You want them to change the name? Hit the NFL in the wallet: boycott the Washington Redskins broadcasts #RedskinsPride

The management of the Washington Redskins has asked fans to tweet their #RedskinsPride to Sen. Harry Reid and tell him just what the team name means to them, as a PR campaign response to the letter from Reid and 49 other Democratic Senators who wrote letters last week to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him and the league to endorse a name change by the Redskins.

What could possibly go wrong? Twitter, that’s what. The hashtag was hijacked by an overwhelming majority of protestors who told Harry Reid exactly what the team name meant to them: racism. As I said in an earlier post,

It is troubling that owner Dan Snyder, a person who made his fortune in marketing and product positioning, can’t figure out how to position his organization better.

But venting on Twitter is not going to get the team owners to change their stance on changing the name. For them to do that, it has got to cost them more to keep the name than to change it. To get that to happen, you have got to Continue reading

When headlines undermine news content: Detroit, abortion rates, poverty, and Third-World references

The bold story headline: “Doctor: Detroit abortion stats ‘like some Third World country'”

The quote: “We’re seeing a picture that looks more like some Third-World country than someplace in the United States,” said Dr. Susan Schooley, chairwoman of the Department of Family Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital.

The meme: “Third-World” as code for “African”.

The article: policy advocacy, or selling news?

The Detroit News published a provocative article this week about abortion rates in Detroit. The facts may be true (I would still want to verify them), but is the article being truthful in its presentation? Yes, technically, the abortion rate in Detroit as calculated is similar to that in some developing countries. But at 37.9%, one could also say that it is similar to the 2008 rates in Latin America (32%) or Asia (28%), or that it’s better than (gasp!) Europe in the 1990s (48%). However, presenting the information that way wouldn’t Continue reading

Getting it right but missing the whole picture: the coverage of NBA Los Angeles Clippers owner Don Sterling’s racist remarks

Yes, we can say with near-certainty that Los Angeles Clippers basketball team owner Don Sterling is a racist. You don’t even have to believe that the audio tape published by TMZ is in fact Sterling talking (but it sure does sound like him); there have been other lawsuits alleging discrimination, such as the 2009 wrongful termination lawsuit by the Clippers’ general manager, African-American Elgin Baylor, who claimed that Sterling said he wanted the team to be composed of “poor black boys from the South and a white head coach” (the suit was later dropped), and, that same year, the settlement of a Justice Department lawsuit alleging discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (this article provides a good picture of the Slumlord Billionaire), which was the largest housing discrimination settlement ever obtained by the Justice Department. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But this latest example has had the effect of focusing attention on Sterling’s entire racist oeuvre, along with the question of the scope of legal and moral responsibility to the public that a sports team and a league might have.

Predictably, politics has entered it, with some Republican pundits trying to confuse and defuse the Cliven Bundy issues by tying the two racists together to cancel them out, shouting that Democrats are keeping quiet about Sterling’s racism because he’s a Democrat! Democrat pundits shout: no, wait, Sterling’s a Republican! Others chime in: no, wait, he contributes to both parties!

This issue has nothing to do with partisan politics or Continue reading

Equal opportunity offense: Washington Redskins, a humor parody that wasn’t, and #hashtagactivism

updated 5/28 re: Native Americans: As I said earlier….

Slate’s Dave Weigel wrote today that If you managed to avoid the Internet last night, you missed a crash course in hashtag activism.” Yes, I did. I had better things to do, like declaring a news-free night and nostalgically leafing through some of my food porn cookbook collection. (We’ll talk about that another time.)

But today I’ve got nothing better to do than to vent my spleen on trivia. (Well, actually, that’s not true. I have a stack of things-to-do that are carefully leaned up against each other in dynamic isometric nonmovement. If I moved one, another would demand attention…then another…and another…and eventually the whole stack would vanish – poof! – and then I would have to wander aimlessly, searching for purpose  and meaning, or finally start binge-watching The Newsroom. –Wait! I can put that on the to-do stack. The pressure’s back on; I feel better already.)

So, what’d I miss? Something something Washington Redskins name offensive; something something foundation Native Americans; something Colbert parody; Suzy somebody-or-other gets offended, gets her #HASHTAG up, gets either interviewed or ignored (start at 32:00) then gets really offended; something something #MOREHASHTAG #takingittothetwitterstreets; people getting all #tweetdefensive with their mile-wide and inch-deep #USELESSHASHTAGOUTRAGE and racist/sexist hate, rapeand death threats; and…um…what were we tweeting about again? Continue reading