There’s no question that this has, by virtually every measure, been a terrible NFL season for off the field issues. It would be hard for anyone to dispute this. The bigger indiscretions which dominated the headlines were mentioned as part of a four minute rant by ESPN’s Keith Olbermann in which he mentioned the reasons for why he doesn’t care about and will not watch this year’s Super Bowl. Here is the quote specific to these issues (said sarcastically, of course):
“Support the National Football League which brought you Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and Ray McDonald and the racist team name in Washington and Roger Goodell, and all of them just this season.”
Olbermann is correct when identifying that the infractions committed by Rice, Peterson and McDonald were confined to this past year. Certainly the NFL didn’t “bring us” Goodell in that time. He has been the acting commissioner of the NFL since 2006. But I’d imagine that he’s referring to Goodell’s well documented botching of the Rice aftermath. So that at least fits. But to claim that the NFL “brought us…the racist team name in Washington…just this season” is pretty misleading.
The Washington Redskins were first established as a team in 1932. So if the nickname is truly racist, as Olbermann clearly believes it is, then it has been racist ever since then. The nickname did encounter some new opposition this season as both football studio personalities Tony Dungy and Phil Simms claimed they would no longer use the word “Redskin.” In addition, retired NFL referee Mike Carey said he didn’t work games involving the Redskins because he felt the term was “disrespectful.” But opposition from new sources hardly means that the team’s allegedly racist nickname somehow burst onto the scene this season above all others the same way that the Rice, Peterson and McDonald assaults did.
It doesn’t appear that Olbermann is so ignorant as to actually believe that Washington’s professional football team either didn’t have this nickname until this season or that somehow, the nickname wasn’t racist until this season. In the same video, he talks about how he has worked for NBC Sports and Fox Sports in addition to ESPN. Clearly, this overlapped with the Redskin’s existence that has spanned from 1932 until the present.
So why then does Olbermann falsely claim that the NFL “brought us” this “racist team name” during this season specifically? Well, notice how he places it strategically in the midst of other horrible occurrences that plagued the league this year. This is, of course, meant to stir up emotion about actual crimes of violence that took place either during the year or in the off season. Then, with you in this emotional state, Olbermann cleverly places a controversial issue he feels passionately about but has been an ongoing issue for a long time amidst these violent crimes. Perhaps he hopes that without actually thinking about it, his viewers will lump a controversial team name that has been in existence for over 80 years with women and children being beaten and act like they all somehow culminated in the same season when they clearly didn’t.
Sadly, Olbermann still could have mentioned the ongoing Redskins name saga along with the aforementioned instanced of violence as something that continuously acted like a thorn in the side of the league. But where he went so wrong was to present the name controversy as something that was specific to this NFL season when it is certainly not. All of us who follow the NFL can expect to hear more about this controversy as the years go on. What Olbermann said could have been accurate if he were to say something like this:
“Support the National Football League which brought you Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and Ray McDonald all just this season. Plus, you can throw in the league’s ongoing drama with the racist team name in Washington.”
There’s nothing technically wrong with that statement (for the record, I’m not claiming that the Redskin’s name is offensive or not as I will save that for a future article). No implying that the nickname’s controversy was initiated this year or that the alleged racism of the name became an issue during this specific NFL season above all others.
Hopefully Olbermann’s future rants will be a little less misleading. I know, since it’s Keith Olbermann we’re talking about, this may be a little too much to ask.