Tonight at the Washington Redskins home game against the San Francisco 49ers, the team honored a group of Navajo Code Talkers—Native American veterans who developed an unbreakable code for relaying messages during WWII—who came out wearing team jackets.
The tribute comes in the midst of a month of tributes to veterans throughout the NFL, but also in the midst of controversy over the team's racist name. While the motives behind the brief show of gratitude are unlikely to be explained publicly, the ties between the team name and the specific group of veterans are hard to ignore.
Over at Deadspin, Sam Eifling writes:
…we're having a conversation about some pretty amazing people because of the Redskins' decision to put them on the field. But forgive people for suggesting that a team whose owners insist on using the name "Redskins" might not have the greatest grasp of decorum, and in fact might not be above positioning American heroes as human shields. Of course we'll never know the true motive.
Still, the possible coincidence, possible half-brained PR move did not escape viewers.
Congrats, Washington Football team. You just called a bunch of Navajo Codetalkers "Redskins" on national television. Feeling honored.— 1491s (@1491s) November 26, 2013
Honoring the Navajo Windtalkers tonight...now that was a serious patronizing move by the #Redskins.— Fred Whitt (@fred_whitt) November 26, 2013
I get supporting the Redskins name, however "honoring" the Navajo Codetalkers at halftime is a douche move, exploiting real heroes. #MNF— Neil Taylor (@StihlNeil) November 26, 2013