Friday Question of the Day – When Will Washington Drop the Term Redskins?

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Over the past few months (and years really) there have been lots of discussions about the controversy over the use of the name Redskins. Most recently a few folks sent me links to the article Bill in Congress challenges Redskins trademark:

Legislation was introduced Wednesday that would cancel the NFL team’s trademark of the term “redskin.” The bipartisan bill comes as a federal trademark panel considers a petition brought by a group of young American Indians who say the Washington football team should not be allowed to trademark its name because it is offensive.

Friends of mine know that I’ve been wrestling with this question for a few years now. But it seems to me that it is no longer a matter of if, rather, it has simply become a matter of when the name will be dropped. Back in the good old 90s I attended Miami University of Ohio. At that time our nickname was the Miami Redskins. My senior year the student body was polled to see if we wanted to keep the name or drop it. I think 98% voted to keep the name. Nevertheless the next year 1997 the name was switched to the Miami Redhawks. There was no student uprising as result. None of my fellow alumni friends think any less of the school because of the name change. We all still root for the Redhawks. Damn you Boston University

Looking back it now seems obvious that the university made the right decision unilaterally changing the name. I think when the Washington Redskins one day change their name, we will also look back and say it was the right thing to do. Most people I talk with feel the same way.

So for today’s FQotD – when do you think it will actually happen? Will it only happen when the courts/Congress make them change it? Realistically how many years away do you think it will be?

66 Comment

  • Stolen quote: “Come on, now. Whichever way you come down on the decades-long conflict over whether or not the Redskins’ mascot amounts to racially offensive disparagement, can we all at least agree that it is definitively not the legislative branch’s job to arbitrate these kinds of disputes? Maybe? This bill is obviously and specifically aimed at a specific body for a specific perceived offense, but why these federal lawmakers think the onus is one them to effectively punish the Redskins for daring to defy them is just not right. I’m pretty sure that’s what we have a court system for…”

    Personally, I think they shouldn’t cave to the PC brigade, considering most of them are just transplants who won’t be around when we’re called something stupid like “The Skins” (Buffalo Bill would be our mascot?)

  • Shouldn’t the question be, why doesn’t Dan Snyder change the name, not why does Washington keep the name?

    • +1 Amen. The Redskins aren’t a publically-held company.

      Personally, I think Redskins is just a stupid name, since absolutely no one associates DC with native Americans. If anything, the name should be the Blackskins (with young men in hoods) or the Whities (with young men in suits with pants that are too short.) Ironically, I think both blacks and whites would find those names offensive.

  • Miami university! Not Miami university of Ohio. A university in 1809 while the other Miami was still occupied by Spain!

    • And they once had actual Miami Indians living around there. Of course, the people who started the college were the ones who pushed them out.

      The Cleveland Indians were named for an actual Indian who played on the team after having had a different name which also was for a star player. the Deadskins really have no legacy on which to base their name. Given that only a deal to build RFK ended segreagation on the team and they were the last NFL team to intergrate, I think “The Racists” would be a better name. they could have a Klansman as their mascot or perhaps Strom Thurmond.

  • The name should absolutely be changed, but Congress has no business whatsoever in matters such as this. Not to mention, you’d think they would have more pressing matters to attend to.

    • Congress does have more pressing issues, but it can get involved because the name might be an issue should the team relocate to federal land, such as RFK. So Congress could put a shot across Snyder’s bow, as it were, without having any real effect now.

    • People here and on other websites keep commenting about how Congress shouldn’t be wasting its time on something like this and there are more important things it should focus on.

      Obviously you don’t know how Congress works if you think this is taking up their time. Some 24 year old House staffer drafted a bill, got a few Democratic cosponsors, and then introduced it in the Republican controlled House. Done. It won’t get a hearing. It won’t get a vote. Total time of Congress wasted = zero. It’s just a way for the members who cosponsored to be out front on an issue.

      I think voting 40+ times to repeal the health care bill, when they know it won’t happen, might be a greater waste of time.

