Frances Danger explains the controversy behind Ben Tribbett’s hiring and resignation.
Editor’s Note: Late last night, July 7th, Ben Tribbett announced on Twitter that he would be resigning from the Washington team. This essay, from before his resignation, explains the controversy surrounding Tribbett.
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
Ben Tribbett, a blogger well known for breaking the George Allen slur story back in 2006, has been hired by the Washington NFL team to defend the use of the teams name and mascot. Unfortunately for Tribbett and Washington, his own research into the Allen story supports Native American assertions that the team name is a slur. Perhaps not so unfortunately for Tribbett you’d be hard pressed to find that information as his blog is no longer accessible due to the fact that he shut it down.
Tribbett was reportedly one of the organizers of the “Redskins Pride” caucus and has made clear that he is a lifelong fan who wants to help the team. On October 7, 2013, Tribbett posted to Facebook defending the team name, casting the name as a tribute to those participating in The Boston Tea Party and imploring an understanding of the history of the word.
Tribbet is well versed in the history of ethnic slurs. In his coverage of the George Allen scandal the blogger broke the story of Allen using a racial slur. The term Allen used is not common and was up for debate as to meaning in the initial coverage. To clarify the issue, Tribbett helpfully supplied a link to the definition of the slur on his now defunct blog, Not Larry Sabato. On August 14, 2006, according to the Internet Archive of Tribbett’s blog, he linked to a list of ethnic slurs at Nationmaster.com, a now defunct site. It’s the link for Update #3 titled ‘Oh My’, still accessible as it was in 2006 via The Internet Wayback Machine.
The link Tribbett posted defines the slur Allen used and includes a laundry list of offensive terms for all ethnicities. Also on that ethnic slur list for Native Americans? R*dsk*n.
In snapshots dated June 23, 2006 and December 23, 2006 the Washington team name is clearly shown on the list of ethnic slurs. Tribbet posted the link to his blog within that time frame and used that information to bolster the contention that Allen had used a slur. Though there exists no snapshot of the nationmaster.com list on the exact date Tribbett posted the link it would seem an odd set of circumstances that the Washington team name would appear on the list both before and after Tribbett posted the link but not at the time he posted it.
Tribbet announced he would no longer post to his blog , Not Larry Sabato, on June 24, 2014, stating that he could not keep up with updating it any longer and would be using other sites if he felt the need to write. The blog no longer loads and is not accessible, with NBC12 reporting that Tribbett shut it down. Tribbett announced via Twitter on June 25 that he had joined the Washington team to defend the name.
What does this mean for Tribbett and the Washington team? It could mean everything or nothing.
Given that Tribbett first became a nationally known public figure based on his research into racial slurs, a story that ultimately damaged George Allens political career, and that the very research he used to support his stance that Allen uttered a slur also supports the Native American stance that the team name is a slur it gives pause as to why he has accepted a position with the Washington team to defend the name. It is also notable that the current General Manager of the Washington team is Bruce Allen, brother of George Allen, the man whose use of a racial slur both ended Allen’s national career while simultaneously launching Tribbets.
As late as 2011 Tribbett refused to attend an event at which Chris Cooley, former Washington Tight End and present radio broadcast analyst, appeared with George Allen, who he calls racist.
George Allen has also helped guide the Washington team on their defense of the name, stating in an email exchange with Bruce Allen, Frank Luntz and Ari Fleisher in January of this year in response to a reporters questions about a possible change:
“The point was that the Redskins owner at the time obviously believed that Lone Star Dietz was Native American and named the team to honor Native Americans and be motivated by their heritage. All the other aspects of the story about Lone Star’s adoption and other intrigue and speculation is undoubtedly beyond our ability to discern as to its veracity.”
This is an anecdotal defense, one that has been a cornerstone for arguments for keeping the name, and a defense that George Allen was reportedly paid to provide, much like Ben Tibbett will be now that he has accepted the Washington position. To be sure, people have free will and can, of course, change their views. Perhaps that is what has happened in this case and had Tribbett been given that recording of Allen today he may have given it a pass as he does the Washington name, as he would likely want to appear to be consistent in his actions. The fact the he removed his blog does not, in and of itself, speak to any nefarious doings either. Maybe he needs server space to save all the Washington team logo pictures he’ll have access to now. And it’s not like he’s weaving friendship bracelets with George Allen now, though he may have to be polite in email chains. It is also possible that all these situations happening in close sequence is simply weird happenstance. Though when all these circumstances are considered together it does beg some questions: Why is Tribbett, who demonstrably, though inadvertently, proved that the team name was a slur back in ’06 while bolstering his own news story on a different slur (a story that he broke and gained professionally from with information that is coincidentally no longer available and damages his claims that the Washington name is not a slur), now accepting a paid position with the Washington team to defend that very name? Does his defense of the name negate his previous coverage of Allen? Does Tribbetts acceptance of the same type of role that George Allen has fulfilled recently for Washington indicate a change in his views on possible racial insensitivity? Why remove a blog that had been up for years and contained valuable information on political stories and investigations? From a logical standpoint if that list of slurs was reputable enough to base his reporting on in 2006 then it is most certainly good enough to address the Washington team name now.
The source Tribbet used in 2006 that helped break the Allen story and build Tribbetts career and reputation as a trusted blogger is either reliable or it’s not. If it’s not then it could call into question Tribbetts research and reporting on the Allen story and anything he’s investigated since. If it is reputable then Tribbett proved the Washington name is a slur based on his own findings years ago, making his subsequent claims that it’s not a slur incorrect and his actions in supporting, and taking money for defending, the name (as well as the name itself) indefensible now.
The Larry Sabato blog is now back up but has been scrubbed clean. It is still available on the Internet Archive, however, as are some tweets Ben Tribbett apparently doesn’t want anyone to see as they are no longer found in a Twitter search.
On The Not Larry Saboto Blag snapshot dated October 27, 2010, Ben Tribbett visited a casino where he had an interaction with a Native American. The tweetsin the sidebar describe how the gentleman accused Tribbett of cheating then proceeded to put a “spell” on him. He continued to win, making references to the “Chief” and also making a scalping reference.
Meanwhile, Ben Tribbet maintains the #changethemascot campaign is a PC campaign and that the name is not a slur.
Thanks to Indian Country Media Network who have not only picked up the story but found the tweets, still live on Ben Tribbetts twitter.
An older native american guy just accused me of cheating and pulled some stuff out of his pocket to put some kind of spell on me. Epic. — Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) December 21, 2010
100 into 500. #cursefail http://plixi.com/p/64343315
— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) December 21, 2010
Just took Chief for his last 300. I’d call it a scalping but that seems uncalled for. — Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) December 21, 2010