Louise Erdrich happens to be both an award-winning Native American novelist and an avid sports fan, so who better to weigh in on the ongoing “controversy” surrounding the Washington football team’s continued use of a racially insensitive team name and logo? “This controversy is not a controversy,” Erdrich told Intelligencer last night at PEN’s Literary Awards Ceremony shortly after she was awarded the prestigious Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. “It’s a done deal. This is over.”
Erdrich had strong words for the Washington’s ownership: “It’s more than a stereotype, it’s an insult, and they don’t have to perpetuate it,” she continued. “By doing it, they’re beginning to look more and more backward and their regard is going to fall. They could do so much in terms of leadership and in terms of gaining respect for doing the right thing by simply changing their logo.”
Other award-winners last night just happened to include brothers Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru for their investigative reporting in League of Denial, which explores the NFL’s ignored history of traumatic brain injuries.
“This is a certain part of pro sports that really, people have had enough of,” said Erdrich of both scandals. “I’m a great Vikings fan. I’m from Minneapolis, you know, and my whole family are Vikings fans … It’s heartbreaking and sickening to everyone. So the Redskins is just more of the same. It’s more of the same disregard for basic human dignity.”
How should fans respond to a league that sees no problem using a racial slur as a team name and covers up a long history of serious injury among players? Put away your wallet, and get out your pen and paper. “I think sports fans should say no, and they should say no with their bucks, and they should write their letters,” Erdrich said. “You know how much a written letter sent through the post means now? It means a lot. Nobody does it anymore. So get out your pens and pencils, buy a stamp and an envelope, and write a letter.”