An Open Letter to Al Michaels
Dear Mr. Michaels,
I’m not a Native American. I never thought about the Redskins name thing until this whole controversy started, and frankly, I never felt that strongly about the issue. But then I heard your recent comments on “The Howard Stern Show” and I was astounded that you, a legend in broadcasting, could be so insensitive. It seemed Howard wasn’t too fond of what you said either, and when the man who hosts a game called “Anal Ring Toss” thinks YOU might be the insensitive one, you should probably listen up.
Howard brought up your disagreement with Bob Costas over his decision to speak out against the Redskins name during a game last year. You said:
“When people tune in to watch the game, they want to watch the game, and anything else is a distraction.”
Let me ask you: If the play-by-play announcer goes on a major radio show and shares his biased views on the subject, couldn’t THAT be a distraction? I think so, because when I now hear your voice, I am constantly reminded of your comments.
Look — I know you did everything you could to avoid giving Howard your opinion. I get it. Play-by-play guys are supposed to be objective. Unless someone’s beating a bunch of commies in hockey, there’s no reason for you to take sides. But there’s one side you should always be on, and that’s the side of logic. Let me start with this observation you made:
“The name of this team was the name of this team for over 50 years before people started to say, ‘This is now derogatory.’”
Do you need me to give you a play-by-play of American History? Here’s how it went: The Native Americans had home field advantage and we killed them in a blowout. If there’s one group of people our country has routinely ignored, it’s Native Americans. Forget football or baseball, ignoring Native Americans is basically our national pastime! For decades, I bet many of them have been offended by the Redskins name, but nobody could hear their protests because we were too busy bulldozing their land. To ask the question, “Why didn’t they complain years ago?” is to completely miss the point. When Native Americans complain, our country has always given them two options: a) get out or b) leave. Fortunately, modern media has revolutionized political discourse and given a voice to those who never had one. However, you have always had a major voice, and therefore, it is essential that you use it responsibly. I know you think I’m on the less-popular side of the argument here, because you also told Howard:
“I guess if it offends enough people, then you do change it, but right now, I’m seeing the majority of people — Redskins fans — saying we’re okay with it.”
You were presumably referencing the ESPN poll that showed 71% of people are against the name change. Let me ask you: Why should a poll have ANYTHING to do with this? We already knew a MINORITY was protesting the nickname, so why should we expect a poll to show MAJORITY support? Especially a poll that includes Redskins fans? That’s like concluding that nobody likes rap music after you took a poll inside a nursing home. As viewers, we need you to give us an objective view of what’s going on. But that’s not what’s going on here. You are failing to see that your perspective is fundamentally flawed. Maybe, deep down, you don’t support the name change and those feelings are tainting your view. But as the voice of the game, don’t you want to cater to more than just the majority? Don’t you want to cater to everybody?
Remember the call that made you a legend? “Do you believe in miracles?” Keep in mind: that call isn’t legendary in Russia or any other country. It’s only famous in the United States. There are two reasons for that: 1) Every single American was rooting for the same outcome that year and 2) The U.S. team was the David and the Soviets were the Goliath. That’s what makes that moment so magical. It reminds us how powerful sports can be. Sports can uplift us, inspire us, unite us. So why should we support any aspect of a sport that can hurt people and offend them? I don’t see how that benefits anybody. If that’s not enough to convince you, I’ll leave you with this — it may very well be that the majority of Americans are against changing the name, but you of all people should remember that it’s much more inspiring when the underdog wins.
Andrew Samson is a writer-producer at Fox Sports 1. The views expressed in this letter solely reflect his opinion and not those of Fox Sports.