In 2006, Ben Tribbett was the blogger who took Virginia Sentator George Allen to task over the use of a racial slur; now he's being paid by the Washington Redskins to sell the idea that the team's name isn't one. And some tweets he sent in 2010 may come back to haunt him.
First, about the hire: It was strange, for so many reasons. Tribbett really made the George Allen/"macaca" scandal happen. In case you don't remember -- here's the video:
That's George Allen, an incumbent Republican Senator, at a campaign event in 2006. He is calling the person holding the camera -- S.R. Sidarth, an Indian American born in Virginia -- "macaca." When the clip surfaced, it was puzzling, but perhaps not damning. What's a macaca? It wasn't a term people had heard; indeed it seemed like it might be simply the (ok, racist) verbal fumblings of a privileged white guy trying to be funny. Tribbett had to sell it as an actual slur.
Another strange thing: George Allen, the man whose political career Tribbett ended, is the brother of Bruce Allen, General Manager of the Washington Redskins.
But back to 2006, and "macaca" -- on his politics blog Not Larry Sabato, Tribbett hammered George Allen, repeatedly, for using the word. Tribbett's blog has been all but deleted, but using an online archive called The Wayback Machine, Frances Danger has been able to peruse certain saved posts, including the one in which Tribbett concludes that "macaca" is indeed a slur. For proof, Tribbett linked to a list of racial slurs at the site Nationmaster.com (also archived at Wayback Machine). The same Nationmaster page that listed "macaca" as a slur also listed "redskin." (check out this post on Frances Danger's Kinja page to see her detective work.)
So when the mission was to take down George Allen, the list of slurs at Nationmaster was authoritative and damning. Eight years later, Tribbett is defending a word from the same list.
Tribbett blogged repeatedly about what turned out to be a history of questionable comments and behavior by George Allen. But he didn't limit himself to Allen and "macaca" -- when he thought he'd found a Democrat using a slur, he posted about it. When Tribbett felt the Allen campaign might be using an anti-Semitic symbol (a lightning bolt), Tribbett, who is Jewish, blogged about it. At one point he says, in boldface text: "Racial slurs are not funny things to joke about." Tribbett in 2006 just does not seem like the sort of person who would take a job defending the Redskins name.
But political blogging is an insincere medium -- more insincere even than sports blogging. People will say anything if they think it will get their candidate elected. Did Tribbett care about racism in 2006? Was he really offended by George Allen's use of "macaca"? We again tip our cap to Frances Danger for noticing the Twitter widget in the archived Not Larry Sabato blog. These are Tweets (still live here, here and here) written by Tribbett in 2010, from a gambling table in a Las Vegas casino:
"An older native american guy just accused me of cheating and pulled some stuff out of his pocket to put some kind of spell on me. Epic. ... 100 into 500. #cursefail ... Just took Chief for his last 300. I'd call it a scalping but that seems uncalled for."
This is the guy the Redskins have hired to sell the idea that the team's name "honors" Native Americans. We score this one another fumble by Redskins management.
To read more about Tribbett, including some quotes from him on his new job, see the BuzzFeed article "The Weirdest Conceivable Twist In The Fight Over Washington’s NFL Team Name".