The Time Has Come for the Redskins to Change its Name, but…

220px-Washington_Redskins_logo.svgIn 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?

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6 replies

  1. Part of the problem is that the logo looks like a generic cowboy movie-type plains Indian. It doesn’t look anything like the Native Americans from the area of either Washington, state or D.C. It’s more like Iron Eyes Cody, who was Sicilian btw. In other words, it’s inauthentic.

  2. Lets’ get down to the real issue here. You say this is offensive to Native Americans. The problem is that I basically have to take your word for it because I don’t see the major outcry over this from the Native Americans. Yeah, I can Google this topic and get directed to sites declaring what an effront this is, but you know damn good and well that if somebody had a team nicknamed the “Niggers,” they would be getting flamed on an hourly basis by the main-stream media.

    Sure, you had a groundswell around this issue twenty years ago, but since then two things happened. First, the NCAA completely destroyed anybody’s interest in this argument when they essentially allowed teams like Florida State to pay for the right to have “offensive” nicknames…I guess if enough money is involved, things just aren’t “offensive” anymore. You touched on this as to why Washington isn’t changing “Redskins” anytime soon.

    The other thing that happened in the wake of the short-lived outcry on this issue was there was a complete over-reaction which made people not care anymore. The classic example was St. John’s, who ditched the “Red Men” mascot in favor of “Red Storm,” when there was no reason to believe the use of the color “red” had anything to do with Native Americans. This would be like assuming the Cincinnati Reds were in favor of communism (a ridiculous belief that did in fact cause them to change their name to the Red Legs in the McCarthy era of the 1950’s).

    Now for the really ugly reality…even if every single Native American in this country signed a petition to get rid of all mascots they consider offensive, it still won’t happen because like it or not, they have no political power.

  3. Everyone know the name Washington Redskins is not used in a vulgar way. I don’t hear black people complaining about a street named after Martin Luther and people are trampling their feet over it, driving their cars over it, throwing trash all over it, tossing out cig’s out on it. Thats because they know the naming the street was intended in any way to be mean or vulgar. The same goes for naming a football team Redskins.
    If they end up changing their name they may as well call themselves Washington Pussies for not standing up to pathetic cry babies the get offended of nothing.

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