When it comes to the ongoing “Redskins” name-change controversy, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree for one well-connected family.
Seth Davis, a basketball reporter for CBS Sports and a Sports Illustrated writer, posted a flurry of tweets in recent days supporting a column by ESPN’s Rick Reilly in which Reilly made several arguments supporting his belief that the name honors American Indians. Reilly, despite much readily available contrary evidence, wrote that he believes the main people who are outraged by the name are white sports reporters and columnists. To back up that claim, he reported that his father-in-law, a Blackfeet Nation citizen, doesn’t mind the name, but his father-in-law, Bob Burns, has since told Indian Country Today Media Network that Reilly misrepresented his views, and he does indeed feel ‘Redskins' is offensive and should not be used.
Despite the holes in Reilly’s thesis, Davis wholeheartedly agreed with it, linking to the Reilly column and writing on Twitter September 19, “Unless I missed it I don’t see a groundswell of protest from Native Americans against ‘Redskins.’”
Indeed, Davis “missed it” by ignoring American Indian protests of the names that started as early as the 1950s and continued to this week with a well-attended D.C. symposium sponsored by the Oneida Indian Nation. Oneida Nation Enterprises is the parent company of ICTMN.
Until recently, Davis also missed the opportunity to disclose to his 150,000-plus Twitter followers that his dad, Lanny Davis, has been working for the past few months for Daniel Snyder, owner of the team, as a crisis manager and lawyer as pressure has intensified for Snyder to change the name. On October 9, a few weeks after a Twitter user asked him if he was biased in this situation, Davis linked to a Washington Post article that highlights a recent radio interview with Lanny Davis, in which the lawyer explains his relationship with Snyder. “This is why I am so proud to be the son of @LannyDavis. Agree or not, he speaks respectfully and with civility,” Seth Davis tweeted.
Lanny Davis has been in the news a lot lately on this matter. Last weekend, he criticized President Obama for saying he’d think about changing the name if he owned the team. The former lawyer for President Clinton argued, in part, that there are many other professional sports team that have Indian mascots and names, so why should the Redskins be singled out? Rush Limbaugh has since given kudos to Lanny Davis for that argument, saying on his radio show, in part, “[P]aleface Lanny Davis has been hired by Daniel Snyder, which is a smart hire, by the way.” Lanny Davis failed to note that Native Americans have long been decrying being used as mascots beyond the Redskins for decades, which is one major reason why so many colleges and high schools have changed their names and logos in recent years.
Seth Davis, writing on Twitter over the last month, has been parroting his dad: “I’d love to see the argument that says I won't type ‘Redskins’ but I'll type Braves, Indians, Chiefs, etc.” he wrote in addressing editors and reporters who have decided not to refer to the Washington football team by its offensive name. This is a personal issue for him, having been born and raised in the Washington, D.C. metro region. He admits as much on Twitter, referring to the team as “[m]y Redskins.”
The son, like his father, omitted mentioning that many Native Americans are offended by those names, too. Suzan Shown Harjo, an American Indian activist who has battled the team’s trademark for decades, argues that ‘Redskins’ is probably the most egregious, since it’s defined by dictionaries as a racial epithet, and she has long concurrently noted that Native-themed franchises nationwide are problematic.
Does selective amnesia run in the Davis family? We don’t know for sure, because both men have not responded to requests for comment.
Scott Novak, a spokesman for Sports Illustrated, said the publication is comfortable with Seth Davis’ October 9 disclosure of his dad’s relationship with Snyder, but he wouldn’t say whether Seth Davis should have disclosed this relationship earlier when he was making the pro-‘Redskin’ tweets last month. “Seth’s a lifelong Washington sports fan expressing his opinion,” Novak said. “His followers understand that and are aware he's a proud son of Lanny Davis.”
A CBS Sports spokeswoman also said they are looking into the situation when asked if they believe Seth Davis should have disclosed earlier on his journalistic Twitter account, which notes his work affiliations, that his dad has been representing the team.
Seth Davis still holds out the slim possibility that he may one day see the light on this issue. After several readers pointed out problems in his pro-‘Redskins’ arguments, he tweeted on September 19, “If certain writers don't want to use a name they find offensive I absolutely respect that. But I’m as PC as they get, and I ain’t there yet.”
Maybe he’ll get there after his dad stops working for the team.