Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 Jul 2013

Hail to the Redacted

The Washington Redskins is a name that is thoroughly offensive and demeaning to Native Americans. That is a true fact. Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins who is no stranger to public relations nightmares, has made it a point that the name will never change. He gave me permission to use all caps, but I won't do that because with Snyder quotes the ego is implied enough that it doesn't need to be further exaggerated.

As an editor -- the guy who cleans up a lot of language around here and tries to match the right word to the underlying meaning -- it may not surprise you to know that I have an opinion on this. There is a lot of power that can be invoked in a word.

The overwhelming idea I take away from the statements of Snyder and public relations commissioner Roger Goodell is that they don't want "Redskins" to be a term that is owned by the greater community of English. They want the word to mean what they want it to mean, and they are willing to disparage anyone who gets in the way of that.

When Snyder says, "As a lifelong Redskins fan ... I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it's all about and what it means," look at the segmenting he is doing. When Goodell writes to Congress that "[f]or the team's millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America's most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride, and respect," note that those millions are but a tiny sliver of America.

I will admit that I don't know much about the other side of racism. I am a privileged white male who has generally lived in suburban neighborhoods. I generally subscribe to the South Park mantra of "I get it ... I don't get it" -- I can feel for the plight of my fellow human's struggles against racism, but I cannot ever fully know what it is like to have a racial epithet hurled at me. Let alone have a professional sports franchise named after one for my culture.

What I do know a lot about are words. As someone who grew up in the late-90's slacker culture, I have watched my vocabulary evolve over the years. I have watched "retarded" go from a multi-use adjective for stupid to a word that is considered offensive in polite company. I have watched "midget" go from endearing term for females to a word that is considered insulting to a small person. And, yes, I have watched "gay" morph from meaning "wrong" or "bad" to a term that only describes homosexuals and shouldn't have a stigma attached to it.

I'm not saying that change happens overnight with these words. Nor am I saying that I've never slipped up in using one in private company -- "retarded" is a real vice for me to this day. What I am saying is that we live with an ever-evolving language. That is a good thing. Our language should be changing to fit the needs of today. I grew up thinking that "Redskins" was just another synonym for Indians, no different than "Seminoles" or "Braves." But that doesn't mean it is so, and it certainly doesn't mean that I need to hang on to it if it is offending the common culture that we live in. An important part about sharing a language is that we, collectively, are involved in how it is enforced. We, the greater population of the country, should mean more than a single fanbase and an entity that would rather keep a racist name than go through the trouble of making a fresh start with the grace of the people's will.

Snyder isn't going to win a possible court case over this. He's not going to win in the court of public opinion. (And he knows this, which is why he's hired Frank Luntz.) The Redskins are eventually going to change names, and it's going to sound weird for a few seasons, and then we'll be over it. Nobody talks about the good old days of the Washington Bullets anymore, nor do they make fun of the Wizards for anything other than the embarrassing play of the team.

Snyder, defiant to the end, was invited by a Navajo named Amanda Blackhorse to call her a Redskin to her face. "I think the best way is to just not comment on that type of stuff," Snyder said. "I don't know her."

That's because he doesn't want to.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 01 Jul 2013

205 comments, Last at 09 Jul 2013, 12:52am by Will Allen


by jklps :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 2:27pm

As a fan of Washington DC sports teams, I'm happy to comment on this - as somebody who realizes that the name needs to be changed.

I can see why it's hard for anybody to want to change the name - the Washington NFL team is the most important professional team in the area by far. The only one to win multiple championships in recent history, as the Bullets/Wizards have 1 in 1978, the Nationals have only existed since 2005, and the Capitals also have zero. Sports talk in this area for the most part is heavily NFL, along with some Capitals as of late and a bit more Nationals.

I do realize the name will be changed, but unfortunately one of the more annoying things about it is the constant talk that your favorite team's name needs to be changed - yes, even if that is a true fact.

90% of the time, at least within my football watching group, we refer to the game as the Skins game and don't even use the full name.

Which is why to me, the perfect name would be Pigskins although I'm sure many would not love that as it is part of the original name. But Pigskin stand for football, and relates to the "Hogs" of the 1980s in a way. The colors can stay the same, and just change the logo to a football or W for Washington. Personally, the same logo scheme replacing the unneeded image with a burgundy W that looks like the Nationals would be perfect.

I know many fans are just tired of all the talk, but who knows if the owner - who is an idiot in my mind for many reasons - will ever make a change. He is also relatively young for an owner still, so who knows when things will happen.

For the record, referencing the Wizards name does not help. Many people want that name gone, even reverting back to Bullets. The Wizards is a joke of a name for a joke of a franchise.

by snoopy369 :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 2:29pm

Why not just go with Hogs, for that matter? "Washington Hogs" sounds good to me. You could pick a two-syllable word, like Warthogs, or a color-containing word, like Red Hogs or somesuch, if you like; but even just "Hogs" sounds reasonable.

FWIW, I don't like "Pigskins" since "Pigskin" is a nickname for "football".

by CBPodge :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 5:49pm

Hogs could be stigmatised to give offense to fat people. That's a joke, but I imagine it would be an argument seriously raised.

Washington Hogs is pretty good though. Isn't Washington's de facto city dish the hot dog as well, so it fits nicely with that.

I dread to think what the logo would be though.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 6:56pm

Not to mention all the Congressional 'pork'.

by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 6:05pm

Warthogs would be an awesome name. The mascot could be a A-10 unloading a gatling gun into some Taliban.

by Anonymous-NH (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 2:34pm

How about warriors? They can keep the logo then.

by collapsing pocket (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 3:00pm

In the betting pool for the whatever the new name with be, "Warriors" has to be the odds on favorite. Its got alliteration and requires minimal change of logos and paraphernalia.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:30am

Washington Warpath? Is that offensive?

I would go with the Washington Lobbyists. Right to the heart of the problems in the city.

by jklps :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 11:49am

Most of the actual Washington football fans just happen to live in the DC area and are not here solely to work on the hill.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 9:11pm

Yes.. please let's not conflate this with the Bullets name switch, for which there was no compelling reason. Maybe we can do a package deal, in exchange for losing the Redskins name, DC gets back the Bullets.


by JimZipCode :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 12:10pm

The Bullets name-change was made at a time when DC led the nation in homicides. Abe Pollin felt it was inappropriate for the local pro basketball team to keep the name "Bullets", while the city had more African-American young men lying dead in the street than any other city in America.

It's hard to imagine a more compelling reason.

by JimZipCode :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 12:23pm

the Washington NFL team is the most important professional team in the area by far. The only one to win multiple championships in recent history

The Washington NFL team is, of course, only the 2nd-best NFL team that plays its home games in Maryland. It's been 22 years since the Washington NFL team last won a SB; the other Maryland-based NFL team has won two of the past thirteen, including the most recent.

You have to take a pretty narrow view of "in the area" – so narrow that it ignores where the team's stadium is actually located – to define the Skins as the "most important" pro team.

by jklps :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 3:14pm

Ha what a joke. I was talking about DC championships.

If you want to get snarky, 3 championships is more than 2 championships.

The Ravens play in Baltimore, the "other team" is a DC team.

