I know this has been discussed to the nth degree…but I feel that I need to add yet another perspective.
While I am aware that there are other teams in professional sports that refer to Native American heritage, none of them are as disparaging as derogatory as “Redskin.”
For example, in baseball, the teams that refer to Native American heritage are:
Atlanta Braves – While the “Tomahawk chop” is fairly offensive, calling someone a brave isn’t. The term brave, as used in Indian nomenclature, is an American Indian warrior. However, the Braves did have their own issues in regards to disparaging Native Americans. Chief Noc-A-Homa (a play on words of Knock A Homer) was the mascot of the Braves (both in Milwaukee and Atlanta) from the 1950’s until 1986. While a mascot for the team, he lived in a teepee and came out when the Braves hit a home run. They also had another mascot name Princess “Win-A-Lotta.” In 1986, the Braves changed mascots to “Homer” and “Rally.” The change was an economic one as Levi Walker, Jr., the best known Chief, complained that the Braves didn’t consider him a full-time employee so they didn’t provide any benefits. The Braves paid him $5,000 and went in a different direction.
Cleveland Indians – Nothing offensive here until you look at the Indians logo, “Chief Wahoo.” Thankfully, the Indians have announced that the logo will no longer be part of the Cleveland MLB team starting in 2019. The grinning red-faced Indian is just as offensive as the term “redskin.” There is little mention of the Indians being offensive to Native Americans…and now Chief Wahoo is on the way out, I’m fairly certain the Indians will be under the radar.
In the NHL:
Chicago Blackhawks – The Blackhawks have long been a target of controversy. Not based on racial issues but rather concerns of Native Americans being viewed as mascots. The team, founded in 1926, was actually named in honor of the U.S. 86th Infantry division, nicknamed the “Blackhawk Division,” after “Black Hawk,” an Native American chief. The controversy hasn’t generated much on a national level since it doesn’t have the allure of an NFL team.
The NBA does not have a team that references any Native American heritage.
The Washington Redskins are perhaps THE most offensive name to all Native Americans. The term “redskin” is a slang term referring to Native Americans in the United States and Canada. The use of skin color as a racial identifier to Indians can be traced back to the 17th century.
The use of the word redskin, outside of reference to the Washington Redskins, has pretty much disappeared from common use. But the use of the term by Washington and many high school and college teams have been a point of controversy. As such, many high school and collage teams have changed their name to avoid controversy.
Daniel Snyder has opposed any name change to his team. Back in 2013, in a letter to fans, Snyder stated that while he respects those who are offended by the term, he pointed out that the 81-year team history cannot be ignored.
There have been various polls of Native Americans, some that are vehement in their opinions to have the name changed, and some that show that the name of the team does not offend them.
In 2017, the Supreme Court struck down parts of a law that bans trademarks on offensive remarks that pretty much protected the team from any legal challenges. In that same year, the Washington Post conducted a thorough survey of Native Americans if the team name was offensive. Overwhelmingly, the survey showed that Native Americans were not offended by the team name.
As with any issue, there are many sides…and as we all know, we can’t please everyone. I have read nothing about people of Norwegian descent in an uproar about the Minnesota Vikings nor have I heard of any marches by folks of Irish descent to the Boston Garden over the use of a leprechaun that the Boston Celtics use.
So back to the question: Should the Washington Redskins change their name? While it may be offensive to some (including me), surveys done by the National Annenberg Election Survey in 2004 and then again by the Washington Post in 2016 show that Native Americans were “not bothered” by the name.
It is my opinion (for whatever it’s worth) that there are many more important issues to resolve than the team name of an NFL football team. Let the team have their name…Native Americans aren’t nearly as troubled about it as thought. I don’t like the name and was never a fan since the Redskins consistently have stood in the way of my Detroit Lions getting a Super Bowl. Three times (1982, 1991 & 1999) they have thwarted them from advancing in the playoffs.
Forget this issue and lets concentrate on more important things like perhaps treating each other better? Eliminate bigotry and accept each other for what each of us are: people.
Let’s vote in politicians who actually want to make our lives better and invoke what their constituents want rather than what special interest groups with deep pockets want.
My name is Jim Dunn (aka The Beer Thinker) and I approve this message.