Monday, October 7, 2013

Washington Redskins: Term Of Endearment Or Racial Slur?

As a fan of a team that probably has the second corniest name in all pro sports[1], I can sympathize with the plight of those who want the Washington Redskins to change their name. No, Washington Wizards isn't offensive in the same sense that the Redskins moniker may be the some, but it just sounds awful. The team went from arguably one of the most gangster names in all of pro sports (Washington Bullets!) to the lamest. I didn't like the change when it happened, and I am hoping the team's ownership eventually goes back to Bullets.

Many detractors of the Redskins name want it to be changed to something less offensive, but the team's owner has stated repeatedly that he will never do so either. The war over whether or not the name is actually offensive has waged for decades here in the DC area, with many saying it's honors Real Native Americans and others saying it's a term with a very disgraceful history. Polls of Native Americans have given mixed messages, and fans as a whole seem to be split as well. Dozens of national journalists have recently pledged to simply refer to them as The Washington Football Team which seems odd since these people hadn't given two craps until the team got RGIII and was suddenly relevant again last year. But I digress.

Recently, The Sports Fan In Chief (belatedly) weighed in, and a push to change the name seems to be reaching a groundswell.
On the same day that NFL owners began gathering for a fall league meeting in Washington, Native American leaders, politicians and student activists gathered in a Georgetown hotel with one goal: Changing the name of Washington Redskins.

“Washington’s team name is a painful epithet that was used against my people when we were held at gunpoint and thrown off our lands,” said Ray Halbritter, a representative of the Oneida Indian Nation . “When marketed by a professional sports team, it is a word that tells Native American children they are to be denigrated.”

The meeting at the Ritz Carlton comes three days after President Obama took a stance in the long-standing debate, saying that if he were the team’s owner, he would think about changing the name.

The Oneida Nation which is leading a “Change the Mascot” campaign, scheduling radio ads to run in every city the team visits, organized the panel of speakers. Among them were two students who pushed for their school to drop the name “Redskins,” a psychologist who has studied the public health consequences of the word’s use, the head of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Kevin Gover, and politicians Betty McCollum and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D).

“Believe me, we love out Redskins now, but it does not have a glorious history,” Holmes Norton said as a third generation Washingtonian. She added that she could think of no reason to continue using a word that has a negative impact on any Americans “and especially our first Americans.”

In May, team owner Daniel Snyder said he would “never” change the name in an interview with USA Today.
I'm a lukewarm Skins fan at best. I like the team mostly because VLatte gives me free tickets every year (thanks!) and they're a good diversion until the NBA season starts, at which point I typically ignore them. But all that said, I think the team should change the name. Enough people are offended, and given the dicey racial history of the guy who named them Redskins in the first place, I think it's intellectually dishonest to pretend the moniker is some grand gesture of respect. It's obviously not.

Besides, they could just change the name to the Washington Pigskins. It's a football term that won't offend anyone and it allows the franchise to keep the same colors, fight songs (with a tweak here and there) and sell brand new merchandise to existing fans. Seriously, imagine the influx of freshly minted bills as you sucker a family into purchasing new jerseys because the old ones are suddenly outdated?

Maybe I'm oversimplifying this, but how hard would that actually be?

Hail To The Pigskins!!!

Question: Should the Redskins change their name?

[1] Congrats Pelicans fans! You win!

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