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Redskins Attorney: Snyder’s ‘All Caps, Never’ Comment Had the Wrong Flavor

by Chris Lingebach
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Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder. (Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder. (Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - Over the weekend, President Barack Obama weighed in on the ongoing debate over the Redskins name, offering that team names like it offend “a sizable group of people,” and if he was the owner, he would “think about changing” the name.

Shortly thereafter, Lenny Davis, an attorney for the franchise, responded, citing polls taken in 2004 and 2013 as reasons why the name should not be changed.

Davis, in an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny on Wednesday, said he reached out to Redskins owner Dan Snyder after he publicly and flatly refused to ever change the name.

“I was retained by, Dan Snyder’s been a friend, I’ve helped in the past,” Davis said. “Since I left the White House, I’ve helped him on several matters, so I know Dan Snyder. And when I saw the all caps comment, I thought that had the wrong flavor to it.”

He was referring to a comment Snyder made to the USA Today in May, in which he infamously said, “We’ll never change the name. It’s simple. NEVER. You can use caps.”

“There are parts of Dan Snyder that I find extremely likeable, I think he’s a good guy – wish he would let people know that – but saying all caps isn’t the side of Dan Snyder that I want him to project,” Davis said. “I let my opinions be known. Dan brought me in, and I don’t always tell him what he wants to hear sometimes, and I think that’s why he wants me around, because I get him irritated by telling him what he doesn’t want to hear, but I’m a friend and I’m allowed to do that.”

“And so the answer is no, I don’t think saying ‘All caps. Never’ is the right tone,” he said. “I think saying ‘we care about people’s feelings, we’re respectful when anyone is offended, but we have this eighty-year name that we love. We sing ‘Hail to the Redskins’ every Sunday at the stadium, and we say we’re part of ‘Redskins Nation.’ That’s our vocabulary. Those are terms of honor.’ And that’s what he should have said, but he, I don’t think is going to say ‘all caps. Never’ again.”

When asked how many people need to be offended in order for the team to change the name, Davis responded by questioning Obama’s definition of “sizable group.”

“First off, I don’t know what the president meant but he clearly meant something, that there had to be a critical mass, but I don’t know whether one out of ten for him is a sizable group,” Davis said. “My gut, it’s subjective, for me, is that if nine out of ten are not offended and they’re Native Americans, and certainly white people who are all outraged should at least defer to nine out of ten Native Americans. The anecdotal evidence for President Obama should be to listen to the Virginia tribal Chiefs. Every one of them have weighed in. Every one of them.”

With regards to other teams in professional sports with either names or mascots which could be interpreted as offensive to Native American – such as the Braves or Indians in Major League Baseball – Davis specified that if they are eventually proven to be offensive, either they all change or none of them do.

“If everything is offensive then everything should be changed, so it doesn’t matter whether there are ten names that are offensive, it’s just that, don’t select one and ignore the others,” Davis said.

While furthering his point about the other teams, Davis also worked to dispel the legitimacy of one particular logical claim, which is commonly used by Redskins name opponents.

“My first point is, that why select the Redskins when really Cleveland Indians, the word ‘Indian’ – there’s more data available to us that Native Americans are offended by the word Indians than offended by the word Redskins, is data to the contrary that they’re not offended by Redskins,” Davis said. “Secondly, I believe that intent is really what we’re talking about. When you use the N-word, and I’ve been asked ‘What about the N-word for the name of a sports team?’ There’s no doubt about the intent of the N-word. There is doubt about the intent of the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago Blackhawks or the Redskins. There’s no intent there to be racial. There may be an offense there but there’s no intent.”

Davis was very candid about he and Snyder’s preparation, leading up to their response to Obama.

“I’ve talked frequently with Dan Snyder – and certainly when President Obama made his comment on Saturday – I talked with frequently with him about the response,” Davis said, before clarifying that Redskins GM Bruce Allen was also included in the conversations.

Snyder himself, after Davis’ interview, issued a letter he penned to season ticket holders, defending the name and reflecting on its history.

On Tuesday, Fred Davis became the first Redskins player to comment on the name since September, when RGIII told reporters they’d been “advised” not to say anything — a comment Griffin later retracted.

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