Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Legacy You Do Not Want to Continue: An Open Letter To Dan Snyder

Dear Mr. Snyder:

I write in response to your often stated sentiment of the proud heritage and history of our Washington Football team. It seems to me you are being very selective in your expression of historical pride. What about the historical shame of our team? Are you embracing that as well? After all, you must know that:
  • Washington was the last NFL team to integrate because George Preston Marshall, owner and President, was the leading opponent to including African Americans in the NFL and on his roster. 
  • Marshall famously said, "We'll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites." Marshall was apparently unaware that, in the early days, owner Abe Saperstein was also a substitute for the team and that Bob Karstens was signed by the Globetrotters in 1943.
  • Washington integrated in 1962 only because then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Interior Secretary Stewart Udall threatened to revoke the 30-year lease of D.C. Stadium (now Robert F. Kennedy Stadium). And, 
  • the foundation that bares Preston's name cannot use any of its funds to support or employ "the principle of racial integration.."
I, of course,  am not the first writer or lover of sports to point out to you these items and more. One of the most thoughtful pieces I remains, not surprisingly, by Dave Zirin and Zach Zell.  

So, I pose questions to which I do not know the answer and you may not have considered. From one Jew to another, I ask: 
  • Do you, Dan Snyder, really want to continue this horrible, soul wrenching legacy? 
  • Do you fully understand that historical pride is one of the underlying assumptions that has caused, and continues to cause, most of the horrific acts in human history? 
  • Is the legacy of your inaction for the sake of "historical pride" what you want to leave for your children, your children's children and your children's children's children? 
  • Most importantly, if the name is the source of pride and celebration as you claim, would you say to someone of American Indian or indigenous heritage, "Hello R*ds**n!"? Or, if you could not recall their name, would you ask "What was the name of that R*ds**n (guy or gal) we met the other day?"
I hope the answer to at least one of the above questions is "no" and that the answer is loud enough that you will be prompted to take corrective action. I also hope that your love for your children will give you pause to consider what your actions say to them about bias and prejudice. I can only hope that the Holy One, Blessed be the One, has enough of your mind, enough of your heart and enough of your soul that you are compelled to be the transformative agent of change the moment, the issue needs.

Sabrina Sojourner

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