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PR for Washington Redskins' Name Becoming More PC
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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A big aspect of public relations is working with the public. Sounds like it goes without saying, right? Only not so much. At times, you have an idea, a campaign, or a long-lasting brand that has been embraced by the public for years...and then that public changes. You were just sitting in your cube, minding your own business, and then you get this call: "Um, we need to talk." 

The client sounds puzzled because an onslaught of hate mail has pilfered his or her inbox for something that was just sitting there the night before. Such is life for the NFL and the Washington Redskins. Mind you, this is a more than 80-year-old franchise and one of the most expensive sports franchises in the world. The brand has been beloved. The fans buy the merchandise. And now, the government (which owns suites at FedEx Field, for crying out loud) wants the name of that team to change.

Why? Because it's politically correct...in 2013. Ugh. Meet the mission ChangeTheMascot.org. This cause was inspired and championed by the Oneida Indian Nation, which is a collective voice of Native Americans that demands this octogenarial brand be abolished for something like the Washington Cherry Blossoms or some such. For months, there have been tremblings of this PC earthquake about to open up under FedEx Field. To wit, owner Daniel Snyder said, "We will never change the name of this team. And you can put that in all caps." 

Of course, now that the U.S. Government has nothing else to do considering the budget is moving forward so smoothly, it has decided to get back involved in sports. In fact, it has come from the big man in the Oval Office himself: 

"If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team  even if it had a storied history  that was offending a sizable group of people, I'd think about changing it." 

Even though the Oneida Indian Nation is hosting a protest event at the hotel where NFL owners are scheduled to meet, the Commish (Roger Goodell) isn't talking. Naturally, everyone who is not a football fan is wanting to give the President a high-five. 

“As the first sitting president to speak out against the Washington team name, President Obama’s comments today are historic,” Ray Halbritter, a representative for the group, said in a statement. “The use of such an offensive term has negative consequences for the Native American community when it comes to issues of self-identity and imagery.”

Given I only have 1/16 of Cherokee in my blood, which is to say that I'm about as Native American as most of the white folks in this country, I'm not sure how to feel about this. I grew up a sports fan and during my sports conscience, I never knew "Redskins" (or even "Braves" for that matter) was a racially charged name. Granted, the slagheaps in the 1800s arguably didn't know what the hell they were saying when speaking to the slaves. It was only when they discovered those terms were offensive that the volume was amped up. Fools. However, now that we have all reached the age of accountability, what would you do if you were Daniel Snyder, President Obama, or even a fan in D.C.? Ask Daniel Snyder's attorney (what else would you expect?).

Lanny Davis, an attorney for Snyder, defended his client's decision to stick with "Redskins," pointing to a 2004 Annenberg Institute poll that found 9 out of 10 Native Americans were not offended by the team's name. "Like devoted fans of the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks (from President Obama’s home town), we love our team and its name," Davis said in a statement. "And, like those fans, we do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group.”

Stats show more than 65 percent of "Redskins Nation" do not support a name change, but there's the government trying to please everyone or change the focus. Again, what would you do? Does this offend you or do you just want to play ball? Regardless, this is what PR thrives upon. And the news will tell where the cycle goes. I just hope it doesn't run someone or a group over in the process.


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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