Now he's catching it from his own father-in-law, Bob Burns, an elder of the Blackfeet tribe of Montana. The man is none-too-pleased.
Reilly claimed Burns didn't think much of the idea of changing the team's name, even though more and more people—Indian or not, and including a cohort of other sportswriters—have decided a switch is overdue. Here's Reilly using his father-in-law as cover:
"The whole issue is so silly to me," says Bob Burns, my wife's father and a bundle holder in the Blackfeet tribe. "The name just doesn't bother me much. It's an issue that shouldn't be an issue, not with all the problems we've got in this country."Except that Burns doesn't believe that at all. He's points out as much in an article he wrote for Indian Country Today, the nation's oldest existing pan-Indian news outlet. You should read the entire piece because it goes to the heart of who Burns is. But here's the crux for the immediate issue:
I’ve spent a lifetime humbly working to learn, to preserve, to teach and to help us to remember who we are as a distinct people.Burns speaks truth for so many of us.
So you can imagine my dismay when I saw my name and words used to defend the racist Washington Redskins name. My son-in-law, ESPN’s Rick Reilly, completely misunderstood the conversation we had, quoting me as saying “the whole issue is so silly. The name just doesn't bother me much. It's an issue that shouldn't be an issue, not with all the problems we've got in this country."
But that’s not what I said.
What I actually said is that “it’s silly in this day and age that this should even be a battle —if the name offends someone, change it.” He failed to include my comments that the term “redskins” demeans Indians, and historically is insulting and offensive, and that I firmly believe the Washington Redskins should change their name.
When Rick’s article came out, it upset me to be portrayed as an “Uncle Tom” in support of this racial slur. I asked him to correct the record. He has not, so I must do it myself.
I grew up seeing store signs in the nearby town of Cutbank that read “No dogs or Indians allowed.” Our Indian families who live on reservations continue to feel the sting of racism. I could never support the term “redskins” because we know first-hand what racism and ignorance has done to the Blackfeet people. Our people grew up hearing terms like nits, dirty redskins, prairie nigger, savages, heathens, lazy Indians and drunks —all derogatory terms used to label us. It is better today, but the underlying mentality is still there or obviously people would change the name.
“Redskins” is part of that mentality from colonial times when our men, women and children were hunted by soldiers and mercenaries who were paid for the scalps of our men, women and children. How can anyone claim this is a proud tradition to come from? The labels, racism and hatred our people continue to experience are directly tied to those racial slurs.
Let me be clear: The racial slur “redskins” is not okay with me. It’s never going to be okay with me. It’s inappropriate, damaging and racist.
In the memory of our Blackfeet relatives, it’s time to change the name. That would honor us.
If the family gets together for Thanksgiving (aka National Day of Mourning) or on American Indian Heritage Day this year up at the steakhouse Burns owns in Browning, Montana, the conversation should be really interesting.