Benjamin Tribbett, a liberal Virginia political blogger who was hired by the Washington Redskins two weeks ago to help defend their increasingly controversial name, announced his intention to resign via Twitter on Monday stating that his presence with the organization had become a "distraction."
In an interview with The Wire Tuesday, Tribbett added that he would continue to support the organization's attempts to push back against critics of the team name.
Obv. this issue with Redskins is one where I don’t see eye to eye with some friends. I just don't agree with the attacks on the team name.— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) July 8, 2014
I don’t want to be a distraction to the team as the political attacks have shifted towards being personal towards me.— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) July 8, 2014
So I’m going to send in my resignation to the Redskins. Hopefully that allows debate to move back to where it should be.— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) July 8, 2014
Tribbett, an avid Redskins fan, has long opposed criticism of the football team's controversial name. "I've lived here for 34 years and never heard it used like that," he told The Wire. "Would I call someone a Redskin? Only if they were a member of the Redskins."
As a known liberal blogger, the Redskins most likely saw Tribbett as both an unlikely and a potentially effective advocate for the team name, someone who might be able to sway those most outraged over the issue, who consider the team name outright racist. However, that is not, in Tribbett's estimation, how his defense of the team was received online where he was quickly subject to a constant stream of phone calls, e-mails and tweets.
"The volume was pretty intense all the way through the two weeks," Tribbett said. "People called me at my house in the middle of the night, went through my old tweets, circulated them, and said I was insensitive towards Native Americans."
Although Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has remained defiant, pressure has been mounting on the team over the past year to change a name that critics call racist. That pressure includes a particularly powerful advertisement during the NBA finals this year as well as a letter sent by 50 Democratic senators to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to personally intervene. Most recently, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the Washington Redskins's 70-year-old trademark on their name.
"The patent case really got me fired up," said Tribbett. "I thought it was wrong."
Tribbett was later approached by the team to help push back against criticism after helping organize the "Redskins Pride" caucus last month, a bipartisan group of Northern Virginia lawmakers whose stated goal is to represent fans of the team.
Many websites including Buzzfeed, Slate, and Talking Points Memo have accused Tribbett of hypocrisy, pointing to his prominent role in promoting and promulgating the now infamous 2006 video of then Virginia Senator George Allen using the word "macaca," which Tribbett condemned at the time as a racial slur.
More recently, Tribbett has faced particular criticism for a series of offensive tweets he posted from a Las Vegas Casino in 2010 where he referred to winning money from a Native American as a "scalping."
Just took Chief for his last 300. I'd call it a scalping but that seems uncalled for.— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) December 21, 2010
When asked about the tweets, Tribbett maintained that while his wording was poor, he was largely taken out of context. "The only thing I would do differently is never tweet from Vegas at 2 am," he said.
Although Mr. Tribbett isn't sure what his involvement in the issue will be in the future, he continues to support the team.
Does he have any regrets? "It was a fun two weeks," he said. "I have nothing but good things to say about everyone in the organization. It was a great experience."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.