Changing the nickname of the NFL Redskins re-emerged last week as a political football to be kicked around Washington, DC.
Instead of creating jobs, extricating our troops from Afghanistan or reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, some of our country’s legislators are once again focusing their energies haggling over a football team’s nickname.
National news was made when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada led 49 other U.S. Senators in sending a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell denouncing the Washington Redskins’ 80 year-old nickname.
The May 22, 2014 letter claimed that the Redskins name was racist and needed to be changed.
Even respected U.S. Senator Bill Nelson sent his own letter charging that the name is inappropriate in this day and age.
Reid also cited the NBA’s recent move to ban Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life after an illegal recording revealed he made racist comments about blacks.
All 50 Senators who signed the letter were Democrats.
To me, Reid’s letter smacked of a coy political move designed to make the Republicans look less racially sensitive than their Democrat counterparts.
With the Redskins’ political football now firmly in play on the Republicans’ side of the field, I’m now expecting a slick John Boehner partisan led counter attack. It will likely arise as frivolously and as ill-advised as his Democratic counterparts’ first strike.
Expect this tit-for-tat name change tussle to be kicked, passed, punted and run around Washington until the NFL season officially begins in September. Or, until Commissioner Goodell throws out a red challenge flag and formally weighs in on the matter – which should be to encourage Senator Reid to pick up his ball and go home.
Unfortunately, the Democratic Senators’ battle cry is weak and reeks of political correctness run afoul. Given the genesis of the Redskins name and the manner in which the Daniel Snyder owned franchise has utilized the nickname over the years, the attack is unfounded.
In addition, it’s a monumental stretch to equate the respectful use of the Redskins name with the vile sentiments uttered by a boorish, soon-to-be former NBA owner like Donald Sterling.
Any attempt to compare the two mitigates the seriousness and ugliness of Sterling’s remarks
Redskins’ President Bruce Allen commented, ”Our use of `Redskins’ as the name of our football team for more than 80 years has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of Native Americans.”
Simple research reveals that no malevolence was intended when the Washington franchise adopted the name. In fact, the opposite was true. The Redskins label was chosen as a symbol of strength and source of pride for Indian people.
Sports history reveals that before the Redskins formally moved to Washington in 1937, the franchise was known as the Boston Braves. When the original Boston ownership opted to rename the franchise the Redskins, their documented intent was to honor indigenous peoples while recognizing their courage and resolve. And, that tradition continues today with the team’s venerable logo and the singing of the franchise’s fight song.
Ironically, the term “red skin” never had anything to do with the inherent color of Indian peoples’ skin. Rather, it was a specific reference to the red ochre and red clays that Native Americans historically and willingly mixed and then applied to their skin before embarking in battle. Indian warriors proudly painted their faces and bodies red for strength before going off to war.
Dating back to the late 1700’s there has never been any indication that the term “red skin” was ethnic in nature or, worse yet, carried any degrading or racist connotation.
When understood in historical context, the term Redskins has nearly always been viewed positively. A majority of Native American groups have supported its use. As case in point, Wellpinit High School in Wellpinit, WA with a 93% Native American student enrollment employs Redskins at its school’s nickname.
Senator Reid and his fellow Democrats should have done their homework before kicking this latest political football.
Before, if and when John Boehner gets involved, both parties will be like pigs getting messy in the mud over this latest political pigskin.
So, what’s next on the political horizon if Roger Goodell and other fair minded Americans sports fans don’t intervene and say, “No mas”?
Will cacophonous crusades continue unabated all in the name of political correctness?
Should the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks and Kansas City Chiefs next change their beloved nicknames?
Should sports nicknames like the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings also be changed to protect our nation’s impressionable youth? Such references can be argued for glorifying criminality, rape and plundering.
Should New Orleans drop the Saints name to further expunge Judeo-Christian references from our nation’s common culture?
Should Buffalo change its name from the Bills? Remember, Buffalo Bill Cody was an American soldier and military scout who actually did kill Native Americans on the battlefield when our country was at war with Indian tribes.
Should the New York Yankees change their name because it offends our country’s Southern populace as a reminder of how their states were vanquished during the Civil War?
Should the NBA’s Pistons now change its politically incorrect nickname because it does not promote energy efficiency instead it stresses fossil fuel dependency.
Finally, should Dallas rename its nickname because their Cowboys once pillaged, you guessed it, Indians?
Sports fans, it’s time to speak up.
Write your Senators. Tell them to learn from history and stop kicking this Redskins football around.
Then, political correctness won’t totally run amok in sports.
MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!