The irony is that while this is causing bad press for the FSF, I bet no-one there actually *likes* this approach... it's more or less exploiting a loophole in their rules.
Their problem is, the result they *actually* want is for the firmware to be Free. Therefore, they definitely can't endorse a the "pragmatic" solution of just using the closed firmware -- there's a real danger that everyone will just stop there once their hardware is working, and the whole point of the FSF is to keep pushing for the full solution, even if that's not easy to achieve right now. That's a valuable role.
But in order to decide whether a device's software is sufficiently free, they feel that they need to make a bright-line ruling about what counts as "software", and it turns out that you can kluge around their definition by burning the firmware into the hardware.
I'm not saying that the FSF is actually opposed to this hack, just that it's hardly something they would support on its independent merits -- it's a corner they've gotten backed into. If anything, I think they'd actually consider it a bonus that this kind of hack is so ugly, exactly because it means that there's still incentive to solve the problem properly by freeing the firmware.
I'm surprised that the hardware developers are taking the trouble to do this to get the FSF's endorsement instead of just saying "well, we got as close as we could but there's still room to improve". But I guess that's their decision; I don't blame the FSF.