To close out his MSNBC show on Thursday, Ed Schultz invited on a Native American social activist to discuss the push by liberals and sympathetic members of the sports media to force the NFL’s Washington Redskins to change their name.
In discussing recent supporters of the name in Sarah Palin and former NFL coach and player Mike Ditka, author and Native American activist Gyasi Ross smeared Ditka for being a “segregation-era football player who became, appropriately, a coach of – of a team – a team – an NFL team that was comprised largely of black players that he could dictate his will to.” [MP3 audio here; Video below]
In addition, he bashed Ditka with this additional comment: “There is a reason why Mike Ditka is not a football coach now and is a commentator and that’s because he can't take input from people of color.”
When asked by Schultz what it will “take to move the pendulum” to force the NFL to have Redskin’s owner Daniel Snyder change the team’s name, Ross suggested possible divestment campaigns against the team’s major sponsors and opined that Snyder is on desperate footing if he “is at the point where he’s asking for Mike Ditka and Sarah Palin to give him credibility on a topic that relates to social justice and race and ethnicity and Native Americans.”
Ross ended that comment by informing viewers that Ditka and Palin “have the combined cultural competency of Derek Zoolander and they’re going to say dumb things” and therefore Snyder and the Redskins name are in trouble.
Later, when asked why he thinks that the name has not yet been changed, Ross replied that individuals such as Ditka, Palin and Snyder "represent an antiquated and particularly crusty strain of white privilege that still thinks it’s very appropriate to speak for people of color and for Native people specifically."
On the topic of Ross having described Ditka as a “segregation-era player,” he played from 1961 to 1972, which placed the early years of his Hall-of-Fame career during the height of the civil rights movement. However, it is far from fair to link him to a decades-long policy of discrimination against African-Americans. No one describes U.S. presidents from, say, Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy as segregation-era presidents and neither should NFL players who simply happened to be alive and played at any point through the 1960s.
In addition to his absurd comments on Ditka being unable to “take input from people of color," it's appropriate to point out that he serves as a panelist on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown (which is a three-hour show during the NFL season) where four of his five fellow panelists are African American (with three of them having been with Ditka since he joined the panel in 2006). Also, his tenure as an NFL coach included leading the Chicago Bears to a title in Super Bowl XX in 1986.