Bob Franken: The obsession agenda

Much is being made of the various cable news networks’ coverage saturation of one story or another and the reasons for their television tunnel vision. We have MSNBC, with its fetish about Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” problems (liberal agenda); Fox is crazed about anything, real or imagined, that might embarrass Barack Obama (conservative agenda); and, of course, CNN is obsessed with the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines 370 (ratings agenda).

Truth be told, I am not one to talk. In my checkered career, I’ve been a principal reporter in chronicling every minute move connected to the various Clinton scandals, based on flimsy evidence or no evidence, the Gary Condit affair and assorted other flimsy shreds of dirty linen (getting-on-the-air agenda).

In fact, one could argue that I’m in a similar fixate with the name of Washington’s NFL team, a racist term that owner Dan Snyder refuses to change. I just wrote about Snyder’s latest move to publicly announce that he’s sent a few thousand coats and some sneakers to America’s reservations to show his newfound concern for Native Americans’ desperate circumstances and show solidarity with those he feels he honors with the hateful R-word.

What causes me to bring up the subject still again is the man he has chosen to head the foundation he created to do his good works. Gary Edwards is a former deputy assistant director of the Secret Service and, more importantly as far as Dan Snyder is concerned, a Cherokee Indian.

It’s fair to say that Snyder is not the region’s most popular guy. In fact, even among those who don’t want to get rid of the current R-word epithet, there is a substantial sentiment that the franchise would be much better off if it changed owners. That isn’t about to happen. In spite of a dismal win-loss record since he took over, the operation is a huge moneymaker.

But even his harshest critics are shaking their heads after disclosures in The Washington Post that Edwards, after he left the Secret Service, became chief executive of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association. In 2012, the Bureau of Indian Affairs canceled a contract with the company, which was supposed to recruit Native Americans as reservation police. BIA called the work Gary Edwards’ company produced “unusable.” The most charitable conclusion some might get about Dan Snyder’s role in bringing Edwards onboard is that he didn’t perform due diligence. I won’t go into the least charitable one. Whichever, no one is surprised by this newest revelation.

It just adds to the widespread pile of disgust about him. However, it should be pointed out that the majority of the fans still don’t want the name changed. That said, little by little, that is changing. There’s not necessarily much love lost for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid either, but he sure knows how to gauge public opinion. He predicts that within “the next three years,” the team will have a new name: “[Snyder’s] going to throw a few blankets to the Indians, and get a tax deduction for it,” he said, “I can’t imagine why the man doesn’t realize that the name is going to change.”

Snyder did get some support from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who commended him for his new foundation and for “listening and recognizing that people have differing views.”

He hastened to point out that the majority of fans want to keep the current name, hateful or not, and “the general population also supports it overwhelmingly.” It wasn’t so long ago that in much of our country, a large chunk of citizens saw nothing wrong with the N-word. There is no difference.

It is true that the media are obsessively focusing on other stories right now. But if Harry Reid is correct, it won’t be long until they’re covering a new name for the Washington Slurs.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.


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