In a day-long symposium last Thursday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, a number of hurtful names and racial stereotypes in sports were discussed. Among them were the nicknames of sports teams in America.
And as expected, the Washington Redskins took center stage during the symposium.
For those who do not know, the debate over whether Washington should drop the “Redskins” nickname has gone on the past 20-plus years. It started in 1992, Susan Shown Harjo, President of the Morning Star Institute, joined forces with other prominent Native Americans and petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. They based their lawsuit on the idea that Federal Trademark law states that certain trademarks are not legal if they are “disparaging, scandalous contemptuous, or disreputable.” The legal battle went on for seven years and in 1999 the judges canceled the federal trademarks of the Redskin name. It has been an ongoing debate since.
Here’s the deal, the problem with the Redskins name is this: it’s a racial slur for Native Americans.
It’s akin to being called the Washington N-words, Blackies, Whiteskins (or worse names for whites), or other racial slurs. It’s offensive to Native Americans, and anyone who says otherwise is in complete denial.
Take Redskins general manager Bruce Allen’s quotes for instance. “There’s nothing that we feel is offensive, and we’re proud of our history.” He also called the notion of the team trying to upset Native Americans “ludicrous”.
In all due respect to GM Allen, he is an idiot for thinking that – let alone saying it.
However, I will agree with Allen (sort of) and say that I do not think Washington will change the name of its franchise anytime soon. In fact, I don’t think it’s EVER going to happen.
You know the saying “money talks and bullshit walks”? Well, owner Dan “Danny Boy” Snyder and the rest of his front office will not allow a name change to take place on their watch. His team is not only one of the most popular franchises in American sports, but it’s also one of the richest. Forcing Washington to change its nickname would cost the team (and the NFL) millions of dollars – and Snyder is not about to do something that would cost him millions of dollars. Snyder has the money and clout to fight any legal challenge to force his franchise to rid itself of the Redskins name.
I’ll make this even more simpler: with all the past and current challenges – legal or public – to get rid of the Redskins name, it hasn’t happened. So why expect it to happen now?