    • The legislature actually does have a legitimate say in this matter. Can a corporation have a legally enforceable trademark on a racist name and logo?
      If you make unlicensed Redskins apparel – Snyder can sue you and the law is currently on his side. I’m sorry, but trademarks should not support profit making racism.

  • I expect them to change the logo sometime in the next few years. The face of “generic” Native American ain’t a good look.

    The name will stay the same until another owner comes along who greater sensitivity to these matters. And I agree with others – Congress needs to spend its precious time on more pressing issues. It seems like Congress is trying to do everything but its job.

    • I think you’re right. Snyder’s too stubborn/proud to bend to the growing pressure (which City Paper should get great credit for amping up), but he loves nothing more than money. Someday, the $$$ involved with rebranding the team, selling new uni’s, etc. will be too great a temptation.

  • jim_ed

    As a lifelong Redskins fan, it took me a long time to come around on this, but it should be changed.

    That being said, Dan Snyder will only change it when it becomes clear that he can turn as huge profit on the new merchandise as well as nostalgia merchandise sales.

    Another thing to keep in mind, remember when the Bullets became the Wizards? That name is universally loathed, and people basically complain nonstop about changing it back, myself included. Granted, Bullets isn’t a racial slur, but from Snyder’s position, that’s got to be an issue he’s familiar with.

  • How does everyone feel about the Florida State Seminoles then? I am guessing the distinction is that one is preceived to be a racial slur, while the other is the actual name of a tribe. I am not offended by it, but I wonder if the Redskins caving on this issue would be the beginning of the end for all Native American named teams.

    • Or the Cleveland Indians. While the name isn’t a slur either, their logo isn’t exactly flattering.

      • Honest to God, growing up in the Cleveland area, I had no idea that the red-faced logo was even supposed to be an Indian. I don’t know what I thought it was (a red, smiling baseball maybe?), but I didn’t comprehend that it was supposed to be a person.

        It’s strange that the Cleveland Indians have the non-offensive name (IMO) and super-offensive logo, while with the Redskins it’s the opposite. You’d figure it would be one or the other.

        • The Tribe actually was named for a player who was an Indian. That was after they were the Naps, named for a player whose first name was “Nap”. The Deadskins don’t even have that tie to the teams name.

    • The Seminole Tribe of Florida gave its blessing to Florida State to continue the use of Chief Osceola and the Seminoles. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/24/sports/24mascot.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    • The NCAA does not allow teams to use tribal identification without permission. Teams that do not get such permission are denied NCAA backed scholarships, post season play etc. Florida States has sought, and been granted, permission to use the mascot by the Seminole tribe.

    • Also a big distinction is that (from Wikipedia):
      “The use of names and images associated with Seminole history is officially sanctioned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.”

      I do agree with 15thstnw about the Cleveland Indians though. There’s a lot of these, see http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sports_team_names_and_mascots_derived_from_indigenous_peoples

    • The Seminole Tribe of Florida gave Florida State its blessing to continue using Chief Osceola and the Seminoles as the mascots a few years ago. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/24/sports/24mascot.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    • Florida State has the support of, and is officially sanctioned by, the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

    • When has Seminole been used as a recognized pejorative (except by Gator and Miami fans)? The word Seminole refers to the nation that emerged in a process of ethnogenesis out of groups of other Native Americans and a small number of escaped slaves. Redskin is a racial descriptor considered by some to be extremely offensive as well as having negative or disparaging connotations.

    • Here’s an easy way to understand the difference between a team called the Seminoles and one called the Redskins:

      Walk up to a member of the Seminole Tribe and say, “you must be very proud to be a Seminole.” Observe reaction.

      Then, walk up to a member of any Native Tribe and say, “you must be very proud to be a Redskin.” Observe reaction.

  • I agree that Congress should not be in the mix. I think Snyder will only change the name if ordered by a court. A court would have to determine that the name no longer deserves trademark protection. That would give Snyder cover to change the name without pissing off long time fans who really want to keep the name, many of which, I bet, buy tickets. I want the name changed but I don’t attend the games, so he doesn’t care what I think.

