The Latest Lame Defense of the Washington Redskins

The NFL team is not a free-market operation.


The Redskins Pride Caucus—five members of the Virginia General Assembly at this writing—probably will not go down in the annals of Virginia history as the commonwealth's proudest achievement. It looks more like an effort to pick some low-hanging votes. Virginia is Redskins country, after all.

Virginians also don't like the federal government barging in and telling people what to do—except perhaps for those 4.7 percent of Virginians employed by the federal government, in which case never mind.

Still, that was the hook the members of the new caucus largely hung their hats on. They weren't necessarily for or against changing the team name. They simply want to provide a voice for an oppressed and rarely heard-from minority: "Redskins fans and season ticket holders."

They also believe, as a Richmond Times-Dispatch news story summarized, that "the team is a Virginia business that generates millions and needs to be protected to make its business decisions free from government interference." They are miffed at the 50 members of the U.S. Senate who wrote a letter to the NFL urging a change in the team's name. As one of the ringlead—er, one of the caucus initiators, Republican Del. David Ramadan, put it, those senators should "go work on other issues and leave our Virginia businesses alone."

This is a popular position among Virginia politicians. During a campaign debate last year, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he would not presume to tell any business owner "what they should do with their business." He reiterated the point in an "Ask the Governor" radio interview after he won, telling WTOP, "I don't believe governors should tell private businesses what to do."

Sen. Tim Kaine supports a name change but declined to sign the Senate letter, citing concerns about its tone. Sen. Mark Warner "believes that it's not for Congress to dictate what the league does," an aide has said.

Many might wish to dispute the assertion that the Redskins—never mind the NFL—is a private business. The team raked in $6 million two years ago from Virginia, Loudoun, and Richmond when it agreed to keep its operations here. That's a drop in the bucket for one of the world's richest franchises, of course—but the team benefits indirectly from the many other public advantages conferred by government on the football league.

As Gregg Easterbrook explained in a September piece for The Atlantic on "How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers," states and localities around the country have shelled out billions of dollars building stadiums for many of pro football's teams: "Just three NFL franchises—the New England Patriots, New York Giants, and New York Jets—have paid three-quarters or more of their stadium capital costs," Easterbrook notes. Some teams actually collect more in stadium subsidies than their stadiums cost.

What's more, the NFL is treated as—seriously, now—a nonprofit, which confers tax-exempt status. It also takes advantage of a congressionally conferred antitrust exemption and special treatment in broadcast negotiations. "When, for example, Fox broadcasts (over public airwaves) a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game from Raymond James Stadium, built entirely at the public's expense, it has purchased the right to do so from the NFL."

But let's table that issue for a moment so we can direct our attention to the sudden and curious outbreak of laissez-faire. While the reticence about telling a private business what it should do is welcome, it certainly comes across as both novel and highly specific.

Neither Warner nor Kaine nor McAuliffe has shown similar scruples about Obamacare, which tells any business of 50 or more employees what it should do about health insurance. Kaine and Warner also favor raising the minimum wage, which tells any business of two or more employees what it should do about wage scales. None of them has been exactly vocal in defense of the idea that government shouldn't tell businesses how to, say, meet the American public's need for energy. It's only when people start debating the name of a sports franchise that concerns about overreach blossom.

What about the members of the Redskins Pride caucus themselves? Ramadan has long championed teleworking tax credits, which tell businesses what government thinks about their telework policies. Democratic state Sen. Chap Petersen has supported legislation requiring insurers to cover autism disorders. Democratic Del. Lionell Spruill voted to tell Virginia restaurants they could not let people smoke inside. Del. Jackson Miller, a Republican, voted to make abortion providers conduct ultrasounds. Democratic state Sen. Louise Lucas wants to restrict the reasons adoption agencies can turn couples down. And so on.

Those are, of course, merely a small sample of the manifold ways in which politicians routinely give instructions to private businesses regarding what they may and may not do. Yet now we are supposed to believe they find giving orders to private business objectionable? C'mon.

The upshot seems to be that the caucus will defend the supposed autonomy of a business that is heavily reliant on government for its well-being, but not that of many lesser-known businesses that are not. Many words could describe such a set of values, but "pride" hardly seems the most fitting.

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  1. Yes, the Redskins are welfare queens just like the rest of the NFL. That does not, however, mean they give up their constitutional rights to call themselves whatever they like. One has nothing to do with the other. If it did, then I guess Reason and Hinkle are okay with drug testing welfare recipients or saying they can’t own a gun.

