WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Until this week, the number of people who had publicly defended the Redskins’ team name – deemed offensive by a growing number of vocal media members – had been limited to a small number of former players and coaches, current team officials, and an even more select class of mainstream media members.
However, this week has brought a wave of support for the team’s longstanding nickname, seemingly in response to its public condemnation by Bob Costas on Sunday Night Football.
The latest to make his pro-Redskins sentiments known was Sirius XM’s Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo, who vehemently argued to keep the name on his satellite radio show on Tuesday, in a debate with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King.
From Sirius XM:
“Peter, you’ve been a huge writer for the magazine SI, you have been around forever now,” Russo said to King. “You are not a young kid. You have been at the top of your profession for a long time. The Redskins have had that name since 1935 – when we all know their player/coach was a Native American and that’s why they got the name the Redskins – and now all of a sudden in 2014, or 2013, Peter King or Bob Costas has a problem with it. Where were you ten years ago? Or where we you fifteen years ago? Why now all of a sudden has it dawned on you that the name might be offensive?”
“I wouldn’t say that it dawned on me all of a sudden,” King said. “It’s something that, as I said, over the last two or three years, gradually, I have come to dislike. I just don’t like it because it seems offensive. And now that I have the ability to be able to do something about it this year, I did something about it. So, if I didn’t have this site, if I were still working at Sports Illustrated as just a writer for the magazine, would I have taken this stand? I can’t tell you. All I know is that having my own site gave me more of the ability to say ‘I’m not going to do this.’ And again Chris, you know, I think as adults, there’s no shame in changing our mind about something. There’s no shame in saying, as I’ve done three or four times with Hall of Fame candidates – when I’ve been sitting in that room, and for years I may not have liked the guy or might not favor him for election – and then one year, somebody says something, or I think about it more. It doesn’t have to do with being pressured, it has to do with having an open mind. And I think that having an open mind has allowed me to think about this often over the years, and where as, I used to write it and not really like writing it but just wrote it and put it out of my mind, I just decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore.”
Over the course of the next six minutes, the two would volley back-and-forth passionately over an array of nuances commonly associated with the issue, including but not limited to:
- Why the fight has been brought against the Redskins specifically, and not other professional teams with Native American names and imagery – like the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians.
- Why it’s honorable for high schools on Native American reservations to use the name Redskins, but it’s derogatory for an NFL franchise to do so.
- The significance of President Obama weighing in on the issue.
Their final showdown was waged over the common comparison of the name Redskins to other ethnic slurs, with a few in particular being brought into the discourse by Russo himself.
“I don’t like it at all because we’re at the point now, you can’t say anything in this world,” Russo said. “I mean, you can’t say, if they want to call the San Francisco Guineas or WOPs [sic], call ’em, I could care, I’m not gonna take offense to it. Do what you want. Who cares? Play the games. That’s what it comes down, and you’re not changing the world, Pete. See the idea that the world is gonna change because the Redskins are changing, no they’re not. Somebody who’s bigoted is gonna be bigoted whether they’re called the Redskins or the Warriors. It makes no difference.”
“Let me ask you this question: if they were called the San Francisco WOPs [sic], are you telling me that that would be okay?” King asked.
“To me personally, I could care less,” Russo said. “I could care less, I mean they called DiMaggio all sorts of names growing up. Didn’t seem to bother him, did it?”
“But what if you called them the San Francisco Negros [sic] or something? I mean, you can’t be calling people derogatory terms as their nickname,” King said.
“But Pete, this team’s been called this for a hundred years, they didn’t just give ’em the nickname,” Russo said.
“I’m not saying that,” King said. “You made the point that if you call them the San Francisco WOPs [sic], you don’t care.”
“Well again, they’re not going to call them that today,” Russo said. “But there is a difference, Pete. They’ve been called the Washington Redskins since 1935. Now in 2014, because we are so sensitive to anything that’s uttered that might be considered offensive to whoever that person might be, we have an issue with it? This has been going on for a hundred years and now the media has turned? How come Christine Brennan or Bob Costas, or Peter King, be fair, or you know, Obama, or the Indian groups, how come, where were they in 1968? Where were they in 1973? Where were they in 2007? Now all of a sudden it’s a problem. Why? Why now? I don’t understand.”
“I can’t explain that. I explained what I thought,” King said before being interrupted.
“And good answer for you,” Russo said. “I have no problem with you, Pete. No problem. But why was this not a problem with the Native Americans for the last one-hundred years, and it’s a problem now? That’s what I can’t figure out.”
“I don’t know either,” King said. “I don’t know.”
Listen to the full interview below, courtesy of Sirius XM.
Click here for more stories on the Redskins name debate.