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Hush Money and Ransom: An Open Letter to Dan Snyder, the Idiot

The name of the Washington Redskins football team doesn't bother Gyasi Ross. But Dan Snyder's attempt to buy Indian country's silence does.
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"Why me?"
"Because you buy your way out of trouble. You're a payer. You did it once, and now you're gonna do it again."
Jimmy Shaker, Ransom


I'm a movie nerd. So I wanna start this letter with a short review of one of my favorite movies.


There's a Mel Gibson movie called Ransom, wherein a corrupt cop steals Mel Gibson's kid. It's a compelling movie because I think all parents have had nightmares about that scenario and try to think through what they would do in that hypothetical. Terrifying. Plus, Mel Gibson plays the crazy white boy like nobody else (and in light of his various outbursts, it may be art imitating life).

The thing about it is that Mel Gibson, in the movie (as in real life), doesn't necessarily have clean hands. In fact, he admits (to the FBI, no less) that his company's workers were about to strike and so he gave the union president hush money to call off a strike. Turns out, the union president went to jail while Mel Gibson's character escaped prosecution. That is why Jimmy Shaker, the corrupt cop, refers to him as a "payer"—he's a rich boy who thinks that money is his eternal "Get Out of Jail Free" card, allowing him to do bad stuff with impunity and get away with it.


Danny, as the owner of the Washington Redskins, you've been catching hell over your refusal to change the Redskins' name (many people think it's racist, including a lot of Natives). On Monday night you announced that you will start a foundation to benefit Native Americans. You said that the foundation will give a good amount of money to fight very real problems within our communities such as suicide. It's called the "Original Americans Foundation."

Here's the thing: I, like a lot of other Natives, don't give a damn about the Washington Redskins or mascots or any of that. There are absolutely MORE IMPORTANT things to worry about that MOST of the Natives who constantly complain about the Redskins and mascots (yet don't live amongst other Native people or work in our communities) don't see. That's because MOST of those adamantly anti-mascot Natives don't live within our communities (of course there are SOME who do live in our communities, but in our home territories, there are plenty of Native-themed mascots that a lot of us Natives love very, very much. We are proud of them and those folks who want to get rid of all Native mascots definitely don't speak for us).

There are PLENTY of Natives, like me, who don't take subjective offense to the name or to the concept of Native mascots generally.

That doesn't mean, however, that objectively ANY other vulnerable ethnic group (Black folks, Hispanics, Arabs, Jews) would be fair game to be the subject of a mascot. We recognize that.

You wouldn't do this with anybody else. It's a disparate treatment thing. Even if I am (or other Natives are) not subjectively offended by the word "Redskin," you cannot take my individual lack of offense and say that it applies to an entire race of people. To wit, Jay-Z titling a song "Jigga My Nigga" (or "nigger"—tomato/tomahto) shows that Jay-Z is DEFINITELY not offended by the word "nigga/nigger." Yet, Danny, I don't think you would EVER argue that ol' Jay-Z's lack of offense at the word "nigga/nigger" can be applied to his entire race, and is therefore permission for you to use that despicable word.

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'Holding On (Oil On Chief Mountain)' by John Isaiah Pepion, 2014,

Or would you? Dan Snyder, are you going around saying "Nigger" too?

But I digress.

Anyway, despite my lack of subjective concern about the Redskins/mascots topic, Danny, you're a freakin' idiot. Good gawd you are a stupid white man—you make George Bush look like a Yale grad. Your strategery is the stuff of Pickett's Charge or Little Big Horn—arrogance and power are a dangerous thing for your own cause.

Alright Dan, my Jewish brother, I'm gonna school you up on some of the incredibly stupid things that you're doing. To re-invoke Jay-Z, "I'll show you how to do this, son." Because you're doing it all wrong. Here's the thing: like Mel Gibson in Ransom, you're a privileged and VERY rich white man who pays his way out of all the stupid stuff that you do. Cool. If I were rich or white, I might do the same thing. BUT, if you're going to pay hush money, there's a way to do it—you gotta at least try to do it kinda slick. Like Mel Gibson in Ransom—the FBI didn't know it until he (stupidly) admitted it!!! So here's a few things that you're doing wrong:

1) You generally don't want to have press releases and web pages dedicated to hush money…that's just dumb. Announcing that you're starting this foundation dedicated to Native people simply brings attention that you're PLAINLY trying to buy us off. It COULDA maybe worked if you had simply started doing some work within our communities on the low and tried to build some credibility. But to announce it beforehand with no coalitions being built? Now, just like any other ethnic group, we're pretty sharp even if not every one of our members is brilliant. But…c'mon Dan, we're smarter than this and smarter than you—we're not falling for the banana in the tailpipe. Dummy.

2) Furthermore, when a person takes corrective action, it usually indicates that they felt something was wrong which they had to correct. Otherwise, why take the corrective action, right? So here, if you didn't think that the word "Redskins" was offensive, then why the hell doesn't your press release say your foundation will help "Redskins"?? Makes sense, right? But no, instead you choose the MUCH MORE politically correct term, "Original Americans." Why? Because you know you done effed up. Dummy.

3) Finally, your actions are just overall transparent—you reek of a privileged white man who has enough money to cover his tracks. I'm not going to say that you've committed actual crimes and got out of them because of your money but…it wouldn't surprise me. You're USED to being able to pick on Natives, or women or Black folks or Homosexuals. You're USED to getting away with it after you pick on us and do repugnant isht. We see that. We smell it on you every single time you talk. Dummy.

Here's the thing, Dan—I'm predisposed NOT to care about this fight. I live and work and serve within my community, unlike many of those deeply invested into this whole "Redskins" fiasco, and I'm honest enough to admit that we DO need the fiscal help that you could bring. HOWEVER…you're insulting our collective intelligence, trying to make us look like stupid-a** Indians. Now, because of your utter stupidity and arrogance, you're starting to make even MORE Natives AND non-Natives dislike you and want to see your (and the Redskins') inevitable undoing. Read this. Do yourself a favor. Quit making it so easy. You're no Mel Gibson, Danny.

Oh yeah, by the way, the Redskins are gonna suck AGAIN next year.

Go Seahawks. 

'Holding On (Oil On Chief Mountain)' by John Isaiah Pepion, 2014,

Gyasi Ross
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories
New Book, How to Say I Love You in Indian—order today!!
Twitter: @BigIndianGyasi