The heated debate around the existence of a team that proudly calls itself the Washington Redskins is beyond me.
I don’t understand a reality in which polls and long-winded justifications are leveraged to legitimize a team name that is blatantly offensive.
The Washington Red Skins.
In a recent Washington Post article, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell explained the league’s hesitancy to change the team name;
“We are listening. We are trying to make sure we understand the issues. Let me remind you: This is the name of a football team, a football team that’s had that name for 80 years and has presented the name in a way that it has honored Native Americans.”
The problem with this justification is that it’s bullshit.
There’s no shortage of people lobbying the team to change their name. The name is offensive. The fact that focus groups and polls of people don’t think that’s the case doesn’t make it so. The NFL Commissioner and all those with the power to do something have a responsibility to actually do something. In the face of polls of people who don’t believe the name is offensive, they have a responsibility to understand and then explain why it has offended many. In the face of the argument that the team has “honored” Native Americans, they have a responsibility to actually do so. In the face of their insistence that they’re “listening,” they have a responsibility to not just listen to the crowds but to their guts. The ongoing debate about the legitimacy of the team name and the perpetual back and forth over who they’re offending and to what extent should be grounds to squash the name outright.
Perhaps the inability to see ourselves in the controversy is what’s further perpetuating it. Off the cuff, here are some other team names that might ruffle some feathers:
The Denver Brown Skins
The New Orleans Immigrants
The Memphis Negros
The Detroit Homosexuals
The Sacramento Yellows
The Pittsburgh Ladies
Every single one of these aforementioned examples sounds ridiculous. How we don’t have the same unified and collective visceral reaction to The Washington Redskins is beyond me. It follows the same principle. While the intention may not have been to offend– and while we may not have been offended 80 years ago when the litmus test for what qualified as a offensive mascot was just a bit more conservative– the fact remains that the term “redskin” is an offensive term.
Wikipedia defines the term as such;
Redskin” is a racial descriptor of disputed origin for Native Americans. Although by some accounts not originally having negative intent, the term is defined in current dictionaries of American English as “usually offensive”,”disparaging”, “insulting”,”taboo” and is avoided in public usage with the exception of its continued use as a name for sports teams.
This entire enterprise consists of a handful of folks dragging their feet and electing to choose laziness and expediency over cultural sensitivity.
Visit Change The Mascot for more information on how to get involved.