Ravens fans like to skip over all things that make them icky:

1) Stealing the Browns
2) Getting their most important player in franchise history due to a trade made before that move was every thought of. Go look it up...Belichick traded for the extra first rounder that ended up being Ray Lewis.
3) What county paid the most for the stadium that the Ravens are using? Surely not Baltimore City or Baltimore County...perhaps it was Montgomery County, which was a majority of Redskins fans until young kids got sick of rooting for them.
4) Supporting numerous players found guilty of major crimes.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 3:30pm

Just wondering, what are these players that were found guilty of major crimes that the Ravens have supported?

by jklps :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 3:36pm

Setting up a drug deal and obstruction of justice in a murder trial...Lewis & Lewis! How soon people forget.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 6:13pm

Please research both of those.

Lewis first of all was guilty of a misdemeanor OOJ, I believe, and while it did occur at a murder trail, it is hard to say a misdemeanor charge is a 'serious crime'.

As for Jamal, his 'setting up a drug deal' was when he put an undercover cop in contact with a person he knew that was a drug dealer. Jamal himself was barely involved, and that whole case wreaked of them giving Lewis a hard time because of who he was (on the career-killing move to not go after him because of his status). The trail and conviction happened years after the incident took place, and while he did spend some nominal time in jail, again, that really wasn't a serious crime.

by Usernaim (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 10:45pm

Ray Lewis hid his bloody suit which implicated him in the aforementioned murder. Quite possibly he then persuaded his buddies to take the rap. Just because he got away with it is no reason to let him off the hook. I'd have much more respect for him if he was honest.

by Cadio (not verified) :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 3:27am

Let's be honets, until he admits, you won't think he's being honest...

by RickD :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 4:52pm

Baltimore isn't in the "Washington area."

I know it's only 50 miles away. But trust me on this one. Don't listen to Peter Angelos.

by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 12:10am

I agree Baltimore isn't in the DC area, but the NFL listened to Jack Kent Cooke for years when he said it was so he could keep pro football out of Baltimore.

by chrisM (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 2:28pm

Thanks for saying this. The team really has to change the name, just to try and dispel the evil of George Marshall. The NFL really is sticking to a bad hand.

by jonny :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 2:33pm

Thanks for posting this. This is a losing battle for Snyder and the NFL.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 2:37pm

...but I cannot ever fully know what it is like to have a racial epithet hurled at me.

Sure you can. Just spend some time in a country where you'd be a minority. Some are better than others for this purpose: China and Japan are great places to go to have mocking racial epithets hurled your way.

Of course, it's not just about the word, but about the power differential. Remember how "The Fighting Whities" backfired:


by collapsing pocket (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 3:04pm

Which is true, but that would be outside the course of his regular life. Being insulted in an other language by a culture you don't know and haven't been shaped by doesn't quite carry the same power.

My grandfather once told me a story about his time in the Air Force. Once while stationed in Germany (post WW2) some German guy came out and cussed him out to his face for being a hated American. Not speaking a word of German and not really caring about what some random foreigner thought of him, the insult provoked only confusion and later laughter.

by CBPodge :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 6:47pm

A foreign country? The only time I've ever been to Washington a taxi driver called me a "gwailo" because he was trying to take me to the wrong corner of the city.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 2:53am

How did the Fighting Whites backfire? They were wildly successful.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 11:20am

It was supposed to be an insult to white people. Instead, like you say, it was wildly popular with them, which just goes to the point that it's hard for a racial epithet to have any sting when the race is a powerful majority.

by Scott C :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 4:21pm

I've had plenty of racial epithets as a white kid in suburbia thrown at me having been in many situations where Blacks and Hispanics dominate the percentage of the population in many locations. (I grew up in southern California).

I've even been bullied and beat up as a kid because I was a 'cracker'. I've been called the 'N' word both in the term of endearment sense by African American friends and in the negative sense by others.

I really don't understand why people claim that all white people don't get it. I'm not saying that Rivers is saying that here, but it is a common enough thing to here "you can never really understand because it has never happened to you".

Many of us have been on the other end of the stick; but less so and in fewer contexts. Knowing what it feels like to be in a situation where everyone around you is judging you based on your skin color, sends angry, racial slurs your way as a stranger, and treats you differently -- often negatively due to your race alone? This white boy has been there.

Assuming I haven't been there, because I am white, is Racist.

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 10:09pm

I have a problem with that statement because it diminishes what racism is. It isn't about racial slurs and yes, white people can face prejudice for being white (Not at the same rates as non-white people, nonetheless) and can have slurs thrown at them. But, that isn't what racism is. Racism affects most aspects of the lives of people who face it. It is systemic and powerful. To equate it from hearing racial slurs thrown at you is to diminish the power of racism.

by Guest789 :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 11:02pm

I don't know where you're getting your definition of racism from. What Scott C described definitely qualifies.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 4:19am

I didn't mean his statement.

I meant that the article that equates hearing racial epithets as "racism".

Racism is systemic. Bigotry and prejudice can happen in which white people feel uncomfortable, but in which overall they don't have to face anything that approaches what people of color face. I will say that there are theoretical places where white people can face systemic discrimination based on their race. I have one white friend who grew up in Detroit and in the context of growing up in a primarily non-white area, he talked about how he felt that he faced systems of oppression directed at white people but overall, even in the context of the Detroit metro area, that Detroit as the most poverty stricken area is filled with black people is very much because of institutional and societal level institutions of racism.

This is what people mean when they say that "reverse racism" doesn't compare to racism. I think that there are instances in which (mostly poor white people) face oppression for discrimination against white people by people of color but they are relatively rare and overstated by people who would claim that reverse racism is anything that compares to various forms of racism that people of color face. But, it's also important to note that people of color face all sorts of different forms of institutional racism as well.

Racism is systemic and institutional and is much bigger than facing bigotry or prejudice which contribute to these systems.

Also, I wasn't claiming that he couldn't "get it". I don't doubt that he does, but I was referring to the language of how racism gets so often boiled down to the simple act of facing small scale individual bigotry as opposed to much larger more powerful systems not always intentionally perpetrated by bigots.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 2:57pm

"I will admit that I don't know much about the other side of racism. I am a privileged white male who has generally lived in suburban neighborhoods."

I'm an Irish Catholic, and yet the NCAA doesn't crack down on Notre Dame and the NFL allows the "Saints". And oddly, various other Indian-fighting mascots exist -- Volunteers, Sooners, Patriots, Cowboys, Texans, Yankees, etc. I wonder when the NFL will expunge the records of that racist Jim Thorpe and his Oorang Indians. I find the whole topic rather tiresome.

Incidentally, when are we cracking down on the Chefs?

by collapsing pocket (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 3:18pm

I'm an Irish Catholic, and yet the NCAA doesn't crack down on Notre Dame

I suspect if they were called the "Fighting Micks" there might be some call to change the name. Perhaps to an actual ethnic name that people are proud of, like "Irish".

and the NFL allows the "Saints"

Please explain how a mystical and positive description which doesn't insult anyone is in any way demeaning, insulting, or otherwise a slur.

And oddly, various other Indian-fighting mascots exist -- Volunteers, Sooners, Patriots, Cowboys, Texans, Yankees, etc

Again, how are any of those names demeaning to the groups in question?

Redskins is a slur. Its a racial slur, chosen by a racist owner who proudly did all sorts of racist things in his life and with the running of his football team, and to continue to embrace it because of its "history" is to embrace that owner's racist history.

I find the whole topic rather tiresome.

Not surprising that you can be bored by something you don't seem to understand.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 4:22pm

Notwithstanding the NCAA's hopelessly confused naming policy*, what's the difference between Fighting Irish**, Fighting Illini, and Fighting Sioux?

