True to the toxicity of the Washington NFL team's name, even a Daily Show segment about the controversy over the franchise's name and logo was controversial days before it aired, with fans who participated in the sketch griping to the Washington Post that the Comedy Central series was "disingenuous" and left them feeling "defamed." On Thursday night, it finally aired.
Jon Stewart prefaced the clip by reminding viewers that The Daily Show won't air something if its subjects are deceived. "If we find out that someone in a piece was intentionally misled, or if there comments were intentionally misrepresented, we do not air that piece," he said. "We would not air that piece. So that being said, I hope you enjoy the following piece."
But that doesn't mean the burgundy-and-gold diehards featured in correspondent Jason Jones's sketch come off well—they mostly seem like boors spouting off Dan Snyder's talking points. The flipside of the segment is eight Native American activists—including Amanda Blackhorse, the lead plaintiff in the case that led to the US Patent and Trademark Office's invalidation of the football team's trademarks—giving the usual reminders about why the team's name is offensive.
The segment's filming turned pear-shaped when Jones brought in the activists to confront the fans—an instance that led one of the fans to call the police after feeling threatened by the encounter, according to the Post. The Daily Show only wound up showing a few handshakes between the groups and none of the audio. Still, at least two of the fans interviewed come away saying they'd still unquestionably support Washington's football team even if it gets a new name. (Perhaps they should check out these fan-generated redesigns.)
Compared to the other thing that happened to Washington's football team last night, The Daily Show wasn't really that bad.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
We’re not sure if Dan Snyder read our free advice on how to manage the media explosion when his football team finally ditches its dictionary-defined racial slur of a name, but even if he did, retiring the moniker is only half the equation. There’s no shortage of suggested replacement names—heck, Snyder briefly owned the trademark on “Washington Warriors”—but coming up with a term to replace an 81-year-old title is a tall order.
But one ex-pat fan has the right idea: put it to a vote among the team’s faithful. Brian Thurber, who grew up in Bethesda cheering for Joe Gibbs's Super Bowl-winning teams, has a website where fans can suggest new names and logos for their beloved Washington NFL team. Thurber’s site, DskinDC, already features more than 20 potential new team names and about a dozen user-generated logos. While the names and logos are very different from the controversial branding football fans are used to, the logos all retain the familiar burgundy-and-gold color scheme while nearly all of the names tap into Washington’s culture. The current leader: "Washington Generals," featuring a stylized bust of George Washington over a pentagon.
The other suggested logo for the Generals looks a bit like an outdated bank logo.
Thurber’s in a growing, but still-small minority—a Sports Illustrated poll released Wednesday found that 25 percent of football fans think Washington’s team should change its name—but his site aims to include more fan voices in a debate currently led by strongly worded letters and dead-on-arrival congressional resolutions.
“It wasn’t until after 2000 that I really started to understand how offensive the name was,” Thurber tells Washingtonian. “And of course that was because of the work of thousands of activists who have worked for decades to raise awareness and change the minds of fans like me. These days, even though I still catch myself saying ‘Redskins’ from time to time, I’m downright embarrassed of the name. I certainly look forward to the day when we have a new name and I can root for the team without misgivings.
Thurber’s personal favorite is the "Washington Redtails," a nod to the Tuskegee Airmen, who were nicknamed "Red Tails" during World War II. (DC Council member David Grosso made a similar suggestion in April 2013.)
There are a couple other proposed designs for Redtails.
At least one visitor to Thurber’s site proposes repurposing the old “Senators” name for gridiron purposes.
The "Washington Monuments," featuring a pack of sharp-toothed landmarks, should probably get a few more votes.
"All you have to do is imagine a world where DC football is named something different and a new pro sports franchise tries to name itself 'Redskins'," says Thurber. "It's laughable."
The official temperature Tuesday may have been in the high 60s, but it felt 20 degrees hotter at Nats Park at midday, which is ironic, because the point of being there was to talk about the depths of winter—New Year’s Day 2015, to be precise, the date of the NHL Winter Classic. “One hundred days from now it’s going to be snowing here in DC,” was the optimistic forecast of Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. That’s when Washington plays the Chicago Blackhawks on an outdoor ice rink in the middle of the baseball park. It's also a dream come true for Leonsis. On January 1, 2008, at home watching the first Winter Classic, "I e-mailed the commissioner, 'We want one here in Washington,' " he says.
The event had all the boosterism and good cheer you would expect from a coming together of major league sports officials, team owners, team stars, the corporate sponsor, union reps, network producers, fans, and the unveiling of the Winter Classic uniform.