  • When was the last time someone was hurt by the word Redskin? I appreciate that a couple professors get grant money and some donations to stir up this issue every couple years. However, comparing this issue to current derogatory terms like the n-word that have progressively become more derogatory through the years, the use of the term Redskin has either steadily become less derogatory or is no longer considered a derogatory term. The use of the term by the Redskins may or may not have played a role in desensitizing the word to “most” americans, but in 2013 (and for the past 33 years) I have never heard the term used in a derogatory manner. So I am confused now why people think it needs to be changed.

    • You don’t see the name Redskin as derogatory. Some Native Americans disagree.

    • Well I’m sure it’s not the most offensive word on the planet but it clearly offends some people since a group of Native Americans have protested it. The better question is why needlessly offend people over something as trivial as a team name? That seems kind of arrogant to me.

    • Go into the National Museum of the American Indian and ask that question. You’ll get schooled real fast.

  • I think the only way the name will be changed is if the team moves to another city and completely redoes its brand. There is too much money wrapped up in the R******s brand for them to change it.

    Note on the origin of the name: originally they were in Boston and played at Braves Field (home of the Boston (later Milwaukee then Atlanta) Braves baseball team) and were also called the Boston Braves. Many NFL teams at the time took names from the more popular baseball teams whose stadiums they played at – e.g. the Chicago Bears (Cubs), New York Giants, etc. Anyway, the Football Braves moved to Fenway Park (home of the Red Sox) and wanted to change the name to go with their baseball hosts but keep the theme the same so they went with Redskins.

  • Embarrassing/irrelevant fact: it wasn’t until 2007 (!!) that I realized the Redskins were from Washington, DC, and not Washington STATE (which I must not have put a lot of thought into, because I was well aware of the Seahawks, too). I think it is because there is zero association between DC and Native Americans–Washington the state make a bit more sense.

    • ME TOO!!!

      (I should sign in, so that it would be obvious how often you and I are on the same page.)

    • If a city must be associated with its mascot, then what about Spartans and Trojans? There have actually been some cool Native American archeological finds in DC, along the river in the Palisades, for example. It’s shocking for most of us to hear, but Washington wasn’t originally settled by interns and wonks.

    • Same here! It wasn’t until I moved to DC two years ago that I realized the Redskins were in DC and not Washington State. You’re not alone!

    • omg. go educate yourself, please! there were Algonquin, Piscataway and other native tribes in this area before it was Washington DC. Natives weren’t only in certain parts of the dang country…

      • I don’;t think these people didn’t understand that there were once Native Americans here, I think they just thought “Washington” referred to the state because the District wasn’t on their radars.

  • I hope its never changed.

    It should take more than a simple word to get everyone bent out of shape. Its a word, not an action.

    As a life long Redskins fan, I have no ill will toward American Indians. Preferring the name Redskins has nothing to do with prejudice.

    I’m generally fairly liberal and shy away from offensive language, but I am amazed by the mental gymnastics people undertake to be offended, remain offended, and sympathize with the far-too-easily offended.

    Its also easier to be offended by the term “Redskin” than actually focus on the suffering and inequalities that exist in this country, especially on Indian Reservations.

    But yeah, its trendy to get all wound up about a football team’s name.

    • Can’t Snyder just throw them some money? Wouldn’t that MAYBE pacify everyone?

    • I am not offended. Nor do I care to be trendy. I just think its silly and insensitive to use a known pejorative as a mascot period. However I am not surprised by a team that carries on the legacy of good ole boy George Preston Marshall. Just find a new freakin name and join the 21st century.

    • And exactly how many Native Americans do you know to be offended by the term? Just because somebody doesn’t know any Jews doesn’t make the word kike less offensive, but no one would have a team named that. It’s the same thing here, and it’s ridiculous we’re still having this discussion. Just change the damn name already.

  • The problem I have with this is that the Redskins are a product. If we start censoring products, that’s a very slippery slope (movies, books, TV, clothing, etc). If enough people don’t like the product, they will not support it (either by directly not given them money or by boycotting the adverstisers/sponsors who do).

