May 1st, 2013 | By | Category: Featured Article

THE MAIN EVENT:Football Hypocrisy and Contradictions

THERE was at-large D.C. Councilman David Grosso on the evening news earlier this week, pontificating and promoting his resolution that advocates changing the Washington Redskins name. The freshman legislator proclaimed himself a “season ticket-holder”

“I go to every game with my brother. I like the team,” Grosso said. “I just don’t like the name. I think it’s racist and derogatory.”

I may not know an “off-side” from “pass interference,” but I am expert at spotting hypocrisy and walking contradictions.

The fight over whether “Redskins” is offensive and demeaning to Native Americans began long before the ever-popular Dan Snyder bought the team. But throughout the years, nothing much has happened.

Expect more of the same—except maybe Grosso will cause another controversy suggesting, the Redskins become the Redtails. That was the nickname for a famed squad of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of black pilots who served in World War II. A whole bunch of African Americans are not going to like insulting the legacy of those men, many of whom are now dead, by strapping their nickname onto a football team—especially a mediocre football team.

Grosso’s council resolution would not have the force of law, however. In other words, the legislature can’t mandate a name change.

Equally important, he and other protesters are essentially supporters and fans of the team. That resolution won’t stop them from proceeding with business as usual. This season, like the last, they will race to Fed-Ex Field for the home games. Or they will hold down a couch on any given Sunday or Monday to watch the scrimmage via television or computer.

Their disdain for a name isn’t more powerful than their addiction.

Decades ago, as a young girl, the folks in Montgomery, Alabama taught me how to behave when I wasn’t satisfied with a product or a service. Following Rosa Parks’ famous refusal to give up her seat on the bus to a white patron and her subsequent arrest, African Americans in that town decided to send a strong and consistent message.

They withheld their bus fare. They carpooled or walked to work, to the supermarket and other places.  Their sacrifice was great. But they understood economic power.

Years later, Randall Robinson, then-director of TransAfrica, working with several other groups, took small steps that eventually led to the release of Nelson Mandela while helping dismantle South Africa’s Apartheid regime and political system. Each day at Noon, a group of activists allowed themselves to be arrested. Meanwhile, students on college campuses across the country pushed those institutions to divest in any company doing business in South Africa. They were as successful in their effort as black citizens were in Montgomery.

So, why haven’t such tactics been deployed to effect a name change for the Washington Redskins?

The answer is easy: commitment. Grosso and others believe in symbolism. They talk a good game but have yet to prove themselves willing to make the sacrifices required to achieve their goal.

If Grosso and other council members want to go beyond their impotent resolution, they may want to stop talking and start acting.

They might consider refusing to buy any tickets to Redskins games. Certainly, they should abandon their status as season ticket holders, who are akin to investors. And, they may want to think about hitting the organization where it really hurts: advertisers.


Sideshows and Souvenirs

THIS week, city council Chairman Phil Mendelson, supported by several of his colleagues, introduced legislation that shifts the date, once again, for primary elections in the District. Only a few years ago, the legislature moved the date to April 1.

Then, it seemed like every April there was an election. That was only because the city became overrun with crooked elected officials who were forced to resign from office.

Now, facing an April 1 primary in 2014, legislators are intent on moving the date to June. Mendelson, who is up for reelection, has argued the change will help everyone, particularly challengers.

Raise your hand if you think Mendelson is trying to help his opponents.

With campaign bundler extraordinaire Jeffrey Thompson under federal investigation and out of the picture, there are clear indications finding campaign donors won’t be easy.  Consequently, Mendelson and his posse of so-called election reformers want to buy time. If last month’s special election was any indication, next year’s contests will be highly competitive.

That means more money, more money.


SOME critics of former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee started singing the ding dong song, after PBS education reporter John Merrow produced a memorandum written by an independent consultant suggesting there was widespread cheating on standardized tests in 2008. Rhee had arrived in 2007 and became the city’s first chancellor under the new mayoral controlled governance structure.

The choir thought Merrow’s article would end Rhee’s reign as national education reform queen. Sure, she was forced to stand before microphones and reporters to provide some kind of response to his indictment.  But District elected officials opted not to open another investigation, despite the fact the one conducted by the city’s inspector general was flawed.

What’s done is done, was the mantra offered by at-large Councilman David Catania.  He already had introduced legislation that would make cheating a crime with serious penalties. And education leaders, guided by the IG, had proposed a new protocol designed to prevent or minimize cheating.

Then, as if to make clear Rhee isn’t going anywhere, the Walton Family Foundation invested $8 million over the next two years to StudentsFirst. That’s the organization she started after she left the District in 2010.

“Across the county, millions of students are now empowered with the opportunity to choose strong publicly funded schools of all types – public charter schools, traditional district schools and private schools serving students on publicly funded vouchers and tax credit scholarships. But due to the overly restrictive education policies in many states, too many parents still do not have the chance or the power to choose from great education options for their kids, “ the foundation said in its press announcement released earlier this week. “We want that to change.”

The foundation asserted Rhee and her organization are “well-positioned to help shape education policies across many states that will give power to more parents to choose among high-quality school options.”

And so, the ding dong choir will have to wait another day. (You can read more about our investment here.)


NEWS ALERT: The council’s Committee on Education, chaired by David Catania, will hold a public hearing Thursday May 2 on DCPS 2014 budget. Chancellor Kaya Henderson is scheduled to appear. How will she explain her summer school policy to admit by “invitation” only 2,700 students out of the 7,700 DCPS has described as “struggling?” Tune in at 10 AM on District Cable Channel 13.


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One Comment to “THE BARRAS REPORT”

  1. Denise Slaughter says:

    Dear Jonetta,
    Just another note to say thanks for keeping an eye and ear on the truth, and reading between the lines for the other insights that make your articles so good. The “gut feeling” I have about lots of issues are corroborated in the substance of your research and connections. Anyway, I appreciate your intellect and your skillful writing.
    Best regards,

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