And it’s fair to say that as much as Tuesday’s speeches and fanfare were about hockey, if you didn’t know better you might confuse the hubbub to be about baseball. Even the Blackhawks' president got confused. “We look forward to playing the Nationals,” John McDonough declared, and then quickly corrected himself and changed it to “Capitals,” adding, “that’s the baseball fan in me.”
McDonough wasn’t alone in praising the National League East champion Nationals. It started right off with the master of ceremonies, John Walton, who said, “While we’re talking hockey today, we hope there’s baseball being played here till the end of October.” There was polite applause from the hockey fans sitting in the stands, a few of them wearing winter hats. Their applause paled when compared to the enthusiasm they show for a Capitals “Score!”
There were a lot of participants in the program (by our count about 20), and those who were tapped to speak (most of them) gave praise or nodded to members of the Nationals organization, including general manager Mike Rizzo (whose bald pate will likely have some sunburn by game time Tuesday evening) and various members of the Lerner family, who own the baseball team and the ballpark.
Mark Lerner talked about the advantages of having the hockey classic at Nats Park, which he called “one of the most unique backdrops of any sports venue in the United States.” DC Mayor Vincent Gray described himself as an “unabashed homey,” which could apply equally to the Caps, Nats, Wizards, and DC United (but not that other team). Gray called Leonsis the “greatest owner in the nation of any sports team.” Leonsis beamed.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, of course, focused on the Winter Classic, declaring that the Washington game will take the event to “new heights.” It will also coincide with the Caps' 40th-anniversary season. “The event will be sold out, if it’s not already,” he said. We checked on the Caps website, and yes, there are still tickets for sale. But remember: It will be winter.
The Washington Capitals preseason is underway, and the regular season begins October 9 at home against the Canadiens. Two changes are in store for the Caps this season: a new coach, 51-year-old Barry Trotz, and that Washington will host the annual Winter Classic, against the Chicago Blackhawks, on January 1 at Nats Park. The Caps won the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, defeating the Penguins 3-1.
Trotz is the 17th coach in Capitals history, hired by owner Ted Leonsis in May to succeed Adam Oates. He comes to Washington from the Nashville Predators with a record as the longest tenured coach in the NHL. He also has a Washington background—he spent five seasons coaching the Caps' AHL developmental affiliate, the Baltimore Skipjacks.
We asked him 16 questions, ranging from hardcore hockey issues to some personal favorites. Here they are:
What was the allure of coming to Washington to coach the Caps?
Foremost was that I was a part of the organization before, and I knew a lot of people. They reached out real quick, but I looked at the roster and said it was still a pretty good roster. I think it is a terrific city. All that being said, that was the big allure.
You have a lot of talent on the team. How will you manage the depth without trades?
Everybody gets better every day. That is how you reach your potential and understand and have a plan on what you are doing. That’s the key—to get better every day and be consistent and accountable.
How do you coach Alex Ovechkin, a superstar who is almost 30 years old? Can he still learn, adjust, and change his game?
The great athletes do adjust their game because they are getting older. They know what they have. You cannot be a one-trick pony all the time. You have to grow your game. Alex has grown his game in some areas, but there is some growth in other areas for him. So you just coach him honestly—you say, “You are a great player, and I want to use you and use your potential, but we can improve in these areas."
Do you see some breakout surprises in the roster?
You're going to see a few guys. You are going to see a guy like Mike Green get back to some of the numbers that he had in the past. John Carlson on the back end will have a breakout season. Up front, I probably say that I am looking for Marcus Johansson to have a breakout season. He is at that age where he needs to get to the next level as a player, and he has the ability to do that.
What’s the key element the Caps have been missing that you bring to the job?
The big element I think that I bring is that I am a veteran coach. I am big on accountability, so they can play consistently. Getting a lot out of the potential that we have here is my strength.
Is this another “tough guy” year for Tom Wilson, or do you have plans to mold him into something more?
I had really high expectations for Tom, and he’s got a little bit of a setback with the major surgery on his ankle\, but I think he can be one of the top power forwards in the NHL given time.
Is it time to retire the shoot-out?
No, it’s time to add some things. We talked about the four on four; we talked about flipping sides so that the changes are longer. But I think it’s important that you have a winner in a game. The one pet peeve I do have is that all games should be worth the same. They should be worth three points, not necessarily two and sometimes one.
With the Winter Classic coming to home turf, how do you make it a motivator rather than it becoming a distraction?