    It is not a lame defense at all. It is a valid defense. Taking money from the government, while not laudable, does not make the Redskins any less of a private entity or in any way not entitled to their rights as such.

    1. Meh. I think Hinkle has a point. Live by the teat, die by the teat.

      1. If he does, then why isn’t it also okay to deprive welfare recipients of their Constitutional Rights. And while we are at it, how about anyone getting Social Security or driving on public roads? Live by the teat die by the teat, right?

        Hinkle has no point.

        1. Fair point, stretch, straw man. That comment went downhill quickly.

          1. If you are going to play Debate Fallacy Czar, then at least do it right.

            What John has done is engage in reductio ad absurdum- that is, he has shown that the logical conclusions of the author’s writing would lead to an untenable or absurd conclusion. John didn’t say “This author clearly says that people who drives on roads can’t complain about federal largesse”. He is saying that the only logical conclusion of the author’s claim (that defending them as a private entity is lame if they accept government handouts) is that nobody can claim shelter as a private entity since everyone benefits from public assistance of some manner.

            Shouting “Straw Man! Straw Man!” is not how you counter RaA (which is a valid line of argument), you do it by showing that there is some sort of logical gap between the argument that the author made and the conclusion that John insists must follow.

            1. ^^THIS^^

              The proper response to my argument is to point out how the Redskins are somehow different in principle from anyone else who takes a government handout. Maybe they are, but I don’t see how.

              1. Duh, because they’re racist.

                Oh and everyone Barton knows agrees.

                1. considering voting patterns so are most other welfare recipients.

        2. No, Hinkle has a point, and you have a counterpoint.

          Any supposed government benefit is always used as a justification for government control of the beneficiary.

          There’s some justice to it, and some injustice as well.

          I’d think that the test should be whether the control is tailored to the benefit. In the case of the Redskins, it’s out and out crony capitalism and handouts, but if that justifies blasphemy laws, it justifies anything and everything. The “justification” for the handouts are generally said to be economic development, so that’s where I’d be more open to government control.

        3. Hinkle has a point, but it has horrible implications as there is no aspect of life that the government does not arguably subsidize in some way.

  2. Virginians also don’t like the federal government barging in and telling people what to do?except perhaps for those 4.7 percent of Virginians employed by the federal government, in which case never mind.

    To be fair, there is a pretty big difference between, say, SW VA and NOVA.

    1. And since when did Virginia unilaterally decide to grow the federal government? That is really stupid argument. It is the same argument the left uses against Libertarians. It is the old “you drive on the roads and are going to take Social Security don’t you? So you are just a hypocrite who wants yours but want to deprive everyone else”. The fact that you have no choice but to drive on the roads or participate in social security is never considered.

      Hinkle is using the same argument here. Since the federal government exploded and Virginia by virtue of its proximity benefited from it in Hinkle’s eyes means Virginia is now precluded from objecting to government overreach. That is just complete nonsense.

  3. Goddammit.

  4. I drove to work on a federal highway today.

    Therefore, some random federal bureaucrat has the power to stop me from naming my son Injun Joe.

    The slow creep of fascism continues . . .

    1. Can we do without the moronic straw men?

      1. Are you Russel Crawford’s cohort? He’s in charge of ad homs and you’re in charge of straw men?

        1. Ad hominem.

          1. Real rich coming from someone who isn’t clear on the definition of a straw man.

      2. “Can we do without the moronic straw men?”

        That wasn’t a straw man argument. Damn, at least show the trivial intelligence to learn what the words your spouting actually mean.

        1. Joez law.

  5. Maybe they should just change the name to “Whining Litigious Pussies” or “Smallpox”

    “Redskins” used to evoke some sort of warrior, someone an enemy might be afraid of. Not at all anymore.

    1. I think they should be the Dead Old White Guys, with the founding fathers as the mascots.

      1. Some of those old guys were slaveholders. That could mean more legal trouble.

  6. Tax exempt status? Just change it to the “Foreskins”. Maybe they could rib it for the tax payers pleasure.

    1. The Redskins aren’t tax exempt. The NFL is, because it is actually a nonprofit. Each of the 32 teams in the league is a for-profit company, and pays taxes.

  7. Me thinks some folks need to read the WHOLE article. The point seems to have eluded some here.

    1. But it’s so much easier to just burn straw men based on the first sentence!

    2. It is still a bullshit argument. It is just saying that because they are wrong on some issues, they are somehow prohibited from being right on this issue. That is bullshit.

