The Media Bubble, Redskins Edition

The spear makes it less offensive, right?
October 21, 2014

Matthew McConaughey, American Icon, believes that the Redskins should not change their name or logo. Writing at Uproxx Sports, Andy Isaac argued, "McConaughey will likely get killed for this, as his opinion is far from mainstream." This is, quite simply, wrong. In September, the Washington Post reported on a poll showing that 71 percent of respondents believe the name should not be changed. Earlier this week, the Post reported on another poll that showd 83 percent of respondents believed the Redskins "should not" change their name. In other words, Matthew McConaughey is firmly in the mainstream.

So, as I said, Isaac was wrong. He quickly realized his mistake and corrected his post; I'm not interested in rubbing his nose in it. It is worth briefly highlighting, though, because he was wrong in an interesting way. I am not surprised that Isaac believed that McConaughey is out of step with the mainstream. That's because within Isaac's area of interest—the universe of sports writers and writing—McConaughey undoubtedly is out of the mainstream. He is out of step with the nation's major columnists and websites. He wouldn't fit in with the Deadspin bros. At some point in the last 18 months or so, a critical mass of sports journalists have decided that it's totes terrible to use a name that's been used for decades without a peep. And the rest of the sports journalists have been made to realize that they need to keep their mouths shut if they disagree.

As Bryan Curtis noted at Grantland, this is the golden age of the liberal sports writer:

There’s no longer a punishment for being liberal, and there’s a lot of potential reward on Twitter. Moreover, writers who don’t toe the line know they’ll be punished for speaking up. I suspect that a lot of semi-political types feign agreement or don’t comment at all. ...

This is a golden age of liberal sports opining. Olbermann ecstatically disrobes Goodell on ESPN as he once did George W. Bush on his old MSNBC Countdown show. Bob Costas stumps for gun control. Here at Grantland, we cover the protests in Ferguson. More on this story, comrade, as it becomes available.

And, as I've noted here, there is a growing annoyance with the entertainment press—sports, film, video game writers—for being not only out of step with their readership but also frequently ignoring their subjects altogether in favor of opining on topics that are either implicitly or explicitly political in nature. I remain convinced that roughly 80 percent of the angst over #GamerGate relates to a similar notion: issues of ethics aside, gamers were tired of being told how horribly sexist and racist they were for playing games and engaging with gamer culture. As a result, they finally snapped. Similarly, I get the sense that sports fans are pretty sick and tired of being lectured on issues that are either entirely unrelated to sports (say, gun control) or, at best, marginally related to sports (the level of political correctness of a team name). You can see some of that frustration in the following data points, which track the answer to the question "Should the Redskins change their name, or not":

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 11.28.38 AM

What's fascinating to me is the fact that, despite a near-unanimous chorus from the sports media over the last 18 months or so on the evils of the Redskins brand, "should not [change the name]" is +4 from 2013 to 2014 while "should [change the name]" is only +3. Considering that "should not" already had the support of almost four in five respondents, any uptick would have been surprising. But "should not" out-gaining "should" is downright shocking, and suggests to me that Americans, by nature a reactionary lot, are just about tired of all this silliness, thanks.

I guess the only question is this: How long until there's a #GamerGate for sports?