And while I don't agree that "redskin" is a pejorative name or a slur, I remain confused about the controversy about teams named after Indians -- again, especially in the context of similar names like Volunteers, Sooners, Patriots, Cowboys, Texans, Yankees, etc., which all go to the same concept of a fighting people. But perhaps it's best to let the native americans go quietly into the night, to be no longer celebrated, and to be removed from history as is fated to all defeated peoples.

* -- the NCAA made North Dakota change their name from the Fighting Sioux. North Dakota was then sued by one of the local Sioux bands to make them keep the name. Florida State was simultaneously officially backed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and opposed by the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma.
** -- the term "Native American" was originally used by nativists to oppose Irish Catholic immigrants.
*** -- when FSU chose the Seminoles in 1947, one of the losing names was the Crackers.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 6:23pm

Your info on North Dakota is incorrect. The NCAA gave UND three years to get an agreement with either North Dakota Sioux tribe (Standing Rock or Spirit Lake Sioux). Neither nation consented, even though the deadline was extended beyond the three years.

I wouldn't be surprised if an individual Sioux sued (no pun intended). You can usually find an individual to do almost anything. That's how the US government took all the land from the tribes - 1) Find a tribal member (preferably illiterate), 2) Give him something of value, and 3) Have him sign treaty giving land away.

I think a lot of attitude on the issue is based on what the tribes experience in their regions. Seminoles in Florida tend to have pretty good relations with other Floridians. The Sioux in both Dakotas experience a lot more racial prejudice as my ex (an Arikara whose tribe also has a reservation in North Dakota) will tell you. In my hometown, relations with the Oneidas have improved immensely in the last 40 years. OTOH, if you drive to Shawano there is still a lot of tension between the local (mostly white) population and the Menominees.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 4:44pm

North Dakota totally out-smarted the NCAA on that one. They're currently playing without having a mascot. Attend any of their hockey games and you see all their fans still in the Fighting Sioux gear. Everyone knows they're still the Fighting Sioux, they just cut the NCAA out of the equation by officially not having a mascot. I suspect some variation on that will come to pass with the Redskins. No matter what name change comes to pass, all their fans will still think of them as the Redskins.

by Jerry :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 6:18pm

Remember Baltimore's CFL team in the mid '90s? They were the Colts until the NFL was able to enforce its trademark, and then they were officially the Baltimore Football Club. I think the PA guy would announce "That's a first down for your Baltimore..." and the crowd would fill in "Colts!" However, they ended up calling themselves the Stallions. Apparently there's enough value to having a nickname that it supersedes trying to stealthily hang on to an old identity.

by dryheat :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 7:23pm

Did they? As I remember, They're not allowed to wear "Sioux" on their uniforms, and cannot host any NCAA tournament events because of their stubbornness. At some point, it's just not worth the fight, so you move forward and change to the Warriors or Bears or whatever.

I mean Sioux is the name of the Tribe, and not a slur, so that's good, but when you ask the local tribes if they mind, and they say yes, it's time to move forward.

by MJK :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 10:50pm

Actually, isn't "Sioux" the name that the tribe's enemies called them? The actual tribe calls themselves the "Lakota", if I recall correctly...

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 2:48am

That's not unique, actually. Explorers and frontiersman got a lot of information from native people as they moved west. One thing they pretty much always wanted to know was about the people living to the West of wherever they were. Conflict was pretty common at the time, so the answer was frequently something like "enemy," "other people," "people who don't speak our language," etc. The names often stuck, and as a result the more common names associated with a lot of tribes are something unflattering or alienating in whatever language was used East of them. Look up Apache, Comanche, Seminole, Slavey, and Klickitat. Sioux I believe is used for both the Lakota and the Dakota.

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 10:16pm

Even in this article, "Navajo" people usually prefer to be called Dine.

by Bnonymous (not verified) :: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 8:44am

The Sioux are a collection of tribes, one of which a the Lakota. Much like the Iroquois Nation consisted of 6(?) tribes in the northeast, among them the Mohawk, Onandaga, Oneida, Seneca, etc. For the Sioux, there are 18 tribes; Lakota, Dakota and Nakota are three of them.

by corrections (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 1:25pm

Aaron Brooks here appears extremely dense ("I don't accept redskins as a slur" and the comparisons to the Fighting Irish being among the most hilarious). His symptomatic of the type of person who believes reverse racism is the real racism.

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 10:23pm

Frankly, if Irish people who have a lot more power in this country compared to Native people who are thought of as an afterthought asked for a change to the name the "Fighting Irish", I would reconsider that name.

But, also the name fighting Irish wasn't imposed by outsiders on another group upholding a racial slur.

As for the question of the "Chiefs", their name isn't nearly as egregious. I don't know any native people who hear a name like that and think that it's honoring them, but at least it isn't an obvious slur like "Redskins" and at least it doesn't display an overtly stereotypical image like the Cleveland Indians.

But if you ask me, all of these native inspired names need to go.

by Nick L. (not verified) :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 12:09pm

I believe that the "Yankees" are the best counter point. The term is used to describe people of a certain heritage and is often used in a pejorative manner. "Yankee" is a racial slur.

by InTheBoilerRoom :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 12:46pm

Hoosier is also an interesting example. While it's origin is uncertain, it has been used in the same manner as pejoratives such as hick, redneck, and cracker.

by Dean :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 1:17pm

Along the same lines, back in the old Negro Leagues in baseball, there was a team whose name was the Atlanta Black Crackers. I never understood that one.

by corrections (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 1:28pm

And if Yankees were being used by a team outside of the Northeast perhaps you'd have a point (not really but there would be an argument). But it's proudly claimed by the very group of people it is used as a pejorative for. So it's not even close to a counterpoint.

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 10:26pm

It would be a valid point if a team in the south pejoratively named their team the Yankees. That people in the Northern United States choose to call themselves Yankees means that there really is no comparison.

Now, if a Native team names themselves the Redskins, I would have no problem with that. (Get the difference?)

by D :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 6:32pm

And oddly, various other Indian-fighting mascots exist -- Volunteers, Sooners, Patriots, Cowboys, Texans, Yankees, etc

Again, how are any of those names demeaning to the groups in question?

Actually, Sooner was originally about the most deeply offensive thing you could call someone in Oklahoma. I mean it was bad. Really bad. Over time though it came to be embraced.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 2:58am

The original Sooners were liars/cheaters, I don't get how that name ever became a good thing.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 4:53pm

More to the point of origin, they were people who jumped the gun on the race to claim homestead land in Oklahoma. They started too soon, thus the term "Sooner." ("Boomers" were people who had supported the opening of the previously unassigned land in Oklahoma. Hence, "Boomer Sooner.") It was basically impossible to tell who'd jumped the gun and who had followed the rules, so the stigma of being a Sooner wore off very quickly. (And, of course, the term never would have applied to anybody other than the very first settlers.)

by Led :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 3:24pm

"I'm an Irish Catholic . . . . I find the whole topic rather tiresome."

