NFL's Redskins nickname has to go

Team owner Daniel Snyder says he won't change the Redskins nickname despite criticism from President Obama and many others.

It’s a debate I’ve long steered clear of, recusing myself from weighing in based on personal allegiances.

My childhood self that unwittingly cherishes the memories, however, is at cross odds with my adult self that knowingly can’t support bigotry.

Silence isn’t the proper response anymore. The Redskins nickname has to go.

The long-standing campaign to get Washington’s NFL franchise to change its inarguably race-based nickname is reaching crescendo as the team’s stubborn owner looks sillier by the day with his insensitive inflexibility.

With the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelling six trademarks belonging to the football team last week, saying they are offensive to Native Americans, the heat has become intense on the franchise to make a change. The amount of mocking unlicensed merchandise that will surely flood the market soon will cost more in ridicule than it will in the millions of dollars that Dan Snyder will have to spend trying to protect the familiar logo.

It would be a lot cheaper and a lot more lucrative to just rebrand the team. Call them the Redhawks, Red Devils, RedBulls (sponsorship opportunity) or Red Menace. Pretty much anything that doesn’t demean the features of Native Americans would be an acceptable and welcome alternative.

I’m not one of the people ready to jump on board the bandwagon to erase all Native-American inspired nicknames from the landscape. I believe most of them – such as Braves, Chiefs and Warriors – come from a place of respect. Teams choose those nicknames based on noble attributes that fit athletic ideals. (I don’t have the same affection for “Indians” since the word itself is a name our ancestors created because they were too ignorant to realize they had landed on the wrong continent and too lazy to change to moniker once they figured it out.)

It’s not hard to understand why Native Americans would cringe at the sight of thousands of mostly white fans chanting and “tomahawk” chopping in unison. I don’t choose to join in at Turner Field. And nobody can condone the use of demeaning caricatures like Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo or the long-gone
Atlanta feature of Chief Noc-A-Homa and his outfield teepee. We should have progressed as a society to stop using such insensitive stereotypes.

We hadn’t, however, when I was a kid growing up in the ’60s and ’70s playing “Cowboys and Indians” around the neighborhood when we weren’t playing kick-the-can. The Redskins nickname seemed harmless enough. I had never once in my life heard the R-word being used as a pejorative. It certainly wasn’t in the same realm of the N-word that reached ugly heights of hate and disrespect in an era of civil rights and desegregation.

Personally, I always loved Washington’s helmet logo and would doodle it during classes while humming the team’s famous fight song. The words of that song, however (not to mention the band wearing headdresses), were indefensible.

“Scalp’um, swamp’um

We will take’um big score.

Read’um, Weep’um, touchdown

We want heap more.”

Even the team knew that kind of demeaning impression was offensive and changed the words in the late ’80s to scuttle the Tonto-like pidgin English.

Pig-headed team owner Snyder, who has driven away this lifelong fan with his reprehensible personality and his ineffective leadership, refuses to yield in the face of criticism from all sides including team players and President Obama.

“We will never change the name of the team,” is Snyder’s mantra.

That’s a rather shallow line on the sand to draw. Other teams have long since changed their offensive nicknames and survived. Stanford went from Indians to Cardinal in 1972. William and Mary went from Indians to Tribe in the late ’70s. St. John’s jettisoned Redmen (and arguably the most offensive of all caricature logos) in favor of Red Storm in 1994.

Most notably, Miami (Ohio) changed from Redskins to RedHawks in 1997. Washington could make a similar switch and keep its uniforms and logo almost identical, perhaps with a hawk tail feather draped off a circle with the Capitol dome inside.

Bottom line is, it’s not Snyder’s or anyone else’s place to say what is or isn’t offensive to an entire group of people. Native Americans are offended by a nickname that clearly has racial connotations. Fighting to uphold that “tradition” in the face of public scorn is absurd.

Until that name is gone (and preferably Snyder with it, in my opinion), I cannot support the team of my childhood. That famous fight song still rings in my head, but the fight has changed.

Fail to the Redskins.

Fail history.

Braves on the warpath,

Fighting bigotry.

 

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