I don’t think it is a distraction at all. I think from that standpoint, it is on my bucket list. It is on a lot of players’ bucket lists. You become the game that day and have maybe the biggest hockey audience of the year on that day. If that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will. It is a big stage. Big players want to have big stages, and we've got some big players.
What do you want—and not want—from the owner?
Number one is to show support through good times and bad times. That’s what ownership does the best. It can have the biggest impact. Obviously the ownership pays the bills and all of that, but you support the group together, and I think that is going to happen here. I love the ownership here.
What’s your favorite hockey movie?
It's got to be old-time Slap Shot. That is a classic. There are too many one-liners in that to not like the movie. Probably the second would be Miracle.
Who is your hockey hero and why?
Bobby Orr. I thought he was the greatest player of all time because he was so far ahead of the competition in his prime. I used to dream about being number four. I used to wear number four. Four has been my lucky number. I have four kids; it has been a really good number for me.
What is your favorite moment on the ice?
There are a couple. The first time I stepped behind the bench in Nashville. The first time I step on the bench in Washington will be a big moment. Big moments are always a first for me. Be it the first game or the first playoff win, they are all big moments for me.
If not the Caps, which Washington team would you want to coach?
I am going to say the Nats, and not just because they are really good right now. I was a Montreal Expos fan all my life, through the years of Andre Dawson, Warren Cromartie, Tim Raines, Gary Carter—all these different people who ended up moving and being the Nats. So I have to say the Nats.
Will the US ever consistently produce hockey players on par with Canada and Russia?
Absolutely; they are doing it now. USA is a powerhouse in the hockey world. They have the development program. If you look at the numbers, there are probably more people playing hockey in the United States now than in Canada. At the level they are teaching, the level the young players are playing . . . at high levels, I don’t see that dwindling. I just see it getting stronger and stronger.
A female professional hockey league has never quite taken off. Why is that?
It all depends. It is all about caliber of play. It is not about gender. To me, if the gender can get the caliber of play that high, to the level of the NHL, then it will succeed. If they can do that or not, I don’t know.
Are you more Baltimore or Washington?
That is a tough one for me, because I was in Baltimore and I lived in Baltimore. I love Washington because I am a big military guy, so I will say I am more of a Washington guy. The one area that I have always been a fan of is the Ravens and the culture they had, a take-no-prisoners type of culture. I always admired that. When I coached in Baltimore, I sort of followed the Baltimore teams, but that is . . . the only area I am a Baltimore guy.
Find Carol Ross Joynt on Twitter at @caroljoynt.
The uproar over the name of Washington’s NFL team has reached the level of a South Park lampooning. The Comedy Central cartoon picks up its 18th season Wednesday by spoofing the recent decision by the US Patent and Trademark Office to invalidate the team’s trademarks, which, in the show’s universe, gives license to foulmouthed fourth-grader Eric Cartman to use the team’s name and logo for his own purposes.
In a short clip released by Comedy Central on Sunday, Dan Snyder, head coach Jay Gruden, and hobbled quarterback Robert Griffin III confront Cartman in an office decked out in the football team’s imagery to complain that Cartman’s appropriation is “offensive” and “derogatory.” Cartman, of course, responds that he’s only using the name and logo out of an abundance of respect for Snyder and company. Where have we heard that kind of explanation before?
But don’t let Cartman’s trademark abuse be an example just yet: Even though the USPTO says that the Washington team’s name is a racial slur, the franchise’s trademark protections are still in place while it appeals the June decision.
Perhaps the most lasting image to come out of the Nationals' rowdy, boozy locker-room celebration after their division-clinching win over the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night was outfielder Bryce Harper sporting a firefighter’s helmet. But just how did an authentic piece of DC Fire Department equipment wind up in a Turner Field locker room, getting doused with beer and Champagne for nearly an hour after the game?
It started last Friday, when John Landi, a firefighter at Engine Company 17 at 49th and East Capitol streets, Northeast, heard from a friend that Harper sent out a tweet (since deleted), saying he was looking for a special favor.
“I got a hold of his representatives, and they told me he wanted a helmet for when they clinched,” Landi tells Washingtonian. “I did what I could. I had a helmet lying around from my collection.”
Harper’s spoken in the past about his admiration for emergency responders. During his rookie season in 2012, he said in response to a fan’s question about what he’d do if he wasn’t a baseball player that he’d “probably be a firefighter.”
The Nationals’ burning through the New York Mets before moving on to Atlanta and closing in on the division title didn’t leave Landi with much turnaround time to get Harper his helmet. Landi says he asked some of his colleagues to make a customized front piece for the helmet, a leather patch reading “DCFD 34 Harper.”