You might want to ask yourself whether and, if so, how those two statements are related. (I speak as an Irish Catholic, myself, and the point is obviously not specific to Irish Catholics.) Whether or not one is comfortable with the somewhat politically loaded concept of "privilege," there is certainly value in appreciating that people of different backgrounds experience the world differently. And, in humility, that one may personally consider an issue to be tiresome does not exhaust the sum of wisdom in the world on that issue. And, in particular, that when the issue is whether certain language is offensive to others (as opposed to whether some fact or other is true or false), the urge to be "right" is not nearly as important as the obligation to be understanding.

by jfsh :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:17pm

Great post.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 3:29pm

I'm Irish Catholic too, and I never found "fighting Irish" to be offensive. I find it odd that you would lump "Saints" under derogatory nicknames, though. Now if their name was the New Orleans "Here's Some Cheap Beads, Show Us Your Ta-ta's", you might have an arguement. Bet it'd be the best selling jersey, though.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 4:26pm

See, here's the thing about that -- what you think doesn't matter, so long as I'm offended. Support needs to be unanimous.

See also: NCAA v. FSU, NCAA v. UND, NCAA v. William & Mary, etc.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:13am

Wrong. It's about the universal meaning of words, not about how any particular person happens to interpret a word. If you do not, on the other hand, accept the authority of dictionaries, then there's nothing to talk about.

The man with no sig

by Anonymous37 (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 1:23pm

There is no universal meaning of words; dictionaries change all the time precisely to accommodate the changing denotations and connotations of words. An obvious example is the word "gay," mentioned in the article. The older usage is almost always happy or carefree, but when is the last time you've seen it used that way?

And some words like Yankee can have distinctly different meanings. In the south, it primarily refers to northeasterners, but plenty of people in other countries use it to refer to Americans in general - much to the irritation of some southerners I'm sure. ;-)

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 12:39am

And in the dictionary, you will see the word gay with the modern meaning, and the older meaning marked as archaic or something similar. Redskin, meanwhile, is marked only as insulting. It hasn't changed in the many decades it has been the team's name. The deeper point is that the meaning of words may change "of their own", but you can't simply change the meaning of a word because it doesn't suit you.

The man with no sig

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 5:36pm

Don't people understand that referring to any kind of people by their skin color is going to be offensive (whether or not Native Americans really have 'red' skin is irrelevant). The other cultural names referenced as sports teams refer to strong warrior types of that specific nationality of people (a Chief does not generally reference ALL Native Americans for example, only highly respected and powerful ones). Using skin color to differentiate one another is sooo 40 years ago people. I am white and upper middle class, but I still cringe when people are refered to this way. Lets get over it, change the name to something non-skin color related and move on.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 5:56pm

Using skin color to differentiate one another is sooo 40 years ago people. I am white and upper middle class, but I still cringe when people are refered to this way.

Heh. Apparently not always -- how is that you're referring to yourself?

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 10:42pm

What's important to remember is that it is offensive because of our history. Because there is a long, long, genocidal, oppressive history and present reality associated with the diminishing of native people and with the appropriation of native culture and imagery that homogenizes and erases native people and ignores native voices in how they've been represented and how they are currently treated.

If you want to honor Native people, give back the Black Hills (Which were stolen by broken treaty) or recognize that the current situation of Native life has been built upon a genocidal history and that we as a nation are culpable for that and that we profit from this history while native people today face record suicide rates and rates of unemployment and poverty while still being absolutely ignored by our society and government at large.

That Native people are largely unrepresented in our media except as they are depicted by white people has left people with strong bullshit stereotypes whether it's the native wealthy casino owners depicted by The Simpsons or it's the noble savage that allows white people to sell dream catchers and host sweat lodges filled with other white people who want to learn the mystical power of native people.

This is something that native people can't avoid thinking about because these realities and these stereotypes affect every single aspect of their lives within the US. Frankly, as a Chicano, even a Chicano with erased Native heritage, I only skim the surface of understanding the implications of these systems of oppression.

So, while a white Catholic is privileged enough to merely be annoyed if they don't like the stereotype of the fighting Irish, that people are perfectly content maintaining overtly bigoted stereotypes of Native people and react strongly whenever a voice is really raised at all showcases the difference in power between the two groups.

by puppetswhokill (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 7:02pm

Incidentally, when are we cracking down on the Chefs?

I didn't know there was an NFL team named after people that cook food. That's pretty cool. What city do they play in?

Now, if you mean the Chiefs that would be a question for Harold Roe Bartle's descendents. Somehow, I don't think the family of the former mayor of Kansas City minds having the NFL team named after him.

by Led :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 2:48pm

I really appreciate this post. FO does not need to be out in front on this issue and will probably take flak from some quarters, but I'm glad Rivers commented. I've seen "Washington Football Club" being used with greater frequency lately, although it's still not common. I'm personally going to try to use that term going forward.

by displaced_saints_fan :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 5:35pm

I'd love for FO to simply choose to not refer to the mascot, though it does have a TMQ feel to it.

by Briguy :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 1:00pm

I'm going with the "Washington R-Words"

by nat :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 3:03pm

I grew up a Redskins fan, and never really thought of it as meaning anything other than "Football team named in honor of Native Americans". Among the team's fans, it really does signify "strength, courage, pride, and respect" as Goodell says.

Once upon a time, in a culture of matinee movies and radio plays, "Redskin" simply conjured up a Native American, perhaps in the role of a fierce and worthy adversary for white settlers. It evoked a "Noble Savage" who could be feared and yet honored for his strength and bravery. But that time is long gone and that stereotype deserves to be long dead.

It is time to move on to a new name.

by Anonymous Bro (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 3:36pm

Something I always found amusing, at the Virginia state fair a few years ago, there were a couple Native American booths. One of which had a large poster, whose title escapes me now, but presented the following:

"We only believe there are four skin colors: White, black, red, and yellow"

Regardless, a study performed in 2002 found that 90% of self-identified Native Americans had no issue with the name, against 9% who did and 1% who didn't care: see King, C. Richard. The Native American Mascot Controvery: A Handbook p.268. Peter Harris Research Group. (2002) Methodology for Sports Illustrated survey on the use of Indian nicknames, mascots, etc. Document produced by The Peter Harris Research Group and shared with Ellen Staurowsky in January 2003.

At that point, why bother changing it? Seems more a case of white guilt than any large-scale outrage in the Native American community.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 5:18pm

White guilt? Don't you understand that our legacy of racism and George Marshall's appalling racism is something we SHOULD feel guilty about? I want it changed as a sign of progress, as a denial of past that we should be ashamed of and enthusiastically reject - we should feel guilty about our history of paternalistic racial epithets being used condescendingly to evoke the image of noble savagery in the victims of our genocidal campaign. So long as we embrace a team nickname created in that spirit by a virulent racist dipshit, we embrace some part of a history we should be happy to reject.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 6:07pm

Ya' know, I can think that using the name "Redskin" is a bad idea, while also refraining from feeling guilty about the behavior of another human being.

by AnonymousBoob (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 6:17pm

American Indians were decimated by years of systemic, government sponsored genocide. Their lands were stolen, they were betrayed, and their culture virtually wiped off the map. I am not sure that changing the team name from a long forgotten racial epithet is really showing that much progress.

by Dean :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 8:43am

Except that it's not "our" legacy. It may be yours. I don't know. But it's not mine. I never killed anyone. I never stole anyones land. Nobody in my family did, either. My ancestors weren't even in America yet when all that was going on.

Look, I hate the team, and I won't shed any tears over the name, but the idea that I should feel guilty because of the mistakes of others - no matter how big those mistakes are - is absurd.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 4:59pm

A lot of truth in this post. Everyone is so against stereotyping, but the reality is a huge majority of the populace descend from ancestors who didn't come to North America until long after the Native Americans had been crushed and stuck on reservations. No doubt they benefited with access to land that wouldn't have been available to them if the Native Americans still had possession of it, but that's not the same thing as having actively stolen the land.

by JIPanick :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 6:35pm

Why does it matter whether their ancestors were personally involved?

