I Have Another Controversial Topic I’d Like to Discuss


We’ve talked a lot about the controversy over the use of Redskins name. At this point I’d say 90% of the folks I talk to believe another name should be used. They don’t necessarily find it offensive themselves (yet?) but they recognize that it is considered offensive by some and therefore for should be dropped. I recognize this percentage may not mirror national polls but I’m just talking about folks I speak with/write to who are living in DC.

Which leads me to my next question – can we extrapolate this to mean that it is insensitive (at the very least or flat out racist at the worst) to wear Redskins gear? I ask because I know many progressive people – pro gay marriage, pro marijuana legalization, pro affordable housing, pro you name it – and I see them wearing Redskins gear. I’m not gonna name names but some are well known in the community and it’s something I personally wrestle with as well. I think I’ve seen on TV a very prominent newscaster who has publicly stated he is against the name wearing Redskins gear also on TV. So, and I know it will be difficult to keep poor play jokes out, but do you think people who wear Redskins gear in 2015 are being insensitive (at the least) or are just sports fans supporting their team?

55 Comment

  • Look, I’m a Cleveland Indians die-hard and I love my Chief Wahoo hats. I know it’s insensitve and I’m a supporter of “de-chiefing” future merchandise. But does it mean getting rid of gear you have owned for years?

    • Yep. Just like getting rid of lawn jockeys and mammy cookie jars. We used to find those things charming because we didn’t care that they dehumanized a whole group of people. Racist sports mascots are catching up to these older racist images.

  • I love the Skins. Change the name.

    • I second this…I have no problem wearing Redskins attire myself, but I also agree that it’s time to change the name.

  • justinbc

    To be honest I don’t think anything when I see someone wearing Redskins attire other than pity for how bad their team has been for such a long time.

    • Agreed. I think fans need to send Snyder a message with their pocketbooks. Why do they keep supporting his pocketbook for such a miserable product?

    • I am so glad to be a Seahawks fan.

      • justinbc

        Steelers fan myself (which made the discussion on Pennsylvania the other day rather funny to me). I was glad when we didn’t have to worry about any stupid mascots, until they implemented that asinine Steely McBeam dope.

      • Were you proud to be a seahawks fan when they only won one playoff game over a 20 yr span? Or are you proud of them now that they’re good? Just looking for some perspective.

        • I’m a totally fair weather fan. In fact, I wasn’t much of sports fan at all until the NFC championship game last year.

  • I really don’t like the name, but I don’t think Redskins fans are necessarily racist, at the absolute worst I think ignorant, but I don’t believe they’re deliberately being racist and would support the Kansas Klansmen if such a team were to exist.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      It doesn’t have to be deliberate, in fact I doubt that’s the case for the vast majority of supporters. It can however be unintentional.

      • justinbc

        This is all based on the premise that the name itself is racist though. Some (many) people do not believe that it is.

      • Exactly. Most racism is casual and unconscious. The fact is that if people thought for a moment about what that mascot means, remembered that Native Americans are actual human beings that still exist in the modern world instead of caricatures from the past–or worse–movies, they’d be ashamed to wear clothing with racist slurs. Instead, they decide that all that thinking might mean they’d have to make some changes in their behavior and confront their own insensitivity, and that’s a lot of work.

        Wearing a racist slur is, by definition, racist, whether you mean to insult someone or not. When I see someone wearing Washington throwball team gear, I think of them the same way you might think of your cranky old racist uncle. They are throwbacks whose own privilege and convenience is more important than respecting other people.

        • If Greenland came and conquered the land we live in today, and then referred to the people that were here before they conquered it (us) as Native Greenlanders, would you accept being called that? Would you find it ‘offensive’? you might have just fallen into your own casual and unconscious category in your post.

          • If you think that “Native American,” while not being a perfect descriptor, is a racist term–well, you don’t think that, and you’re just, as your choice of name suggests, bored.

  • Items 1 & 2 are not mutually exclusive, nor are items 1 & 3. I voted “insensitive,” but really I think they are insensitive sports fans supporting a local team.

    • None of those items are mutually exclusive – an important attribute if one were to make any meaningful sense from the poll data.

    • I agree. I think the vast majority of people wearing the merchandise are just trying to support their team, but I think they are also being insensitive. However, those that think they should change the name, but also wear the merchandise, are being a bit hypocritical.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I think less of people who wear their gear or use the name. It’s been in the news enough that people know how offensive the word is, but they just don’t care because football.

  • I’ve gotten rid of all my gear that features the logo or the word “Redskins”. I will only wear gear that says “Washington” with the team colors. This can be a little hard to find but not impossible. If I won’t say the name I don’t think I should wear the logo.

  • If they change the name, current fans will have to buy new gear. Non-current fans might also buy gear to show support for the change. Economic win, of sorts.

