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Volume 24 No. 179
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Fake News Campaign Targets Redskins In Effort To Reignite Nickname Controversy

Web pages from what appeared to be legitimate news sources yesterday touting a Redskins name change ended up being "football's spin on fake news," but the move appeared to serve its purpose of "reigniting the nickname controversy," according to Rick Maese of the WASHINGTON POST. Websites created by an "alliance of American Indian activists" claims the team had "bowed to political pressure and would instead be called the Redhawks beginning next year." The sites were "convincing enough to fool some and entice many others to share the links on social media." Sebastian Medina-Tayac, one of the organizers behind the stunt, said, "The point of this was to start the conversation again." Maese notes the "elaborate campaign included a Twitter account and five carefully-crafted Web pages." One of the pages "closely resembled the Redskins’ official website, but featured a burgundy and gold logo of a hawk head, not the familiar Redskins logo." The other pages "resembled the news sites of The Washington Post, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report and featured fake news stories related to the supposed name change, citing names of real people." That included activists, politicians, fans, Redskins coach Jay Gruden and Owner Daniel Snyder. The Redskins "quickly took notice and issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to the nickname." Redskins Senior VP/Communications Tony Wyllie in a statement said, "The name of the team is the Washington Redskins and will remain that for the future." Organizers said that they had "not been asked by the team or any outlets to take down the sites." The group behind the campaign is called Rising Hearts and is "composed of members of several tribes." The group's efforts "might remind the NFL that for many American Indians, the issue isn’t going away" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/14).

MAKING UP THE NEWS: The fake URLs -- which included washpostsports.com, sportsillustrated.news and espnsports.news -- were "recently created," while the "fake washingtonredhawks.com was created Nov. 10" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/14). NBC Sports Bay Area's Ray Ratto noted the type faces on the fake sites "are exactly the same, the layout is the same" as the real sites, but the stories were written by "‘Staff Writer,’ which was the tip-off." Ratto said, "The idea that somebody or a group of people decided to go with multiple websites, that's the impressive part. That's really labor intensive. It's not just one website, you've got to do it over and over again. I'm sort of surprised that they stopped at four if you're going to put this much into it” (“The Happy Hour,” NBC Sports Bay Area, 12/13).

FIGHT FOR OLD DC? In DC, Dan Steinberg reports the 11.8 local rating in the DC market for the Redskins' 30-13 loss to the Chargers on Sunday was "among the lowest for any game" in the Snyder era and was "barely ahead of the 11.5 rating" earned by the simultaneous Eagles-Rams game. The Redskins were the "third-most watched NFL game in their home market last weekend" and they came "rather close to being the fifth-most watched NFL game" in DC last weekend. The ratings dip "fits in with other Redskins data points," including the "hundreds of $6 tickets available for Sunday’s home game against the Cardinals." A sports-radio host this summer said that it was the "least buzz he could remember for a Redskins season in 21 years." There have also been "friends who have given up family seats, or turned down free tickets to home games, or skipped an entire Skins game on TV, or just stopped following the team entirely." Steinberg: "It’s impossible to know how much of this is permanent, and how much just represents disinterest with the particular product offered last week, or this month, or this season" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/14).