Redskins Honor World War II-Era Navajo Code Talkers, Awkwardness Ensues

No one was fooled by the team’s publicity stunt.

By: Benjamin Freed

In a publicity stunt more awkward than the Redskins’ failure to convert on fourth-and-two, the team showed a video during halftime of last night’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers honoring four World War II veterans who served as Navajo “code talkers.”

The FedEx Field crowd cheered, and rightly so—Native American members of the military played a crucial role in formulating coded messages during the war. But nobody was fooled: the gesture comes after months of controversy over the home team’s name.

The veterans were trotted out to the sidelines wearing team merchandise as the stadium’s video screen filled with a recollection of the code talkers’ wartime achievements. The video also included footage of President Obama, who has said that if he had Dan Snyder’s job, he’d strongly consider changing the team’s name, and it ended with one of the veterans sheepishly saying, “Hail to the Redskins.”

Hey, it’s great that anyone, much less an NFL team, is honoring the service of people whose communications skills were critical in the United States winning the Battle of Iwo Jima. The NFL has been doing military tributes for several weeks, and November is Native American Heritage Month, so a night marking the accomplishments of Navajo code talkers makes fine sense. But the team that hosted them is still called “Redskins.”

For #NFLSalute & Native American Heritage month, the #Redskins celebrate & honor members of the Navajo Code Talkers pic.twitter.com/Cjn7f6wTgk

— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) November 26, 2013

Washington hosting Navajo Code Talkers as part of celebrating military. All respect to those vets, but Snyder's gotta give up.

— marc tracy (@marcatracy) November 26, 2013

Was Dan Snyder's "honoring" of the Navajo Code Talkers on ESPN shamefully pathetically transparent or pathetically shamefully transparent?

— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) November 26, 2013

Man, that Navajo-Code-Talkers-as-props thing is ugly.

— Michael Schaffer (@michaelschaffer) November 26, 2013

Trololol RT @Redskins: For Native American Heritage month, the #Redskins celebrate members of the Navajo Code Talkers pic.twitter.com/yZUd43wLFX

— Dan Snyder Cares (@DanSnyderCares) November 26, 2013

Of course, in true Snyder fashion, if you really want to honor the code talkers, the team is more than happy to sell this T-shirt featuring a slick, futuristic inscription of the team's name. It's for kids.