Why are a lot of posters in this thread assuming the sons bear responsibility for the sins of the fathers?

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 10:52pm

There is a more general issue with systems of oppression and privilege being personalized. This isn't about whether you were the one who installed the system of oppression in place and it's not a personal attack on you when somebody oppressed by these systems asks for us to change them. That people take it this way is because we are afraid of dealing with ways in which we uphold these systems or because we have something to gain in maintaining them.

Really, as a man, I am privileged in our society over women overall. I accept the reality that patriarchy has privileged me compared to women in our society. Most of us are privileged in some fashion by society and it isn't a personal stain on who we are, but a reality that we don't have to face issues that others do.

Do you not have any friends who face systemic racism and can't you understand how you are privileged by this system? Do you not know any women who were assumed less competent at, say, mathematics because they were women or talked down to because of their gender? Do you have no gay friends who had some jerks in a street yell out the window at them?

It doesn't make you an innately bad person to be privileged by systems that hurt others. Well, at least not until you fight to uphold these systems because you don't want to give up your privilege. At that point, fuck you.

by Will Allen2 (not verified) :: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 12:04pm

Say, if you are an Asian person, denied entrance to a school like MIT, that you would have been admitted to, if you had checked the box labeled "black", and changed your name so a racist in the admissions department thought you were of African ancestry, are you a victim of systemic racism? Does the answer depend on how the Asian applicant's ancestors were treated by people of European descent? Is the person of African ancestry, admitted to MIT, in place of the Asian applicant, now the beneficiary of privelege? Please give us the bright line when privilege starts and stops.

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 5:03pm

These policies are designed to take into account racism that occurs against black people in earlier schooling. Frankly, my personal preference would be to work to improve access to education in primarily black neighborhoods and to improve access to tutors in neighborhoods where there are fewer, to improve teacher training and address attitudes that teachers often have at an subconscious level that black children are less capable of being skilled at math and science.

I would address stereotypes that depict black people rarely as being skilled at math and that subconsciously create pervasive thoughts even among black people that math is a skill that they don't expect to be skilled at. I would address hiring practices that cause for black people who do get degrees in math and science to find being hired more difficult.

Then, we could get rid of university requirements that are designed to give a portion of the black people who have been affected by all of these factors an equal chance at an education.

It's a faulty assumption that if a black student is accepted that an Asian student must have been excluded. It's a tactic trying to pit different groups, unnecessarily against each other. That systems of racism that affect differently than systems that affect various Asian people doesn't justify dismissing the existence of systems of racism.

That racist systems of the past have a legacy today that still affects populations is a fact. That these affects existing today are different for different populations is a fact that affects how we combat the legacy of these systems. It isn't a moral judgement about the people of today because of the actions of others from the past. That we have current behaviors and institutions in place that uphold these systems is relevant today, but that doesn't mean that the past is irrelevant just because the people who installed these systems aren't the ones profiting from them.

Do you acknowledge power hegemonies at all? Or do you just quibble about the minutia of them to discredit them?

by Will Allen :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 10:14pm

Do you have enough honesty to answer rather simple questions, as opposed to filibustering matters which were not contended? Do you have enough honesty to recognize that when a student of Asian ancestry, who scored 1600 on the SAT, and fulfilled all the subjective prerequisites for non-scholastic achievement, is denied entrance to an elite university, when students who have not accomplished nearly as much are admitted, all those other students (yes, every last one of them) are privileged? Or are you the typical Privilege Sheriff, who is about as objective as the Sheriff Department of Neshoba County, Mississippi, in 1964?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:04am

While George Marshall may have been an appalling racist, arguing about the origins of the Redskins name also reveals an appalling ignorance.

\Go look up what city the franchise started in
\\Now go look up the original stadium
\\\What was the name of the team that already played there?

by chemical burn :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 12:54am

Dean and Will Allen have said some pretty crazy things in our threads recently, but this one takes the cake. There's nothing wrong with saying "hey, racism is bad, for some crazy reason black and native americans and asians think that white people were the beneficiaries of it in the US and, you know what, I agree that racism is bad - a part of moving on is acknowledging the legacy." This shit ain't difficult folks. The upside of not acknowledging that legacy is... nothing. Not. a. fucking. thing. Let's grow up here kids...

by chemical burn :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 12:57am

Ah, who I am kidding - FO's been in the toilet since Andy Benoit became a regular. But this whole comment board makes me sure I'm 100% done here. I'm sure I will be missed...

by h2so4 (not verified) :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 2:45am

It must be so hard when not everyone immediately agrees with you just because you shout "racism" really loudly.

by Guest789 :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 3:16am

Geez, what did Andy ever do to you?


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

by Will Allen :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 2:10pm

There's a lot of irony in a halfwit who, by implication, misrepresents what others have written, while imploring other people to display greater maturity.

Here's a request. Please stay away until you've demonstrated that you can read.

by Chuck Vekert (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 3:56pm

Keep the name but change the logo to a potato. Everyone is happy.

(I wish I could say that this is my original idea.)

by JIPanick :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 3:58pm

The "but it's a slur!" aspect of this is overblown - no one ever named their sports club after something they didn't think was cool. I doubt very much it was intended as an insult at the time, and it certainly isn't by the modern Redskins fanbase.

If the term has evolved to the point where it can no longer be used, change it to an inoffensive synonym (Braves, Indians, whatever) and move on.

Honestly, had I any "Native American" ancestry (which, oh wait, I do) I'd be more insulted by a 180 degree change to something unrelated (Redhawks, Hogs, Wannabe Cowboys, whatever) than just keeping it the way it is.

As a final note, the continual soapboxing by sportswriters on this is a far, far bigger annoyance to me than the name issue itself.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:31am

You should read the first link in the article. Not nice. And yet, you bring up an interesting point. Make no mistake, the Washington's owner was a profoundly racist man. So why would he name his club after people he despised? I suspect he saw it as sort of a villain act like we see in modern wrestling and he tried to shock by using a racial slur and hiring a coach and paying him to pretend he was Native American.

The man with no sig

by theslothook :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 4:08pm

I didn't know redskin was so offensive to Indian's either. But then I was told by someone that it's really no different than beaner, wetback, and nigger. If that is the case, then I'm really just flabbergasted by Snyder's insistence.

by chadclopper (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 5:21pm

I descend from Native Americans, and am not the least bit upset with the name. Modern day Americans are babies, way too easily offended by very trivial semantics like this. Seriously, aren't there bigger problems in the world?

Frankly, I'm a little more angry about what white people have done to the landscape of the land they stole from Native Americans. How can anything be more offensive than stealing land and ruining it? Yet, I don't see you giving your land back, or calling for anybody to do so.

by theslothook :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 6:15pm

I don't mean to get into a long debate with you. Yes, what happened to the native americans is one of the great and probably under appreciated tragedies of all time. A systematic process of liquidation driven by greed. That said, I'm a bit puzzled about what you mean by a few things. To begin, calling america white is fast losing its meaning. The proof of that has already manifested itself, with the majority of white americans voting for Romney and it not being enough. This day and age, america is becoming a global country, with so called minorities becoming and less and less minor. This has been unequivocally a good thing.