    Just plugging into the business case since the ethical case doesn’t seem to be working…

    • justinbc

      I would guess that if the economic case were that solid then Snyder would have already jumped on it. Although his ego, and associated pride for saying it will NEVER CHANGE, might be enough to counter the $ even if it’s there.

      • It’s all ego at this point. He’s simply a man who wants to be “the boss” and not be told what to do. Bending to the pressure is a sign of weakness in his mind.
        Changing the team name would either be revenue neutral or a net gain. I doubt he would lose money. Sure, some fans would get rid of their season tickets in protest, but the vast majority would suck up their pride because football. There’s already a waitlist for season tix, so no problems there.

    • If they didn’t put up a fight, maybe, but I just can’t see people buying the new merchandise in solidarity at this point. Dan Snyder has not just refused to change the name, he’s made an @ss of himself trying to defend it.

  • Even if I didn’t find the name offensive (which I do), I feel pretty confident about any opinion I have that is the opposite of Dan Snyder’s.

  • I’m curious about all the commenters here who claim fans wearing Skins gear are insensitive at best, racist at worst. I would bet that most that harbor those feelings aren’t from here, and don’t remember how fantastic the team was in 1980s and how it truly brought the whole city together (and DC of the 80s was a much different, different place).

    I’m a diehard fan and am somewhat ambivalent about changing the name. Honestly the last 15 or so years with Danny and horrible seasons has made me much less nostalgic about the brand. But I still wear my Skins apparel and watch the games (because I hate myself) and I’m sure that myself and 95% of the rest of the fans aren’t insensitive but rather support a local team we grew up with.

    • Right–it’s about a heritage that is so important to a people. Wait–who are we referring to?

      What does it matter if the team was some shining beacon of unity at some time in the past? The institution will still be the same, and you’ll always have those glorious memories of a racist-named team winning sports games. Where is the line of offensiveness? How bad would the name have to be before you were embarrassed to be seen wearing the logo?

      It’s not about the brand–it’s about blithely using a racial slur as a sports mascot and demanding it’s not a slur and everyone should just get over it anyway. It is insensitive to use a dehumanizing mascot while resting assured that you’re not being insensitive.

    • Blithe

      It’s interesting that your thoughts about the team’s name are related to the history of the team, while my thoughts about the team’s name are related to the history of this country, and the many, many racist laws, social practices, thoughts, etc, which I can’t personally view as part of a benign cultural heritage. Where you see a “brand” I see a history of genocide and discrimination, and, at best, a sort of ignorance is bliss insistence that racism is innocuous — because the “heritage” of a sports team with racist iconography is either innocent, or more important then recognizing its association with some noxious and painful history. I should add that I’m a DC native, although not a football fan. This is, indeed, the team that I grew up with — and that makes me even more sensitive to the negative powers of the name and associated symbols.

    • Being insensitive doesn’t mean you don’t have a reason for your actions.

  • This is fun because there are people who actually think wearing a Redskins jersey is racist. Every time I see an aging African American man on the metro wearing a Darell Green Jersey I think to myself “Boy. That guy must really fucking hate Indians”

    • No, but he is like the white guy with a lawn jockey. Racism is complicated.

      • Seems like a bit of a stretch there Charles…

        • No, it’s not. Both are people who don’t necessarily think of themselves as racist, but who don’t think anything of using a dehumanizing symbol as decoration. The key is that they don’t THINK about it. If white guy with a lawn jockey thinks about what that symbol means, and also wishes to avoid the use of dehumanizing symbols, he’ll stop. Today’s general cultural animosity toward outright racism against African Americans has meant that lawn jockeys are only found on the lawns of outright racists. We haven’t come that far (as far as it goes) with racism toward Native Americans. Most Americans don’t know many if any Native Americans, and the Native civil rights movement never achieved the same cultural penetration as the African American civil rights movement. Thus, most Americans don’t think twice about using Native images, terms, and slurs, while they would be horrified at the thought of dressing up in blackface.

          • “The key is that they don’t THINK about it.”
            Exactly. It’s completely out-of-mind for these folks. They don’t even bother to take the mental steps to actually think about what the word “Redskin” signifies. It must be nice to be so simple minded and non-reflective about the crappy stuff of the world.

          • justinbc

            I see a lot of low income people walking around this city with Redskins gear, maybe from the times when they weren’t so down on their luck, or maybe just handed down to have a relatively clean shirt. I’m pretty sure many of these people aren’t even aware of the controversy around the team name. If you look at everyone with a singular view and make judgments about them then you’re no less myopic than whoever decided the team name should be whatever it is.

