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ThinkProgress: Team brings in big guns to save racist mascot

Filed Under: National | Politics | Sports
More on: dc, football, mascots, media, racism, redskins

The owner of the Washington professional football team has enlisted prominent Republican lobbyists and former politicians in his bid to keep a racist mascot:
For most of the four decades that the fight had raged, the Redskins felt little need to respond to their critics. That’s changed dramatically. But that doesn’t mean that the team is taking the allegations about its name to heart. To the contrary, the Redskins’ position has hardened, both in Snyder’s public remarks, and in private discussions about how to respond to inquiries about the controversy.

Emails obtained by ThinkProgress reveal that the team consulted with a group of high-profile Republican advisers, some of whose involvement with the team has not been previously reported, about how to handle this reporter’s questions about the organization’s approach to the campaign to change the team’s name.

Included in the email chain were Frank Luntz, the Republican messaging consultant famous for phrases like “climate change” and “death tax”; Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary under George W. Bush from 2001 and 2003 and now runs a consulting firm called Ari Fleischer Sports Communications; George Allen, the former Virginia governor and U.S. senator who now runs the consulting firm George Allen Strategies; and Bruce Allen, George Allen’s brother and the organization’s general manager and executive vice president. Both Allens are the son of former Redskins head coach George Allen. The web sites for neither Fleischer nor Luntz’s firms include client lists. The Redskins’ vice president of communications, Tony Wyllie, confirmed that while Luntz had conducted a focus group on behalf of the team, he has not been paid for other work with the Redskins, and that Fleischer and George Allen’s firm do not have contracts with the team. Fleischer, Luntz, and George Allen had not responded to requests for confirmation at press time.

But the fact that the men participated in the email chain at all is revealing. Last summer, when ThinkProgress first reported Luntz’s involvement in the team’s efforts to focus group the name, the Redskins and Luntz declined to confirm that Luntz or his firm, Luntz Global, were involved in the project.

The email chain shows that after this reporter requested comment on a number of issues related to the Redskins name and claims made by its opponents, Wyllie forwarded the email to Luntz, Fleischer, and the Allens. George Allen’s response is the first included in the chain, and it suggests that the team reiterate its story about changing its name to honor Lone Star Dietz, even though the team can’t prove its claims.

“The point was that the Redskins owner at the time obviously believed that Lone Star Dietz was a Native American and named the team to honor Native Americans and be motivated by their heritage,” Allen, whose 2006 Senate campaign was marked by allegations about his use of racially charged language, wrote. “All the other aspects of the story about Lone Star’s adoption and other intrigue and speculation is undoubtedly beyond our ability to discern as to its veracity.”

“We don’t need to comment on all of these ignorant requests,” Bruce Allen wrote in response. “Tell reporter to call the family of the College Hall Of Fame Coach Dietz and ask them this insulting question.”

“I agree,” Fleischer responded, “not [sic] need to answer any more questions or waste any more time with this outfit.”

Get the Story:
Travis Waldron: The Epic Battle To Save The Most Offensive Team Name In Professional Sports (ThnkProgress 1/30)

Also Today:
Why The Redskins’ Secret Roster Of Republican Advisers Matters (ThnkProgress 1/30)
Football Insider: NFLPA’s DeMaurice Smith says ‘broad discussion’ of Redskins’ name is appropriate (The Washington Post 1/30)

Related Stories:
Oneida Nation leader meets UN official over racist mascot (1/24)

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