Now to your second point. How has the land been ruined? I hate to be brutally honest, but land becomes productive when it is in the hands of productive individuals, not because the people on it have some spiritual connection to it. Think of a plot of land in the hands of an indigenous group. They could be native americans, east indians, africans, white settlers, etc. That same acreage of land is nearly 1000x more productive in the hands of a modern farming industry. Considering that America has been the most innovative nation by far over the last century, its pretty clear this land has NOT been ruined.

by chadclopper (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 6:47pm

To quote George Carlin, the United States is nothing but "one big fcking shopping mall." The extent that farming has increased in productivity has only resulted in Americans getting extremely fat, both literally and figuratively. I don't call that 'productive'. I could agree with you if we used the increased produce to feed the millions of starving people around the world. But we don't. We just stuff our faces and buy iPhones.

by theslothook :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 7:55pm

That is a ridiculous and gross generalization of americans. I live in a city that has very low obesity. And again, I'm simply amazed at how dismissive you are about this country.

To that, I am amazed by most people in general who criticize the united states for being culturally defunct, immoral, and selfish. Nice theory, except...we are a nation that gives more in foreign aide than any other, by far. We have the most private charities. Most of the medical innovations today come from the US. Normon Borlaug was an American Agroscientist who's contributions have indirectly fed over a billion people, greatly reducing infant mortality in nations across the world. One unsung legacy of GW Bush was his pledge to provide HIV drugs to Africa - which saved thousands of lives of children suffering from the disease. Most of the money today for malaria treatments and bed nets are funded by the United States. And historically, we have fought wars in Europe and Asia again tyrannical dictators. We are a land that welcomes immigration - a place where the best and brightest come and contribute.

So yeah...not all about fat people in shopping malls and cell phones.

by chadclopper (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 8:13pm

Your nationalism is truly inspiring, but we've gotten off-topic. Our disagreement about the virtues of the west notwithstanding, using the name 'Redskins' is innocuous.

My general point: given the atrocities our ancestors committed against Native Americans, it seems very trivial to complain about something like semantics. Do you disagree?

by theslothook :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 8:30pm

Sure, in the grand scheme of things, it is very trivial and a bit inconsequential as far as history goes. Still, I can see an argument for both sides. I'm probably more upset by Dan Snyder's wanton insistence that there is no "other side."

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:55am

If you ever hope to get to the bigger things, you'd better pay attention to the little things first. That being said, Native Americans are not getting any land back. That ship has long sailed.

On the other hand, I disagree that it is a little thing. Words have a lot of power, especially when we don't pay a lot of attention to them.

The man with no sig

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 12:11am

I don't think that this is a foregone conclusion. No, native people aren't going to get back all of their ancestral homes, but I think that the possibility of getting some particularly meaningful pieces of land taken clearly against treaty or with a clearly documented history of the usurped land could indeed be returned as well as some federally owned land that isn't controlled by private people. Much of this land has a chance to be returned. Also, there are non-profit organizations that buy land and return it to native people.

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 12:46am

I wasn't aware of that and I am glad about it.

The man with no sig

by Will Allen :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 6:27pm

Say, there are some tribes in the Southwest who are more angry about what the Apaches "stole" from them, when the Apaches showed up about a 1000 years ago, from places north, that they are about the Spaniards or other Europeans. Of course, the Comanches, once they adapted to the horse better than the Apache did, proceeded to kick the hell out of the Apaches, thus "stealing" land from the Apache. The Comanche "owned" it, until people of European descent perfected firearm technology with repeating fire, in the mid to late 19 century, thereby allowing the land to get "stolen" again.

I will say this: the last great Comanche warrior/chief, Quanah Parker, lived out his days in comfort, in a big house, which is better than what happened to nearly anyone that the Comanche defeated in battle, Apache, Navajo, Spanish, or American citizen of Scotch/Irish descent.

The human race has a history of rape, pillage, and murder. Personally, I'd say that sitting here, pecking away on a computer, in a "ruined" land, with the opportunity to lend consent to being governed, is a better fate than living as a hunter gatherer.

by chadclopper (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 8:02pm

So the human race has a long history of rape, pillage, and murder. If we can take this as a given and accept it, then we should certainly not take offense to any use of language, whether a slur or an insult.

by Mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 8:19pm

To quote a non-fighting Irishman, "History is a nightmare from which I try to awake."

by Will Allen :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 8:22pm

The fact that the human race has a long history of rape, pillage, and murder is no excuse to be rude to people. Look, I tend to agree that the term "Redskin" has a more complicated and nuanced history than some other words which were nearly entirely meant to be terms of derision. Having said that, words which derive from some ethnic group's shared physical characteristics have so frequently been meant to be insulting that it is easy for people to take that way, even when that was not the intent. I think the world works better when people avoid rape, pillage, and murder. I also think it works better when people endeavor to avoid giving offense, when nothing of real import is sacrificed in doing so. I don't think the name of a football team is all that important. If my favorite team were renamed the Minnesota Jump Starters tomorrow, because an energetic minority of people of Swedish descent were consistently upset, I wouldn't care. A battery and cables logo on a helmet would be different, if nothing else.

by chadclopper (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 8:39pm

You're right, that's no excuse to be rude to people. No doubt. But, Dan Snyder doesn't intend to be rude to Native Americans. Fans of the Redskinds don't either. And, as a partial Native American myself, I'm personally not offended by the term. Neither is my dad. When the franchise was named, it was probably not done so to piss off Native Americans. And it probably didn't, because people had better things to do. But nowadays we live in a culture where people will get pissed off by such trivial crap.

Despite your best effort in explaining it, I'm still at a loss in understanding how a word can be offensive. Maybe it's a self-evident kind of thing.

The semantics of language confuses humans to believe in so many things that don't exist. Oh well.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 9:30pm

Um, no. People used to get offended all the time. But the people in power didn't care if they offended. There are more important things to be offended by than a slur. Segregation. Denial of voting rights. Unequal pay. I could go on. In some countries, women are killed for being raped. Yes, there are lots of more important problems in the grand scheme of things. But if you can a thing to be better without much effort, what is the problem other than an owner's deflated ego? They can change the name and a decade from now nobody will care what the name was.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 9:43pm

I'm not so sure you can improve things without much effort. The effort involved in changing the name is not enormous, but it's not trivial either. On the other hand what is the benefit? Will the offended be satisfied, or will the goalposts simply move again? If it's just going to be a treadmill may as well save the effort.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 9:31pm

Duplicate post.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 11:00pm

"...I'm still at a loss in understanding how a word can be offensive."

Are you really asking that as a general question? You don't understand how any word can be offensive?

I guess I'll try to answer; It's because people choose to take it that way. And they choose to take it that way because of how it's used, or has been used, by certain people and/or the intent behind its use. Some words are designed to shock, or anger, or insult, and we, as a society, have sort-of collectively agreed that that's what they mean.

Sure, if everyone all agreed that there were no offensive words, and agreed not to get angry no matter what words anyone used and only went on content, then maybe we could say there are no words that are offensive. But in the meantime, based on how people actually behave, and their emotions and history, words can offend.