    Clearly, the NFL could say “hey, we are not comfortable with the name you’ve given to your product, if you want to be part of our league, change it”, but to enact legislation requiring a chance seems like we would be barreling down an extremely scary censorship path.

    [full disclosure: I cannot stand the Redskins, but that would be the case regardless of their name]

  • How about changing the team’s name to Washington PCs?

    I’m Native American…and “Redskin” isn’t offensive to me – but then again, I’m not spineless.

    There are more pressing issues for Congress to be dealing with rather than hassling an NFL franchise about their own name. No wonder the country is in such a downward spiral.

    • Yes, yes. Because if I know you have a positive self-image, I can therefore use insulting racist words around you? I understand some people are just sensitive, but racism is racism for everybody.

  • I hate being the token American Indian here, but come on. Everyone’s entitled to his or her own opinion, but what other teams of ANY sport, in ANY state use a racial slur against ANY other ethnicity besides this one? Would you feel similarly if your team, the “Black Skins” or “Yellow Skins” were questioning their need for a new name?

    Take a step back here, ignore the hoodies, t-shirts, and car flags you’ll have to replace if the team is re-branded, and think about this logically.

    They need a new name.

  • The name is crazy. If it didn’t exist, and someone tried to come into the league with the name, or change a franchise to that name, the league would bar it and every politician this side of David Duke would condemn it. You KNOW that’s true. If that’s the case, why are inertia/incumbency enough to let this slur stay attached to our city/region?

  • I feel like Dan Snyder could make a lot of money by changing the name. Wouldn’t everyone want to buy all new merchandise with the new name/logo (assuming that would change as well)? Then you could also hike up the prices of “classic Redskins gear” -old Art Monk jerseys and the like.

    I took a white privilege class in college (ok it wasn’t actually called that but that was the central theme) where we talked about this and one woman suggested that we keep the name Redskins but change the mascot to an apple. I always thought that was cute.

    • Ah, white privilege class. College is awesome.

    • I actually find a lot of the “white privilege” stuff fairly racist too. but, I dont suggest we defund public universities that teach it. you know, public funds… something that Congress actually has jurisdiction over.

      • I think the actual name of the class was something along the lines of “Courageous Conversations about Race” haha. It was pretty split between right and left wing kids and actually got pretty heated a few times. There was also a lot of talk of boot straps.

    • @kerryd – apple is actually an offensive name given to those in the native american community who act “indian” around other indians but when around white people they act white. apple – red on the outside white on the inside. fyi

      • @anonymous 2:10 ha! I had no idea (I don’t think the woman who made the comment did either). I guess the Washington Appleskins will not be the solution

  • As a life long Redskins fan, I hope it never changes.

  • It would be awesome if the Tribes, to prove a point, would form their own sports league and name the teams after other racial slurs.

    “Now taking the field, the Dagos and Kikes”
    “Did you see that game last night? The Negros really kicked the Mics asses.”
    “I think the Honkies defense was weak against the Gooks.”

    But only the overly sensitive should be offended in any way if this happened.

    • Works for me. It might actually be an economic engine in reservations, instead of casinos which just filters money from the many to the few.

      Comedians make money off of using racial stuff to prove a point all the time. No reason the Indians cant do it.

  • I want Notre Dame to change next. I find the Fighting Irish offensive.

  • Redskins = N****s

    Very offensive indeed. A new name is kind of tricky. Natives, Carpet Baggers, Robber Barons, or Pilgrims just don’t have a nice ring to them,

    I would propose we should be named: DC Capitalists. What can be more American than cheering for a group of rich Capitalists?

  • The Redskins name will change when one of two things happens:
    1. Dan Snyder sells the team, or
    2. When the Supreme Court orders him to do it – he won’t be swayed by lower courts.

  • Call ‘em the Deadskins. that’s what people from actual sports towns call them, along with fans in bad years.

  • Just for those who are saying this area has no connection to Native Americans – the word Potomac is derived an Algonquian word – the Algonquian were the tribe that inhabited this area and much of the north east. That’s a pretty big landmark to overlook.

  • change the logo to a red potato. problem solved.

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