HOW I "GOT" THE INTERVIEW WITH SNYDER

Dan Snyder, owner of the National Football League's Washington squad, in 2008. JAY WESTCOTT, BLOOMBERG NEWS

BY ERIN TAPAHE. NATIVE VOICE

This is the story of how I got the Washington NFL club to agree to let me do an interview with Dan Snyder, the principal owner. I planned to ask the owner about his team’s offensive name, and I pestered the club repeatedly until I scored this great journalistic “get.”  Or at least, I thought I did.

Lobbying against the offensive tag is something of a family tradition with the Tapahes, going back to 1999, when my father, Eugene Tapahe, made a trip to Washington, DC to ask the same kinds of questions I was going to ask.

I messaged the team several times this last month with requests for the interview, giving them the dates I would be in the Washington area, but received no reply. So I was delighted when Snyder’s senior vice president for communications, Tony Wyllie, answered me July 6 as I was attending the Native American Journalists Association student project in the DC area.

His email said, in part, “Mr. Snyder is available during that time.”

I emailed him right back, saying “Great! I am so excited Mr. Snyder is available per your email. Since your email didn’t specify, I am available on Wednesday at 2 p.m. or Thursday 10 a.m. but anytime at Mr. Snyder’s convenience I will be there, up until Friday. If I need to be, I can even be there first thing tomorrow morning.”

But it turns out there was a catch. I received an email, and it was immediately followed by a phone call from an embarrassed Mr. Wyllie on his personal phone, not his office phone, saying there was a small problem.

He had meant to write “Mr. Snyder is not available during that time.” Big difference there! He further informed me Mr. Snyder was out of the country during the time I would be in the city. "How convenient."

Well, knowing he was out of the country, I didn't have to cool my heels waiting in Mr. Snyder's office all day, as my father did while on assignment for ESPN The Magazine in 1999.

Back then, Tapahe noticed then ESPN The Magazine never published a story about sports teams and their usage of Native American-related mascots. After many attempts, Tapahe convinced the senior producer and scheduled an interview with Dan Snyder.

Tapahe recalls walking into Snyder's office. “Once they saw me, they wouldn’t talk to me. I was there as a professional.” The front desk informed Tapahe, Snyder was busy and was not able to talk. But Tapahe replied that he was willing to sit and wait until Snyder was free.

“I was excited but the feeling of sitting there for six hours, knowing there probably wouldn't be a meeting, was a terrible feeling,” Tapahe said.

I remember listening to this story as a little girl and dreaming about walking in my father’s footsteps. I hoped to talk with Dan Snyder about the name change. I gave it my best shot.

So that’s the story of how I almost "got" the big interview I’d been hoping for, 15 years after my father almost got the big interview he’d been looking for.

I do hope that the football club will change its name before I have a family of my own.

Wyllie’s phone call ended with him saying, “Keep in touch.” I can promise Wyllie that I plan to “keep in touch.” If the team continues with the name, they will have a third generation of Tapahes pestering them to do the right thing.

Hopefully Mr. Snyder will be available by then.