During halftime of last night's NBA Finals Game 3 a commercial aired. This isn't a highly irregular event, mind you. Commercials air during televised sporting events all the time. This commercial was a little different, though. It didn't feature Blake Griffin and Muppet-made-man Jack McBrayer shilling for a Korean automaker. Nor did it feature a gravel-voiced tough guy calling the viewer a pussy for not driving a pickup truck. It wasn't a commercial for any number of this summer's crop of theatrical releases. Those commercials were there, yes, but they're not the commercial we're here to talk about, at least not right now. No, it was this commercial.
The spot was produced by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, a Northern California-based tribe, and the Madison Avenue types should be impressed—it's a nice little piece of advertising. It's powerful and it puts human faces—men, women, children, Sitting Bull—on the controversy surrounding the fact that the National Football League, a non-profit entity whose members frequently receive public subsidies in order to build opulent stadia, has, for some time now, featured an organization, one that's the face of the nation's capitol, whose nickname doubles as a slur for Native Americans, a group that hasn't gotten the fairest of shakes for, let's say, the last 500 years.
That this is a controversy we as a society are dealing with still is pretty mind-boggling on its own. It's incredibly easy to rename a sports franchise. The Charlotte Bobcats are getting their inner 90s Kid on this summer by taking over the the Hornets moniker that the New Orleans-set NBA team abandoned when they rechristened themselves as the Pelicans. These two things were decided upon and done in about a year. Oh, that's not good enough for you? Those are just marketing examples? You need an example that has to do with the social issues? The Washington Wizards used to be the Washington Bullets. Then-owner Abe Pollin looked around and saw a lot of crime in DC (and his friend Yitzak Rabin getting offed) and it made him uncomfortable to be associated with gun violence. The Bullets were the Wizards in about 18 months.
The NFL team that plays its home games at FedExField has been getting hammered for years now about the vile slur it goes by—shit, Chris Rock first did this bit 24 years ago during a Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live. That is at least (close to) a quarter century of people knowing that this is not right. Still, here we are, 15 years into Dan Snyder's reign as overspender-and-meddler-in-chief, and nothing has changed and it's not going to happen anytime soon because the NFL couldn't care less about making a change because there's no chance of litigation being brought against the league. Sorry, Native Americans and everyone else with a conscience, unless the name gives you a concussion, you're SOL.
That said, the commercial was well-received and got a lot of extra attention after being posted on a ton of different sites before the game. Even the number of knuckle-draggers on Twitter who you'd expect to fart out some response about the PC Police was lower than expected. It seems like the majority of people are OK with the racial slur getting 86-ed.
The commercial's only failing, is its reach, or rather, its lack thereof, internet-traffic aside. The only markets that saw this spot during the broadcast—of a game that was already a blowout at the half (sorry, ratings)—were Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, New York, and DC. Those are major markets, yes, but they are also pretty liberal places where the sports fans watching probably long made up their minds on this issue. Not to stereotype, but where's The South? Where are the Western states that still have large Native American populations? Where are the states that border Canada? Hell, where's Canada? Did the Nation empty its coffers to get on the air in those seven markets? There is no point in preaching to the choir. This is not like Donald Sterling where the ugliness of a person was revealed to the general public for (shockingly) the first time. This shit has been going on since before RGIII was born.
This can't become white noise. People who are passionate about this can't let the NFL and Dan Snyder and all the bigots who don't see what the big deal is and are scared because they can't say that other F-word anymore and WHAT'S NEXT!? win on this and let it go. Avoid using the team's name in correspondence. Keep beating the drum, just don't do it at a fucking baseball game in Cleveland.