The Washington Redskins are paying a team of high-profile consultants with ties to the Republican Party to advise the team on issues around its controversial name, a spokesperson for the team said in a statement to ThinkProgress on Friday. The spokesperson, vice president of communications Tony Wyllie, had previously denied that the team was paying the consultants when ThinkProgress learned of their involvement.
Emails obtained by ThinkProgress this week showed that the team consulted Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and former Republican governor and senator George Allen when asked about issues around the team’s name. Luntz runs Luntz Global, a communications firm. Fleischer runs Ari Fleischer Sports Communications. Allen, the brother of Redskins general manager and executive vice president Bruce Allen and son of former Redskins coach George Allen, runs the strategy firm George Allen Strategies.
“When I told you that the team we’re assembling to demonstrate why there is so much support for the Redskins name was not being compensated, I made a fundamental mistake — I did not check,” Wyllie said in an email statement Friday. “I was wrong and they are being compensated.”
Wyllie declined to offer specific details about the financial arrangements.
“Lanny is working with us,” Wyllie previously told ThinkProgress, referring to Lanny Davis, who served as a White House adviser under President Bill Clinton and has previously spoken publicly about his role with the team. “These other guys, they’re not working with us. …They’re not officially hired on.”
Wyllie originally confirmed that Luntz had worked with the Redskins when he conducted a focus group on behalf of the team in June 2013.
Luntz and Fleischer did not immediately return calls for comment about their involvement with the team. Allen did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.
Native American activists have fought to change the name of the Redskins for decades. The team’s name was the focus of a campaign spearheaded by activists and groups like the Oneida Indian Nation that sought to change the name of the team, which Oneida representative Ray Halbritter called a “dictionary-defined slur.”
This post has been updated from its original version.