“All our front pieces are custom-made,” says Landi. “A lot of guys have their engine number or truck number. Some guys put their neighborhood, some people use their names. We just used his uniform number.”
The helmet and front piece were ready by Sunday, and Landi dropped it off with Harper’s assistant, who took it down to Atlanta, where it waited alongside the Nationals’ cases of celebratory beer and bubbly for the team to clinch.
“It was pretty cool knowing that I had a part in that,” Landi says. “All the DC firefighters were going nuts on Twitter and Facebook that he was wearing it.”
Harper doesn’t drink, but the helmet got plenty wet last night when the Nationals started pouring booze all over each other to mark their second division title in three years.
“It can hold up under fire so I'm sure the beer and Champagne didn't do much,” says Landi.
Yes, Bryce Harper did wear a firefighter helmet to celebrate Washington's division title and it is AWESOME! pic.twitter.com/f61YHWaVtk— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 17, 2014
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
At 8 Wednesday morning, as the players no doubt slept off the celebration of clinching the National League East division title the night before, the Washington Nationals team store at Nats Park was open for business. It will be open with extended hours Thursday and Friday, too. After all, what’s one of the first things loyal fans do after a clinch? Proudly wear the bragging rights, that's what.
Customers examined and bought shirts and hats (at approximately $30 each) that matched what the players wore after their victory in Atlanta against the rival Braves. Business appeared brisk, if not a mad rush. There’s time. The team is on the road until a home game against the Mets next Tuesday evening.
The store’s extended hours are from 8 AM to 8 PM. Saturday and Sunday it will open, as usual, at 10 AM and close in the afternoon. In stock are gray and white hats and gray T-shirts reading “Champions 2014.” Still expected in the store are women’s wear and hoodies, though some of those items are available already on the website. According to spokesperson Alexandra Schauffler, “More options will be coming the closer we get to postseason games.”
Find Carol Ross Joynt on Twitter at @caroljoynt.
A Capitol Hill press conference held Tuesday by several Native American groups campaigning against the name of Washington’s NFL team featured the reading of a strongly worded letter to the league's 31 other teams, a vow by Washington state Senator Maria Cantwell to cancel the league's tax- and trust-favored status, plus commitments to demonstrate outside football games, and claims that their movement to dump the dictionary-defined racial slur is growing. But the event only underlined six essential truths surrounding the franchise's name:
Dan Snyder's fellow owners aren't going to put pressure on him.
The NFL has much bigger problems right now than the Washington team’s name. And while changing the name might provide momentary distraction from Ray Rice, commissioner Roger Goodell's botching of Rice's case, Adrian Peterson, and the league's ongoing difficulty to address its players’ traumatic brain injuries, it wouldn't lessen the severity of those issues. Ray Halbritter, an Oneida Indian Nation leader who's been leading the year-old Change the Mascot campaign, said the name controversy is the easiest to deal with.
“The NFL is currently facing an integrity crisis,” Halbritter said. “The Washington team's name should be the simplest to fix.”
But that's a cynical and jaundiced assessment of the NFL. As long as he's still got his owners' backing, Goodell has bigger problems to deal with than one team's name.
Snyder's not going to change the name midseason.
Even if Snyder picked up a copy of the September issue and read our free advice for him, a name change isn’t going to be announced in the middle of the season. What are you going to drunkenly sing at games when Kirk Cousins upstages Robert Griffin III? “Hail to the TBDs”?
Not that Snyder is quieting down any time soon.
Snyder, in Hallbritter's words, is “deploying odious tactics” in his defense of his team’s name, from his Original Americans Foundation that gives undisclosed financial donations to needy tribal communities in exchange for token support to his RedskinsFacts.com website that attempts to whitewash the name controversy with evidence like William “Lone Star” Dietz’s questionable genealogy. In media appearances, Snyder has backed down from the days of his all-caps “NEVER,” but his ESPN interview earlier this month suggested no softening on the issue.
Strongly worded letters have rarely changed anything.
We can think of two missives in the history of recorded thought that have had their desired effect—Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” In the letter issued to NFL owners today, the Change the Mascot campaign seeks to make the entire league responsible for the Washington team’s name.
“The league is promoting this racial slur, with the resources of every team, including yours, which makes it a league-wide crisis,” the letter reads. “Indeed, Congress has granted the league tax-exempt status and anti-trust exemptions, in part, because it is a singular American institution—one in which you are a financial stakeholder.” And no body part in the NFL hurts quite like an owner’s wallet, right?
