This past year, the NFL has faced a slew of criticism/lawsuits due to its handling of domestic abuse cases, its substance abuse/PED policies and its concussion protocols. The NFL is also facing controversy over the team name of the Washington Redskins (founded in 1932). A growing number of Americans, of all races, have argued that the team should change its name because it is offensive to Native Americans. The US Patent office agreed with that sentiment and has revoked the trademark for the term “Redskins”. Fans of the team argue that there is no need to change the name because Native Americans are not actually offended by it. They point to numerous surveys that show that Native Americans actually support the name. Except, who have been conducting these surveys? White people of course, but don’t worry, you can trust white people because we’ve always been nothing but forthright in our relations with Native Americans. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever obtain an accurate assessment of what percentage of the Native American population finds the name offensive. Even if you believe that nowadays the term “Redskins” doesn’t hold the same abhorrently negative connotation, the historical context of the word is rooted in bigotry and hatred. It’s evident that this was not a term used to symbolize “honor and respect”, as the owner of the Washington Redskins, Dan Snyder, has argued.
The dictionary currently defines the world as a slur: “Redskins (noun): dated or offensive – An American Indian”. You know what’s also dated? The argument that we “can’t change the name/definition” of something. Sure. This argument is just a way for people to mask their bigotry. It is the same argument used by opponents of gay marriage. Many teams in the MLB, NBA, and the NFL have changed their team names. Two NBA teams changed their names this year! The New York Jets, the best team in football, used to be called the New York Titans. In 1997, the then-owner of the Washington Bullets changed his team’s name to the Washington Wizards “because of the violent connotation” attached to the name. So “Bullets” is an unacceptable name, but “Redskins” is all good?
Ok, then play along with me for a second. Let’s hypothetically change some other team names and see how we all feel. How about we change the New York Jets to the New York 9/11s? Don’t worry its all good, because although people may find that offensive right now, in the future, the 9/11’s will remind us of an important part of our history. It will be used to “honor” those involved. How about we change the Washington Redskins to the Washington Globalist Jews? Dan Synder, a Jew, would be cool with that right? How about The San Francisco Smug Prius-Driving Venture Capitalist Hippies? People argue that if we change the Redskins name, we should change the Kansas City Chiefs name as well; same goes for the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves. Well, those aren’t racial slurs, although still calling Native Americans, “Indians”, is pretty ridiculous and I think that should be changed as well. Whether or not cultural appropriation should be considered tolerable behavior or not is debatable. I don’t have all the answers and I certainly think political correctness is a matter of opinion.
There is a reason why this issue has just recently become controversial and why white people ( >70%) don’t think that Redskins is an offensive name. It’s because most white people will never meet a Native American person, or at least, not knowingly. There are only ~3 million of them, many of whom live in extreme poverty on reservations. Ever since the first1 colonists showed up on Plymouth Rock, Native Americans have had their land and their rights stripped away from them. We have continually caricatured Native American’s and their culture by using them as mascots/marketing purposes. We’ve been conditioned to ignore racism directed at Native Americans, but hopefully, this will change. Twenty years ago, homosexuals/bisexuals were not thought of as equal to straight people. In the 1950’s, white people thought it was disgusting to share the same bathroom as a black person. Progress is a slow process.
Economically speaking, the revenue from new jersey/memorabilia sales would surpass the expenses used to manufacture the new products. The team name change would actually make the owner/the NFL a lot of money. After hundreds of years in which white men slaughtered, conquered, raped, and relocated Native Americans. Maybe we should, I don’t know, give them a fucking break? Is it really so hard to give them this one thing; this tiny thing to make up for years of discrimination/awfulness? I guess we could always tell them that we are going to change the name and sign a contract with them stating as such, but then a few months down the line go back on the deal and forcibly move them all to Alaska or something.
1 Plymouth Rock was one of the first successful colonies established by the British, but a prior attempt had been made on Roanoke Colony in the late 16th-century. It failed miserably.