Personally, I like the "sticks and stones, etc." aspect of not thinking of words themselves as offensive. But in reality, people have decided that they are.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 1:16am

I really don't believe you when you say that you are at a loss as to how a word could be perceived as offensive to someone, because that would imply that it is impossible for someone to use a word or words that you would find offensive. Such a person does not exist.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 3:16am

Millions of babies would tell you you're mistaken, but they have no idea what you said and can't talk.

by chadclopper (not verified) :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 4:49pm

If a person called me a douche-bag, I would personally find it offensive. That would be a direct insult. The word douche-bag itself is not offensive though. I would not find it offensive if somebody called you a douche-bag.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 5:38pm

Yes, yes, it is entirely puzzling why, for instance, that so many people were offended when members of the Westboro Baptist "Church" picketed the funerals of soldiers killed in battle, with mere words on signs. Or why someone might find it offensive to chant "Good riddance to the kaffir!" at one of the memorials that likely will soon be taking place to honor Nelson Mandela. Merely a word, after all.

Look, I know you are trying to make a point. I find the point rather insipid. Have a nice day.

by Mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 8:22pm

Language can be a precursor to murder and mayhem. Accepting language could mean accepting the dream that is history. That same non-fighting Irishman wanted to destroy the English language, and so he wrote a gibberishy book that no one reads.

by chadclopper (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 9:31pm

To what murder and mayhem does 'redkins' serve as a precursor?

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 11:07am

I beleive his point was along the lines of: historically those in power use demonizing language about groups that they would like to engender hatred for as a legitimizer for subsequent violent attacks, see Nazis v. Jews & Hutus v. Tutsis. Not that I think the current nickname debate is anything like that, though it was like that in the past.

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 4:45am

I've read a bit of Pueblo Indian history as I've been attempting to explore that aspect of my heritage. And, yes, Pueblo Indians formed alliances with the Spanish (After they first went to war against the Spanish who were attempting to heavily tax them and to stop them from practicing their religion and winning) and both worked with each other to guard against raids by the Apache from what I understand.

And, yes, it would be folly to claim that all native people all worked together or were some sort of constantly peaceful cohesive group because they weren't.

That said, what the United States did was wage a campaign of genocide, a campaign to erase cultures and to wipe cultures off of the face of the Earth with notions of European/white supremacy, did so with massacres, broken treaties and with callous disregard for the humanity of these people.

To equate fighting between native nations to the genocidal campaign of the US is sick. To say that the wealth that we enjoy in the US as a result of this campaign and to which native people largely do not partake is also sick.

by Will Allen2 (not verified) :: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 11:12am

To refer to what the Comanche did to the human beings they defeated in battle as mere "fighting" is to romanticize the past to the point of utter and complete stupidity.

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 4:38pm

It wasn't a genocide. Wars versus genocide seems like an extremely important distinction to me.

by Will Allen :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 11:45pm

It doesn't to the sonovabitch who is tortured to death over two weeks time. It doesn't to the woman gang-raped to death by a couple of dozen men. Stop romanticizing.

The principal difference between the Europeans and the aboriginal North Americans, in terms of moral society, was that the aboriginal North Americans were not as technologically competent (with the exception, for a few North American aboriginal tribes, of adapting the horse to mobile warfare), at killing their enemies. In other words, there was no difference, except that the Europeans had begun to better master the production of excess food, which meant that they had the luxury of contemplating things like gaining consent of the governed, for very large groups of people.

The history of man is one of unfiltered butchery and ruthlessness, and the only thing which has allowed that to be leavened somewhat is technological advancement. It is good that we can be productive enough to allow us to contemplate what it means to be moral to one another, and to endeavor to do better, but putting black hats and white hats on people long dead is just a waste of time.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 9:05pm

On what moral scale do you place breaking legal agreements, i.e., treaties, just because you have technogical superiority? This is a question with current implications -- not simply an historical question.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 07/09/2013 - 12:52am

Treaties fall under the heading of international law, even in the case of one party to the treaty not yet thinking of itself as a formal nation-state. Frankly, the entire concept of international law is problematic, in that the concept of law presumes a shared set of ethos and norms, and if such a presumption has any validity whatsoever, it has only been the case very recently. Nations don't honor treaties the moment they no longer see it in their interest to honor them, and it makes little difference whether the nation regularly gains consent of the population to be governed, or if it does not. In fact, autocrats can often be more reliable in honoring treaties than nations with democratic processes; the elite who staffed the American government at the highest level often intended to honor treaties made with aboriginal North Americans, but when faced with a general population that wanted to migrate west, treaties be damned, well, the other was get going to get it, good and hard, for the simple reason that they didn't have the means to give those, who they considered the other, better and harder.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 5:41pm

I grew up as a Skins fan and I've grown increasingly uncomfortable with the name. Even if it's not a term which is used in an offensive manner anymore, the arguments that it was never demeaning are hollow. The truth is, there are a number of teams who misappropriate Native American imagery in their names and logos (the Cleveland Indians are the worst) and I find most of them offensive. (I also find the Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive, especially their logo, as well as the Boston Celtics logo, and I'm surprised that more people don't.) But just focusing on the name, it's embarrassing to root for a team whose name is an offensive word. I would rather root for the Washington Fucks (they don't give any!).

by Theo :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 8:39pm

I see them as a heritage of a time we've almost left behind.
I think that when the time is there, they will be replaced, but apparently the time is not there yet.

Also, ANYthing can be offensive.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 6:01pm

As someone whose former partner is an Arikara, I can easily say he found the word extremely disgusting. In many Native peoples' eyes, it equates to how long ago Indian hunters showed how many Indians they killed by collecting the skins of those killed. (My ex's words.)

If this doesn't make the argument, how about this: How many of you would be offended if the name were Washington Negroes? Or the more alliterative Washington Wetbacks? I don't think we'd even be having this discussion. And if you don't think we've had nicknames like this, I invite you to Google "Pekin Chinks."

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:32am

Tell me, should I be offended about the New Zealand All-Blacks? The Fulham Lilywhites? That after a scandal, Chicago changed from the criminally-associated Black Sox to the innocent White Sox? How about the Cincinnati Reds? Aggrieved southerners angry about the Philadelphia Union? Greeks angry about the Spartans? Turks angry about the Trojans? Hamiltonians angry about the Amherst Jeffs?

There actually is a controversy about the Jeffs, although it's not from the Hamiltonians.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 11:06am

The difference between all of your examples and the Washington Redskins is that none of your examples are racial slurs. Look, it's possible for just about anything to offend *someone*, but when it comes to a word that has been primarily used to denigrate a specific group of people, I don't think it's unreasonable to want to change it.

by Lance :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 3:28pm

I'm not sure if you're trying to be serious or not:

New Zealand All-Blacks? The Fulham Lilywhites?

These are named for their uniform colors. (Interestingly, since the New Zealand national rugby team wears all black, their soccer team opted to stand out by wearing all white, hence their (not racist) nickname, the All-Whites.)

That after a scandal, Chicago changed from the criminally-associated Black Sox to the innocent White Sox?

Uh, they were always the White Sox. The "Black Sox" moniker came about to describe a particular team that took money to throw the World Series.

How about the Cincinnati Reds?

Also named for the team color-- they were originally the "Red Stockings" until the late 1800's.

As for the rest, as someone already noted: you're really missing the point.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 10:57am

The origin of the Redskins name is interesting.

Both the Boston Braves and the Boston Red Sox were spun off from various iterations of the Cincinnati Reds. This is where both teams got their color scheme and where the Red Sox got their name.

The Redskins started as the football Boston Braves. When they moved to Fenway, they changed their name to the Redskins to take something halfway between the Braves and the Red Sox. They played in red uniforms (red skins).

