Redskins

Blackfeet Elder Says Rick Reilly Misquoted Him on Redskins Name

by Chris Lingebach
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(credit: Doug Pensinger/Allsport/Getty Images)

(credit: Doug Pensinger/Allsport/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - One of the few mainstream media supporters of the Redskins team name – at least, of those who have been vocal about their opinion – has just been delivered a devastating blow to his credibility.

Rick Reilly – who last month penned a piece for ESPN.com entitled Have the People Spoken? – has fallen under scrutiny for misrepresenting the position of his star witness in the piece.

The star witness is his father-in-law.

In the piece, Reilly wrote:

I guess this is where I’m supposed to fall in line and do what every other American sports writer is doing. I’m supposed to swear I won’t ever write the words “Washington Redskins” anymore because it’s racist and offensive and a slap in the face to all Native Americans who ever lived. Maybe it is.

“The whole issue is so silly to me,” says Bob Burns, my wife’s father and a bundle holder in the Blackfeet tribe. “The name just doesn’t bother me much. It’s an issue that shouldn’t be an issue, not with all the problems we’ve got in this country.”

Burns published a correction to his own comments on Thursday, saying Reilly forced his hand after refusing to correct it himself.

“When Rick’s article came out, it upset me to be portrayed as an ‘Uncle Tom’ in support of this racial slur,” Burns wrote in the Indian Country Today. “I asked him to correct the record. He has not, so I must do it myself.”

Burns went on to write:

I’ve spent a lifetime humbly working to learn, to preserve, to teach and to help us to remember who we are as a distinct people.

So you can imagine my dismay when I saw my name and words used to defend the racist Washington Redskins name. My son-in-law, ESPN’s Rick Reilly, completely misunderstood the conversation we had, quoting me as saying “the whole issue is so silly. The name just doesn’t bother me much. It’s an issue that shouldn’t be an issue, not with all the problems we’ve got in this country.”

But that’s not what I said.

What I actually said is that “it’s silly in this day and age that this should even be a battle — if the name offends someone, change it.” He failed to include my comments that the term “redskins” demeans Indians, and historically is insulting and offensive, and that I firmly believe the Washington Redskins should change their name

Unless it turns out either a Burns imposter exists, or he’s lying, Reilly is going to have some explaining to do.

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder penned an open letter to season ticket holders on Thursday, defending the team name as “a source of pride” and thanking the fans for their continued support. Hours later, Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Indian Nation issued a response to Snyder’s letter, of which he says the team’s owner doesn’t understand the consequences of keeping the name.

Click here for more stories on the Redskins name debate.

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