      Hinkle gets it exactly backwards here. The point to make is that since they clearly understand the right of the Redskins to do as they please, they need to reconsider their other views. Their defense of the Redskins isn’t lame it all. It is spot on. What is lame is their justification for the other sorts of interference that they support.

      1. John, Hinkle is busting on politicians who claim “the government has no right” to tell a private organization (the Redskins) what to do yet turn around and tell private organizations what to (in other areas…taxes, healthcare mandates, minimum wage…). He is pointing out hypocrisy.

        Neither Warner nor Kaine nor McAuliffe has shown similar scruples about Obamacare, which tells any business of 50 or more employees what it should do about health insurance. Kaine and Warner also favor raising the minimum wage, which tells any business of two or more employees what it should do about wage scales. None of them has been exactly vocal in defense of the idea that government shouldn’t tell businesses how to, say, meet the American public’s need for energy. It’s only when people start debating the name of a sports franchise that concerns about overreach blossom.


        1. I did RTA. Read my arguments. The fact that they are hypocrites doesn’t make their defense lame. It just makes them hypocrites. It says nothing at all about the validity of their argument in this case.

          Hinkle doesn’t like the things they do. And nor should he like stuff. If he wants to bust on them for those things, he should do so. Instead, he makes the entire article into a lame ad homonim attack regarding the Redskins. The Redskins have nothing to do with it. They are for once in their life right.

          Hinkle is either wasting the readers time making no point or somehow arguing that the VA people’s argument is invalid because they don’t apply it in all cases. Either way, Hinkle is wrong.

        2. Hypocrisy is boring. Anyone with clearly established principles will show themselves to be hypocrites at some point by virtue of humans being inconsistent.

          More interesting is whether or not these principles are any good. In this case, free speech is a good thing regardless of whether the person employing such is on public assistance or not. There is no compelling reason to believe that the speech of a person on public assistance is in any way logically related to said assistance in a way which justifies abrogating the right of that person to say what they want to say.

        3. Yes, Hinkle gives shit to those politicians who are being hypocritical.

          But he also says this:

          Many might wish to dispute the assertion that the Redskins?never mind the NFL?is a private business.

          He then goes on for three paragraphs supporting that assertion with examples of how the NFL gets special treatment from local and federal government. Up to and including this howler:

          What’s more, the NFL is treated as?seriously, now?a nonprofit, which confers tax-exempt status.

          Get that? Not paying taxes is evidence of being on public assistance. Because tax breaks are the same as handouts, amiright? (Note that franchises pay the taxes, not the NFL itself.)

          Hinkle starts/headlines this article saying that the specific defence (“Leave private business alone”) is a lame defense- not that the politicians making it are hypocritical. If political hypocrisy were the main argument, he should have left all that other horseshit out of the article.

          1. amiright?

            No, I don’t think you are.

            Do you seriously believe the headline or your citation is what Hinkle believes? Adjust sarcasm detector.

            His headline got me. My first thought was, “Is Hinkle, a libertarian, actually arguing in favor of government intervention?” Then I read it and determined he was arguing the other side’s argument (to suck me in), only to destroy it.

            1. If anything, his final argument is this:

              The upshot seems to be that the caucus will defend the supposed autonomy of a business that is heavily reliant on government for its well-being, but not that of many lesser-known businesses that are not.

              To me, he doth protest too much.

              At the end of the day these are private businesses that should get the benefit of free speech or not. Making a bunch of equivocations about how THIS business is less equal than others or dumb politicians are hypocritical does not serve the purpose of liberty. Nor does it “destroy” the argument that Hinkle put forward as “many others”.

  8. As far as I’m concerned, any article that cites Gregg Easterbrook is DOA. I gave up reading his “football” columns years ago because of the increasing injecting of (1) liberal (2) politics into them, despite the fact that the football stuff was really good. (Although, read enough of his columns and, like his politics, even his entertaining “armchair quarterbacking” became repetitive). He hates government graft only when it benefits dogmatically disfavored groups, ala rich sports team owners.

    I’m with John here (do I need a shower?). If people lose their constitutional rights because they take taxpayer money then reason might as well close up shop, cuz we’re done here.

    1. Easterbrook’s stuff is always supported by research. He draws some absurd conclusions, and he plays to populism too much, but compared to, say, Klein or Friedman, he is a paragon of journalistic integrity.

