supporting the word “Redskins.” The 30-second ad—which is also insulting to the thinking ability of non-native football fans—begins with four white guys, chugging brews and sitting down to watch the game, although no beer bellies on these fellas. They look like Abercrombie & Fitch models with spray-on stubble.
Then a low, rumbling voice: “Yeah, you thought you were safe, sitting in your recliner in your man cave, cold beer and a bowl of chips. Ha, you thought you’d escaped politics by focusing on football. Wrong. Hillary Clinton wants to mess up your football, too. Hillary wants to change the name of the Redskins.”
It then plays an interview of Hillary Clinton being asked by another Trump avatar of “the other,” journalist Jorge Ramos, who asks Clinton, “Almost 50 Democratic Senators sent a letter to the NFL saying that ‘Redskins’ is a racial slur,” Ramos said. “Do you agree?” She responds, “I think it’s insensitive, and I think that there’s no reason for it to continue as the name of a team in our nation’s capital.”
The commercial then cuts off the part where she puts the onus on NFL owners saying. “I would love to see the owners think hard about what they could…” Ramos then cuts in with, “Any suggestions? Any different names?” She says, “No. No. I haven’t thought a lot about that.”
Her response is not dramatically that different from what Trump said when asked about the name last year: “Honestly, I don’t think they should change the name, unless the owner wanted to.” She thinks it’s “insensitive.” He thinks it’s awesome. Both think it’s not the government’s concern. (Both are wrong about that. Bigotry should not be trademarked.)
But Trump is choosing to weaponize the name: one last racist wedge issue for the road.
I am glad Donald Trump made this commercial. Very glad, in fact. Those of us who have argued that the name is a dictionary-defined racial slur that, according to American Psychological Association, harms children and breeds ignorance, have always faced the pushback that we are politicizing something that’s “not political.” Some argue that the name represents, as team owner Dan Snyder has argued, “a badge of honor.”
Snyder, of course, says this despite the dozens of tribal councils and organizations that have called for the name to change. Dan Snyder’s wife has also donated funds to Donald Trump’s campaign, and, thankfully, now we have this ad.
I write “thankfully,” because it binds support for the team name with the most openly racist major-party candidate of our lifetime. It binds support for the team name with the laundry list of Trump’s bigoted offenses of black people, Latino people, women, immigrants, the disabled, and of course Native Americans, about whom he has long relished insulting, saying things like, “I think I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations.”
It demonstrates that the people playing politics with this name are the people who stand to benefit the most from a resurgence of racism: the Donald Trump/Breitbart brigade and billionaire brander Dan Snyder.
Last summer I saw T-shirts in Ocean City, Maryland, with the Confederate flag and the Redskins logo side-by-side with “heritage not hate” written underneath. That’s what this name is. That’s who Dan Snyder is. And that’s who Donald Trump is.
Every fight to change the name going forward should center this ad as well as the Trump-Snyder alliance to mainstream racism into US culture. Trump is now Dan Snyder’s baggage and the baggage of everyone who defends this name. It’s a load that will grow heavier with time. It’s a load they are utterly unequipped to manage.