Daniel Snyder, the owner of Washington’s football team, hasn’t found many allies in the political world when it comes to protecting the team’s controversial name. President Obama has said he’d consider dropping the “Redskins” name; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a lifelong Washington fan, is over it. The top Democrat and top Republican on the House Indian Affairs Committee oppose it. Other members of Congress have spoken out too.
Enter Rob Ford, the embattled Toronto mayor who seems to be a big NFL fan, given that he wore a necktie adorned with old-school NFL logos to the press conference in which he admitted using crack. Ford is still a fan of both the “Redskins” name and others like it.
“That’s ridiculous,” Ford said, according to the Toronto Sun. “What are we going to call the Cleveland Indians? The Cleveland Aboriginals next? Where do we start? The ‘Skins are the ‘Skins and I stick with the Washington Redskins.”
As Lauren Strapagiel from Canada.com wrote Wednesday, Ford has a checkered past with racial issues. He once referred to a football team he used to coach as “just a group of minorities” and allegedly called a foreign cab driver a “Paki.” In 2008, talking about successful Asian workers, he said, “Those oriental people work like dogs.”
So Rob Ford isn’t the foremost authority on racial and ethnic sensitivity. But while the mayor makes a convenient punching bag given his litany of current troubles, his view of the name controversy is the same one held by a majority of Americans, 79 percent of whom said they supported keeping the name in an Associated Press poll this year. That’s made it easy for Snyder and the NFL to remain steadfast in their support of keeping the name — Snyder said earlier this year that he would “NEVER” change it.
Public opinion, though, doesn’t make the name right, and Native American groups have intensified their campaign against the name this year, staging protests outside NFL stadiums, running radio ads during NFL games, and holding events in the nation’s capital. That has all brought attention from political figures and media outlets that has amplified their efforts, though there remains a long way to go to shift public opinion in their favor. But as they sit back and hope for this controversy to blow over the way it has in the past, I can only guess that Rob Ford, who just signed on to appear weekly on a Washington D.C. sports radio show, isn’t the ally the NFL and Snyder were looking for.