It’s a topic that fans of the professional football team in Washington say they’re beyond tired of hearing about, but it’s one that has been on the front burner for the last few months in the media.
Should the team be forced to change its name?
I’ve voiced my opinion enough on the matter, but a new Associated Press-GfK poll has me somewhat irked. It’s not so much the results of the poll that strike a loose chord—I fully anticipated that a majority of the uneducated American public (79 percent of the 1,000+ surveyed [because that’s enough to determine the feelings of 300 million individuals on an extremely controversial issue]) would be OK with a team continuing to use a racial slur as its nickname—rather, it’s the quotes from said public that the AP uses in their article. The people quoted do nothing to help those in favor of keeping the name.
Case-in-point, Sarah Lee, a 36-year-old stay-at-home mom from Osceola, Indiana.
“That’s who they’ve been forever. That’s who they’re known as,” she told the AP. “I think we as a people make race out to be a bigger issue than it is.”
I’m sorry, what? She’s kidding right?
I’ve never heard worse reasoning for an argument in my life. That’s the way it’s been?
And if we didn’t make race as big of an issue as it is in this country, who’s to say we wouldn’t still have slavery as an institution? The amount of intolerance that continues to run rampant in the U.S. half a century after the Civil Rights battles and 150 years after our greatest president helped to outlaw slavery is disgusting. No team should know about that intolerance better than Washington—they’ve employed a quarterback that has had several racially-charged controversies, and saw an ESPN anchor fired over racial comments he made about their current QB.
Another random American, David Block, who’s classified as a 38-year-old football fan (because that makes him more in touch and knowledgeable on the issue) was quoted saying, “If we’re going to say that … is an offensive term, like the n-word or something like that, I haven’t heard that.”
Hey, America. David hasn’t be informed of the history of the word, and isn’t even aware that it has one, so I think we’re OK to keep using it. Block, obviously, was one of those in favor of keeping the name.
Then there’s the way the team responded to the poll on its website.
A Redskins spokesman declined to comment on the poll’s findings or to make team executives available for interviews. But the team highlighted the poll on its website, calling it “good news” for its fans while using the opportunity to needle the archrival Dallas Cowboys.
“While much of the world has changed over the last three decades, the loyal support for the Washington Redskins remains unwavering,” the website said. “It is also suspected that at least 50 percent of those in dissent are Dallas Cowboys fans.”
Great, so they’ll take the opportunity to brush aside the debate about race and make this about a rival. Real mature, Daniel Snyder.
The teams owner needs to take a cue from former-Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who set the precedent for a team changing its name in the nation’s capital. Because of its association with urban violence, Pollin changed the name of the Washington Bullets to Wizards in 1997. Bullets is a far less inappropriate name than the one being used by the city’s pro football team, but the Wizards former owner was far-more liked than the man who was so eloquently detailed by the Washington City Paper.
And about this being Washington’s football team, that isn’t exactly the case right now, and hasn’t been for nearly two decades. The team plays its games at FedEx Field located in Landover, Maryland, which opened in 1997, and they had a practice facility located in Ashburn, Virgina. That’ll change this year, when the team moves its training camp further away from the District to Richmond. Further, DC’s mayor has said that the team won’t be welcomed back in the city (practice facility- or stadium-wise) until the name is altered.
And after a symposium was held in March on the use of native logos and mascots in sports—which focused mainly on the derogatory nature of the Washington team’s name—instead of adding value to the opposing argument, Snyder had the team post articles to its website pointing out some of the high schools throughout the country that use the name as well.
The good ol’ “everybody’s doing it, so it must be OK” argument. Classic.
Even the team’s GM, Bruce Allen, is made to sound like a total dipshit.
“There is nothing that we feel is offensive,” he said. “And we’re proud of our history.”
Really, Bruce? You’re proud of a history that involves pillaging native villages, raping women, cutting off heads, and stealing land? And you’re honoring that by using a term that Native Americans place on the same level as the n-word to “honor” them. How thoughtful.
Those that argued in favor of the name change, per the AP article, sounded much more in touch with the debate.
U.S. Senator Ben Nighhorse Campbell, a Native American from Colorado, said that while there are other sports teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Braves, and Cleveland Indians, that use native symbols, it’s the specific term used by Washington’s team that causes trouble because of its origins and its uses in connection with bounties on Indians.
“There’s a derogatory name for every ethnic group in America, and we shouldn’t be using those words,” Campbell told the AP, adding that many people don’t realize how offensive the word is. “We probably haven’t gotten our message out as well as it should be gotten out.”
Then there’s George Strange, a 52-year-old Jacksonville, Florida native.
“My opinion, as I’ve gotten older, has changed. When I was younger, it was not a big deal. I can’t get past the fact that it’s a racial slur,” Strange said. “I do have friends that are Redskins fans and … they can’t step aside and just look at it from a different perspective.”
Spot on, my friend. And that’s why, no matter which way the national opinion sways, I’ll continue to give this debate coverage until some sort of action is taken.