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This week, 50 U.S. Senators signed a letter urging the Redskins to change their name. Former NFL coach and executive Mike Holmgren weighed in today, saying the team should “absolutely” change the name. What’s your take? Should the team change its name, and will it?
The Washington Redskins name debate took a political turn last week when 50 members of the Senate signed a letter urging the NFL—and in particular Commissioner Roger Goodell—to force the organization to change their name.
While this dispute is not new, the scope of coverage and notable people beginning to clamor for change has certainly increased as of late.
The primary argument by those who deem the Redskin moniker as a badge of honor for Native Americans seems to be that the origin of the word is not negative or derogatory.
The Smithsonian Institute’s senior linguist Ives Goddard researched the word tirelessly and concluded that the origins are nonthreatening.
This stands in stark contrast to what some folks—including Native American activist Suzan Harjo—have stated Redskin originally stood for, which is scalps that bounty hunters removed from Native Americans.
By all accounts, Goddard is correct about the words origins, but what people are failing to recognize is the pejoration—or gradual worsening—process the word has gone through.
In 2014, we must be open to discourse and acknowledge that Redskin has moved beyond its original meaning. It has traveled through centuries and gradually picked up negative inferences.
A valid question would be if Washingtonians were given the opportunity to name a new franchise today, would Redskin, Redman or Red Indian—which are all defined in the Oxford dictionary as dated and offensive—be considered acceptable or honorable?
The clear answer, to most, is no.
So why the obsession with holding onto a name that—regardless of its supposed original intent by known bigot George Marshall—in today’s society is clearly outdated and offensive?
The sooner Daniel Synder acknowledges the fact that his teams name is an issue, the sooner we can begin honestly discussing a new name.
For me, this question is not about whether the Redskins should change their name or not. It is about the uniquely agonizing experience that comes along with being a Redskins fan. Somewhere long before U.S. Senators were writing letters about the Redskins name or Bob Costas was jumping on his soapbox and blasting us on National Television, it became painful to be a Redskins fan. Many moments along the way can be pinpointed but I see the team leaving D.C. for Landover as the approximate time when being a Redskins fan became a burden rather than a blessing.
Apparently enduring gut-wrenching losses in an unwelcoming stadium, located miles away from the city we represent isn’t enough. Nowadays being a Redskins fan means that the topic of conversation is not whether RG3 can ever develop his game enough to win a Super Bowl, or whether we have done enough this off-season to solidify our secondary, nope! Now we have the added bonus of getting dragged into conversations about cultural sensitivity, American history and racism every time we wear our team’s logo. We get to hear “Oh no, don’t change the name, Redskins is a term of pride and honor” in one ear and in the other, “Your team’s name is a racial slur for an oppressed people.” Not my idea of a relaxing Sunday being between those two.
So what is my answer to the name change controversy? My answer is that I don’t care. I am too tired from losing and debating to care. The entire topic is just another embarrassment on a national level. I miss having a unified fan base and a team to be proud of. Our owner is not changing the name until he is forced to. The change will happen eventually. We will evolve and learn to live with it but not before many more years of controversy and losing, both on the field and away from it.
So, reluctantly… hail to the Redskins, for now.
It is the Chinese Water Torture of sports topics. It drips onto our newspapers, our blogs, and our radio stations. Slowly and steadily dripping and dripping until our collective ears are ringing in agony. No, not John-Paul Flaim’s undying love of Peyton Manning, but the Redskins name change debate.
It would seem there isn’t a public figure who hasn’t already weighed in on this incendiary issue. Senators. Professional athletes. Alex Trebek. Need I say more? Sadly, I must. When it comes to changing the name, my thoughts immediately turn to the stirring words of former DC United Midfielder Fred: “No have idea”. I’m torn. While I can certainly understand how on a visceral level one can find the name to be offensive, would any team choose to call itself something derogatory? Would any passionate fan be proud to support that team? To me, these views are equally valid, and effectively cancel each other out. Now WILL the name change? That, I can answer. It will change eventually. Over the years, a dull roar of indignation is now a full-throated primal scream that shows no sign of dissipating in the era of social media.
But what about Dan Snyder, he of the ALL-CAPS declaration to NEVER change the name? While Snyder is passionate, the NFL seems uncomfortable. It’s radio-bit awkward for them and they’d like it to go away. Perhaps the license to print money that is a FedEx Field Super Bowl might sway him? New York did get a Super Bowl, after all. Plus, a new name would generate a flood of new merchandising revenue. In addition, there’s also the looming threat of the Redskin name losing its federal trademark protection on the grounds that it is disparaging. If that happens, it’s goodbye Redskins, hello Washington Whatevers.
In the midst of a busy offseason for the Washington Redskins, there are plenty of storylines we could be discussing. Yet, the topic of conversation continues to be the team name.
Last week, fifty U.S. Senators urged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to endorse a name change. Former coach and executive Mike Holmgren also chimed in, saying the team name “absolutely” should be changed.
This has been a hotly debated topic for years. For every poll showing Native Americans find the name offensive, the team is quick to present another poll showing the opposite to be true. In this veritable tug of war, it’s hard to gauge any general consensus.
Some people find the term redskin offensive and some people don’t, and that’s ok. No one can dictate what a person should or shouldn’t be offended by, but advocates of the name need to face facts: the Redskins will one day be forced to change.
Perhaps Goodell will endorse a change. Perhaps the team won’t be able to build a new stadium in the District, something Mayor Vincent Gray hinted in 2013.
It won’t happen today or perhaps in the near future, but the name is going to be changed. Owner Daniel Snyder must take control of the situation before that point.
By taking the bull by the horns, Snyder can build goodwill for the team and carefully select possible names.
The Sea Dogs? Yeah, that’s not going to cut it.
D.C. is a Redskins town, but fans are cheering for more than the name. The Wizards did not collapse in the wake of their name change, neither will the Redskins.
Many will be outraged by a change, but if the fans are willing to come back after two playoffs wins since 1992, they’ll come back after a name change.
In the latest of a long line of challenges to the Washington Redskins name, 50 U.S. Senators sent a letter to the NFL urging it to pressure the team to change its name. The movement to change the Redskins name has been reduced to political pressure because that is all that is left. Challenges to the team’s trademark have thus far proved ineffectual. While, decades of protests and finger-wagging have done little to persuade Dan Snyder or the NFL to make a change.
So, should the NFL pressure the Redskins to change the name? Should Dan Snyder do so on his own accord?
Quite simply, no.
The term “Redskins” is unequivocally offensive to a significant number of people, and the treatment of Native Americans throughout the history of this country has been disgraceful. To say otherwise is to ignore reality. To those whom the name offends, I apologize.
But, it is equally clear that a significant number of Native Americans do not find the name to be offensive. A 2004 study found that 90 percent of Native Americans were not bothered by the team calling itself the Redskins. Moreover, as pointed out by Bruce Allen in his response to the Senators, some Native Americans view the name with pride.
We live in a country where diversity, individuality, and freedom of expression are embraced. As a result, there will always be people, activities, ways of life, and businesses that offend some portion of the population.
If Mr. Snyder wants to change the name of his team he has every right to do so. But, he cannot be forced to spend tens of millions of dollars rebranding his business because some find the name offensive. Until such time as there is a truly significant financial impetus, the team will remain the Washington Redskins.