Thursday, August 21, 2014
Hall of Famer Ditka Labels Faleomavaega an “Idiot”
Although he did not specifically mention Faleomavaega by name, it is clear that Pro Football Hall of Fame Coach Mike Ditka, now a broadcaster, was including the American Samoa delegate among those he had in mind when he dismissed the drive to get the Redskins owner to change the name of the team. Faleomavaega has been in the forefront of those in Congress who want to force the team to adopt a new nickname because, he argues, the current name is a slur on Native Americans.
This has long been a cause for the delegate who in July, 2013 before his debilitating illness, decked out in his best Indian string tie (the only kind of tie he has worn for years, now—when he wears a tie at all), delivered an emotional speech on the Floor of the House on the subject with his voice quivering and cracking as he spoke. He also cosponsored a bill that would cancel the team’s federal trademarks but it has gone nowhere.
Faleomavaega was prompted to speak in part to respond to conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who had said earlier in July that the team’s name isn’t a government issue. Limbaugh said if fans were offended by the name, they wouldn’t go to FedEx Field, but because they do, “it obviously isn’t upsetting too many people.”
When he emerged from seclusion this past March to receive his first office visitor, the ASG director of Homeland Security, he said that, while continuing his rehabilitation, he would be concentrating his efforts on American Samoa issues, like establishment of a National Guard unit in the territory. Yet, in late May, making his first appearance on the Floor for a five-minute substantive speech (he appeared briefly in April to acknowledge American Samoa Flag Day), he again chose the Redskins’ name as his subject, not the National Guard or any other American Samoa issue.
Now, as the NFL is in the midst of its preseason exhibition game schedule, the spotlight has returned to this issue and Ditka was asked about it during a recent interview.
“What’s all the stink . . . ,” asked Ditka? “It’s so much [expletive] it’s incredible . . . This is so stupid it’s appalling . . . We’re going to let the liberals of the world run this world . . . “It’s all the political[ly] correct idiots in America, that’s all it is,” he continued. “It’s got nothing to do with anything else. We’re going to change something because we can.” Faleomavaega was a founding member of the ultra-liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus, although he since has left the group.
While team owner Dan Snyder says he will never change the name (and vigorous at age 49, he most likely will outlive the very sick 70-year-old Faleomavaega), there is no question that public sentiment to have him do so has picked up steam. There is no doubt that were Congress in session, Faleomavaega once again would have been prompted to take to the Floor, perhaps even to call upon ESPN to suspend Ditka from his broadcast duties.
This blog takes no position on the Redskins’ name but, given his limited strength and energy, wouldn’t Faleomavaega better serve his constituency by concentrating on American Samoa issues, as he promised he would? If he must take to the Floor when Congress returns in September, how about an emotional speech on the poverty his island may face if President Obama goes ahead with his plan to create a huge Pacific conservation zone that could force the underpinning of American Samoa’s economy to collapse?
Redskins’ name, Kazakhstan nuclear waste, Cambodian debt relief, Korean comfort women, Bahraini protesters, Hawaiian sovereignty, Easter Island land tenure, West Papua Independence, Armenian genocide. These are the kinds of issues that have dominated Faleomavaega’s agenda over the years when he hasn’t been traveling. But, no, Coach Ditka, we wouldn’t describe Faleomavaega as an idiot. However, we would be harder pressed to refute those who might dismiss him as a buffoon.