          • justinbc @2:27 pm

            I’m sorry, would you like me to have included all possible exceptions to my statement above? But thanks for assuming that I apply one blanket assumption to all people without thinking any deeper than that. Do you really think that I go around silently judging dudes on the metro for their shirt choice? If it helps you out, I’m talking about what wearing that shirt means, for someone who has chosen to wear that specific shirt, and is not wearing it out of sheer necessity. Do you think I go to impoverished villages and laugh at them because they’re wearing shirts bearing “DENVER BRONCOS SUPER BOWL XLVIII CHAMPIONS?”
            Context, dude.

          • justinbc

            The context is the question as it’s posed, which states “When you see people wearing Redskins Gear, you think they are…”, and the summation of your statements all allude to your belief that they are racist, whether they’re aware of it or not. The point is, for many people this is simply a complete non-issue, so your judgment about them simply based on the fact they’re wearing a particular article of clothing is pretty superficial at best, and at worst just as ignorant as the people you have said distaste for.

          • The context I’m talking about is the context for seeing people in racist sportswear, not the context of the wording of the question.
            The point is that if it is a non-issue for all these people, it is reasonable to assume that they are not particularly sensitive to matters of racism that don’t affect them directly. And that’s a problem with racism in society, of which they are a part, We’re all guilty.
            But by all means, please go on trying to figure out ways in which wearing a racist emblem doesn’t necessarily have to be racist. It’s very becoming.

        • @justin I see what you just did there…kudos

  • I was inclined to think that they’re just oblivious, but then I remembered something: when the Nationals first came to town, a surprising number of friends refused to buy a red hat with a W on it. George W. Bush was president; they were Democrats. If you can extrapolate a conclusion about the football team’s merchandise, I think it’s safe to say that Washingtonians are Aware and Picky, moreso than people in other markets.

    • justinbc

      Right, all Washingtonians fall into one giant bucket because of some anecdote you encountered with your friends. You definitely sound qualified to opine on stereotyping people.

      • You’re right that the example I cited based on 16 years of experience in our fair city has nothing on your qualifications to stereotype me based on the three sentences I wrote. Thanks for your kind correction and thoughtful contribution to the discussion!

  • Agree. Simply possessing an item that others consider racists doesn’t, in and of itself, make one racist.

  • Let’s all keep in mind that this team was the last in the NFL to integrate, and only did so begrudgingly under threat of the loss of their stadium. Real classy heritage.

    • Lets also keep in mind that this was one of the first teams to start a black quarterback during an era when blk quarterbacks were converted to other positions if they wanted to play in the pros.

    • Emmaleigh504

      That’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone goes on about the heritage of the team.

  • I emailed the following comments to PoP and he asked that I consider posting in comments. It is a bit longer than just an answer to the poll question, and not limited to merchandise, but hopefully provides more context.

    I am an enrolled tribal member. I’ve been in DC since 2006 work on Native policy issues. I am not the “white liberal” that so many think are the only ones that care about it. The fact that that is who people think is pushing this only further and ironically confirms the issues with being a mascot. Here are my thoughts with an answer to the question up front:

    –The merchandise is offensive. Mostly because it is a giant middle finger to me. But if I mention or approach someone and tell them that, then I am the asshole.It’s an asymmetrical dynamic. The logo also forces people to think that I must look like the logo in order to be an Indian, and so since I do not fit their notions then I am somehow not actually Native.

    If I dressed up as RGIII with blackface and dreads, or wore a shirt that depicted RGIII in such a manner (I would do neither), people would probably have an issue with it. It is not my place to tell someone that my hypothetical blackface is not meant to be insulting therefore it is not insulting. But people wear jerseys with a stereotyped picture of a Native or dress up as an Indian and see no problem with it.

    The point of it all is that we are actual people. We may still take part in cultural ceremonies, fight challenging issues, wear long hear (as I did when I first came to DC), but we also are real, live people that live IN DC in 2015. When seen only as mascots that allows people to think of us as how other people think they should see us, including reinforcing harmful stereotypes and oppressive actions.

    –Not every Native is offended, which communities are allowed to do. Initially my position was somewhat in the middle. I thought it was stupid but I also was not doing a whole lot. But the thing is, when someone from a community says something is offensive and then someone outside the community says it is not offensive, then I have a problem. As much as other communities say that the mascot name and logo is not like other names/stereotypes, they have no standing to tell me what I think is offensive to me.

  • jim_ed

    I’m a Redskins fan. I wear my Redskins hat(s) around town frequently. I think the name is outdated and the defense of it by the team is embarrassing. I equal parts hate and love the team. Being a Redskins fan means dealing with equal parts civic pride and self-loathing. It just is what it is.

  • I think they are… yahoos with no fashion sense.

  • I have no qualms wearing my Redskins gear. Eventually the political correctness bandwagon will probably force the team to change its name, but that will be a sad day. I believe that so much of this “controversy” is manufactured. The Redskins team name and mascot in the context that it is used promotes the image of the American Indian being a brave warrior who can win any battle despite the odds. That’s not a negative image in my book.

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