Hyperbolic ESPN Compares Redskin Name to Slavery and Opposing Jackie Robinson

Leaving no over-the-top comparison unused, ESPN's Bob Ley on Tuesday denounced the Washington Redskins name. Outside the Lines devoted an entire hour to a new poll showing overwhelming support for keeping the nickname. Unhappy with the result, Ley compared the word "Redskin" to slavery, Watergate and opposition to Jackie Robinson's entry into Major League Baseball. [UPDATED: See video below. MP3 audio here.]

After a discussion of how 71 percent of Americans don't want the team altered, the anchor fumed, "But you wonder what the polling back in the day would have been on the Emancipation Proclamation or letting that Robinson guy play with the Dodgers back in '47." After admitting that the controversy is a "media creation," Ley compared, "But so was Watergate when it first started...And 40 years after Richard Nixon left town with his playbook, nobody has a problem with the media's role." 

The anchor lectured that "the real mystery here is how the NFL allowed itself to be painted into a moral corner." How is the NFL "painted into a moral corner" when support for the Redskins name beats opposition, 71 to 23 percent? 

CBS This Morning highlighted the topic on Wednesday. Co-anchor Gayle King also portayed the new poll as some sort of victory: 

GAYLE KING: Seventy one percent support the name, but opposition is growing. Twenty three percent think that it should be changed. And that is up from eight percent from two decades ago. Some people say the name is just disrespectful of Native Americans.

The Washington Post on Wednesday also spun the new survey as bad news, insisting that the "majority" supporting the name "is shrinking." 

According to a 2014 Gallup poll, 23 percent of Americans consider themselves liberal. Considering the media attention the name change push has generated, it's not surprising that opposition has risen as more liberals become aware of the issue.  

ESPN's Bob Ley can be reached on Twitter here.

[Thanks to the MRC's Mike Ciandella for help with the video.] 

A transcript of the September 2 Outside the Lines segment is below: 


BOB LEY: As right as it is to change the team name, this issue is low-hanging fruit in the garden of outrage. This is easy to rally behind on either side, really, in our capital city, paralyzed by polarity, where anger for the camera is baked like doughnuts every morning. This is a free shot at a defenseless receiver coming across the middle for every columnist, blogger or opinion leader, whether or not his or her concern for American Indians extends beyond hitting on a 17 at one of their casinos. 

And Dan Snyder makes opposition easy, considering how he's dealt with the media and his fans. Is this all a media creation? Well, get in the way-back machine for that conference at the Smithsonian 18 months ago, a panel that included the passionate and the very diligent Mike Wise of the Washington Post, who has been beating the drum – oh, boy. That's going to be a problem– on this issue for years. That was just days after Roger Goodell was first asked about it at his Super Bowl press conference. 

So, is this a media creation? Of course it is. But so was Watergate when it first started, in the same town, incidentally. And forty years after Richard Nixon left town with his playbook, nobody has a problem with the media's role. Anything but. There are two ways to look at the polling we've been reporting tonight. That continuing, overwhelming support for the nickname may be resentment at expanding victimhood through an 80-year-old nickname when Native Americans, who have been treated shamefully through American history, have more real-life concerns. But you wonder what the polling back in the day would have been on the Emancipation Proclamation or letting that Robinson guy play with the Dodgers back in '47. 

No, the real mystery here is how the NFL allowed itself to be painted into a moral corner. This most powerful PR savvy of leagues didn't see this coming? Roger Goodell has doubled down on Dan Snyder's intransigence, but for all of Goodell's profile and $44 million annual package, Snyder is the one who owns the two and a half billion dollar package and he employs and pays Goodell. And Jerry Jones, who should know, says the other NFL owners will back Dan Snyder on this. Likely because it's a matter of principle. If popular sentiment can be ginned up to force a relatively cosmetic change in the NFL, then what next? Anti-trust exemption? Ticket pricing? That's the end game. Follow the money. That advice has a long history in Washington. Thanks for joining us.    

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org