Congress will not revoke the NFL’s tax-exempt status.
Congress can't do anything right now. Though Cantwell's bill now makes two that threaten the league's tax-exempt status, she told reporters today that she's not interested in working with Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, sponsor of the other proposed legislation, because it's not focused purely on the team-name controversy. (Coburn wants to end the tax exemptions that all major professional sports leagues enjoy because of their structures as nonprofits owned by their franchises.) Cantwell's a Democrat seeking to raise her profile, Coburn's a grumpy Republican budget hawk. Why would they ever work together? “The NFL needs to join the rest of America in the 21st century,” Cantwell said, adding that her bill is intended only as punishment for Snyder’s team.
The federal government’s strongest play is one that could ultimately benefit Snyder.
Snyder is planning for his next stadium, and he’s already goading local jurisdictions to compete—through public funding—for where the team will play once it leaves FedEx Field. If he wants to knock down Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and build anew, he’ll need to go through the feds, who own the land there and lease it back to the District. There’s precedent there. Original owner George Preston Marshall’s avowed racism nearly got the team kicked out in 1962 when the Kennedy administration threatened it with eviction if it didn’t finally start signing African-American players. Cantwell said Snyder should expect the same if he tries to move the team back to DC without first changing its name.
“We would continue the precedent,” she said. If Snyder changes the name before breaking ground, he'll greatly increase his chances at a fat public subsidy from DC taxpayers.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
UPDATE, 9/17: The Nationals did, indeed, win against the Braves on Tuesday night. Read the original post below for what you need to know about scoring playoff tickets.
Brace yourselves, Washington: Nationals playoff hysteria is on the cusp of returning. If the Nationals dispatch the Atlanta Braves (and their fans’ odious Tomahawk Chop mantra) Tuesday night, Washington will win its second National League East Division title in three years and start fueling fever dreams of a Baltimore-Washington Parkway World Series. (The Orioles might also clinch their division tonight.)
With 13 games left after Tuesday, a win tonight would be the earliest time a Washington baseball team has clinched a postseason berth, beating the 2012 Nationals, wo clinched at least a wild-card spot on September 20, and the 1933 Senators, who won the American League on September 21. The 1924 Senators, the last Washington baseball club to win a World Series, didn’t clinch their league championship until that season’s second-to-last game on September 29 with a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.
Assuming the Nationals win eliminate the Braves from division contention, the Nationals are ready to start selling tickets to the National League Division Series, for which they’d host the first, second, and fifth games. (Games 1 and 2, scheduled for October 3 and 4, fall on Yom Kippur.) But the team is optimistic that it’ll be able to start selling playoff seat Monday starting at 10 AM. Here are the rules for buying postseason tickets:
- They will be for sale only online and over the phone at 888-632-6287. No advance sales at the Nationals Park box office.
- There's a four-ticket limit per order for each game.
- A limited number of standing-room-only tickets will be for sale at the stadium immediately before each game.
- Season ticket holders who renewed for 2015 before September 5 already got their postseason ticket strips; anyone buying a new 2015 season package can still get early access to buy playoff tickets.
Until Monday, see if our spooky math about the 90th anniversary of Washington’s last World Series victory panned out.
If you guessed that latest entity wanting to distance itself from Washington's NFL team would be an online store for independent craftspeople, you were correct. Etsy, the catalog of cute, kitschy, homemade wares says it will stop listing items that feature the name or logo of the Washington team.
In a blog post, Etsy says it was motivated by the US Patent and Trademark Office's June decision to cancel the team's trademarks because the name is a dictionary-defined racial slur against Native Americans.
"Like the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, we at Etsy find the opinion of the minority group itself to carry most weight in determining whether the mascot is disparaging," Bonnie Broeren, the company's policy manager, writes. "In no uncertain terms, Native American groups have consistently advocated and litigated that the term “redskin(s)” is disparaging and damaging to Native Americans. Therefore, it will no longer be permitted in our marketplace."
A quick search on Etsy for the Washington team yields nearly 1,600 items, most of which print the club's name or logo. Broeren writes that crafty fans can still sell items in the team's burgundy-and-gold color scheme provided they do not include the name or familiar logo, like this horned wool cap.
Before applauding Etsy for taking this stand, it's worth noting that the decision to take down listings for items featuring the Washington team's iconography could be doing Dan Snyder and company a favor. The team's trademarks are still in effect while it appeals the trademark board's decision, and Etsy is now willfully scouring unlicensed uses of those trademarks from its website.