      1. I used to read his TMQ column every week. All 3 million words.

      2. I have to agree with this take.

  9. Libertarian principles are fine to hold until they conflict with certain PC fashion statements. Then the rationalization begins.

  10. Isn’t the team based in PG County, Maryland?

    I believe the name should go because it is at least somewhat offensive to an appreciable number of American Indians. But I’m not sure the federal govt should be banning it per se. I’m still mixed on the copyright aspect of how this is playing out.

    1. Chumby, the stadium, FedEx Field, is in Prince George’s County, Maryland. I think it was privately funded, by the way, although road access, etc. would have come from public funds.

      According to the Redskins Wikipedia article, the team headquarters is still in Ashburn, VA, while the training camp is held further south in Richmond.

      1. Surrounding infrastructure public funds. NFL not for profit. All but six college football programs are not self-sufficient/make money (per a recent ReasonTV spot). I believe former and now deceased owner Jack Kent Cooke built the stadium.

        But the source of the funding doesn’t have an impact on whether the name (and mascot) is offensive.

        They used to practice in Frostburg, MD.

    2. it is at least somewhat offensive to an appreciable number of American Indians.

      [citation needed]

  11. Ummm….. since when is it appropriate for THE IMPERIAL FEDERAL GOVERNMENT to determine what a sports franchise or any other private enitity elects to call itself.
    I thought this was a libertarian website not a Marxist statist one.
    The Redskins may call themselves anything they like – if you don’t like the name don’t watch the team or buy their merchandise. Its that simple.

    As far as being racist, I don’t see anything remotely racist about the name or the imagery. Indians do have red skin. So what? Africans have brown skin and whites have pink skin. Is that description automatically derogatory – not in my opinion. Having a racially determinative trait doesn’t automatically degrade anything anymore than having a red car is different than having a blue car.
    If anything using American Indian imagery in sports team keeps in people’s minds that this country once belonged to Indians and the country owes a cultural debt to the Indians who continue to live here.
    Near my house there is a marker on the Etowah trail. There is an inscription that reads in part “…this marker placed here by the Red Men of Georgia….” Obviously the Cherokee think of themselves as red men and are not OFFENDED by it.

  12. I think the Washington pro football team should have changed their racist team name 30 years ago, but it’s no business of the Virginia or federal government to get involved in. The fans should have stopped buying the merchandise.

  13. I have such a hard time taking this “controversy” seriously because you know that not only is there no real live person being harmed by the “Redskins” name, there’s not one real live person who’s really actually offended, as opposed to “I’m a professional victim class” faux-offended.

    I just ordered a Redskins cap the other day, and I don’t even follow football.

    1. Good idea. I don’t wear hats, but my dad does. I’ll get him one.

  14. The Washington Redskins should not be left unprotected from trademark infringement which this whole hullabaloo is all about. The Feds are pressuring the name change to pander the Native American vote on the prompting of Baracko Bama. A simple solution is that if anyone objects to the Redskins name, then don’t go to or watch the games. I doubt Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder will miss you. If there is an issue with the tax status of the NFL then that too is a separate issue. Complain to your congressperson. Hail to the Redskins…………and freedom!

    1. It isn’t Native Americans. They seem to be too busy to give a shit. It’s white Leftists that are self appointed to be offended FOR them.

      And white Leftists can of course fuck off. Actually I do t want to engage in racial identity politics, so ALL Leftists can fuck off.

  15. So Hinkle is making the ROADZ!! argument?

  16. And isn’t Reason hypocritical since they wouldn’t be located in LA if it wasn’t for the Louisiana Purchase, Mexican War, the Indian Wars, WWII, The Military Industrial Complex and corporate welfare to railroads and airlines?

  17. The main reason I love the Redskin name is because it drives progtards to lose their shit over the fact that they can’t make them change it,

  18. The Redskins mascot is a respectful depiction of a Native American, much like the old Indian head nickel, which gives some credence to the claim that Redskins was not intended as a slur. Why aren’t these same people offended by the cartoon mascot the Cleveland Indians use, that only lacks a jug to make the caracature complete.
    I’ll wager there are more Americans ( though, obviously less organized) that are offended on moral grounds that Native Americans derive much of their income from gambling. Nowhere is it guaranteed that something , somewhere will not offend you, your recourse is to not support those things that offend you, don’t try to bully people into your ideal worldview.

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