So the Washington Redskins are named in honor of their uniform color, descended from three teams named after their uniform colors. Yet this name is unconscionably racist, unlike the All-Blacks (uniform), the All-Whites (uniform), or any of the others. This is made clear by the remarkably diverse nature of the New Zealand national team (http://davidpatricklane.typepad.com/.a/6a00d834cf7edc53ef0120a56b6d28970...). The All-Blacks, of course, have a spotless history, free of white guys performing mock native ceremonies or various cavalier tours of apartheid South Africa.

by Lance :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 2:30pm

That actually is an interesting story. The "named in honor of their uniform color" thing makes sense, though it seems clear that they were trying to pun off of the Braves connection, as you yourself note.

by dryheat :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 3:05pm

That's all convenient, and is almost correct, but the color of their uniforms had nothing to do with the name. In fact "skins", to my knowlege has never been used like "socks", "shirts", or "hats" in talking about a uniform-related distinction. Marshall named the taem the Braves because they shared a stadium with the Baseball Braves. When they left and took up space at Fenway Park, and thought it clever to be the Redskins, which was derogatory even then. They also hired a purported Sioux coach to complete the sideshow, and he was exposed as a fraud, although in fairness it's possible Marshall had no knowledge of it.

They should feel free to change the name back to the Braves. Then they can claim that they're making the change to go back to their roots, NOT giving in to outside pressures.

by Theo :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 8:12am

Did the indian symbols come after the 'redskins' name?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 10:12am

I had a long reply post, complete with links the relevant photos, but FO's idiotic spam-filter blocked it, even after successful captcha. It's nice to see that Aaron ignores more things on his site than homicidal Patriots.

Anyway, the Redskins had an indian head chest logo in 1933, and maybe to as late as 1935, although the 1934 program doesn't show it. That seemed to have gone away after William Dietz was fired, who was the supposed Sioux indian after which was team name was partially selected.

A spear logo reappeared in 1964, but the Feathered R and the modern indian head didn't appear until 1970 and 1972, respectively, after Preston Marshall was dead.

by Jerry :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 6:32pm

This should cover everything.

Note that from 1958 to 1964, the stripe on the helmets was a feather.

by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 6:59pm

My uncle married a Sioux Indian. Their oldest son identified with the song "Halfbreed" because he is one, and his favorite team was the Redskins. I've got a splash of Cherokee in my background, but as is often the case I do romanticize it a bit.

At any rate, I've come to realize that we were wrong. Redskin is an offensive term, and that's all there is to it. I'll never quit hating the Dallas Cowboys, not after over 40 years of doing it, but it is time to rename their rivals.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 7:28pm

How do you feel about the Minnesota Vikings? Unlike Chiefs or Cowboys, that is also referring to an entire people. That's also arguably true of the Houston Texans.

by artmac (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 10:13pm

^that's actually incorrect (warning: about to get pedantic). there was no people or ethnic group called vikings. viking was an adjective - to go viking meant to go raiding. someone was only a viking when engaged in raiding. the same men could be vikings while raiding and then merchants when peacefully trading. the people they raided didn't call them vikings. they called them northmen (hence "god save us from the fury of the northmen"; also, where Normandy gets its name) or boatmen or "Danes" (despite the fact that not all vikings were Danish). the whole modern viking concept is a product, like several modern historical fallacies, of 19th century romantic nationalism (i.e. Wagner etc).

more relevantly, it's not comparable to redskins. they do both evoke the noble savage thing but no one has ever used viking as a slur, the opposite in fact, it's a symbol of strength and pride. no one ever collected bounties on viking scalps in the Old West either. and again, there's no such thing as "vikings". if it was the Minnesota Dumb Swedes you might have a point.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:35am

There was no ethnic group called the redskins or the braves, either. Those were also adjectives. The correlation to the Vikings is pretty exact.

by artmac (not verified) :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 11:47am

redskins absolutely refers to a racial group. that could not be more clear. it literally refers to the color of skin. men, women, children, the elderly - the key point is their "red" skin. vikings does not encompass women, children, the elderly or non-warrior males. it refers to an activity, not an ethnicity (in fact, it wasn't uncommon for viking crews to include non-Scandinavian men). there is no activity of "redskinning". so you are definitely wrong there.

otoh you are pretty much right about braves. they aren't exactly analogous - one refers to an occupation, one to an activity - but essentially mean the same thing and have the same function as team names. I have no problem w/Atlanta's name, tho the tomahawk chop/chanting thing is stupid and embarrassing. similarly the Indians name isn't a problem tho that Sambo logo with the big shit-eating grin is an embarrassment. I don't think there's anything wrong w/tribal names either (tho you should definitely get permission from the actual tribe). tribal names, braves, warriors, chiefs, etc are not racial slurs. redskin is.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 11:03am

Nice try. Both viking and vikingr are nouns -- viking a feminine one, at that. In English, though, viking is a synonym for Scandinavian. Thus it's not only a slur, it's a racial and ethnic slur.

It's basically the specifically-white version of pirate or raider.

But nice attempt to try to portray Viking as something other than a slur, whereas somehow "Brave" is pejorative.

by DragonPie (not verified) :: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 12:18am

There are plenty of people of decent from Norse people who could choose to oppose the name "Vikings" and if they felt the name was insulting, we'd have an issue, but it was chosen in part because so many immigrants in that region decided that it harkened back to a point of their heritage that they took pride in. Just as in the case of the Fighting Irish, it was self-imposed and was not an outside group using their image against their will.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 12:25pm

I think very many questions and comments in this thread would get answered by checking a dictionary. "Viking", or "Texan", or "Chief" or whatever, have perfectly acceptable definitions and connotations.

The man with no sig

by Never Surrender :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 7:33pm

It simply isn't a "true fact" — I suppose "fact" isn't sufficient? — that the name is "thoroughly offensive and demeaning to Native Americans."

(1) A small minority of American Indians have a problem with the name.

(1a) Not that it matters as much, but a majority of the general public also does not find it offensive. (I only mention this because Rivers implies that those who like the name and want to keep it are in a stubborn and ignorant minority.)

(2) I won't rehash the historical origins and subsequent use of the term here, but I can safely assert that it's not the slam-dunk analogue to other racist terms that people so often want it to be. Not in the slightest. So it's simply not a good argument to say that we would find the Washington N***** unacceptable, therefore it's hypocritical to accept the Washington Redskins.

(3) With respect to particular case of the team's adoption and implementation of the name and logo, it's even clearer that it was not intended to be or received as being demeaning or offensive. This is especially clear when one looks at what American Indians at the time said about the team name and logo.

(4) For those who appeal to the changing nature of language as a reason to oppose the name — i.e., those who recognize that the historical case is not strong — the burden of proof is on them to show that the alleged offense sparked by the name is in fact a marked, organic shift. I do not think that burden of proof has been met. The movement is a lot more top-down than grassroots.

(5) Yes, I can respect that there are a number of American Indians who find the name offensive. Being a small minority does not mean they ought to be ignored. I do not dismiss their complaint.

Summary: This is a far more complex issue than white journalists generally let on. With all due respect to those few that don't like the name, there really isn't a knock'em-down, drag'em-out case against it. And on the other hand there is a lot of legitimate and respectable pride in the team's name and traditions. Those who want it to stay have good reasons to hold that opinion and aren't just getting their kicks by being evil.

Oh, and Hail to the Redskins!

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 9:13pm

1) I keep seeing this, each time with no facts to back it up. Every Native American I've talked to about this disliked the name (about two dozen), some more than others. No other team name that evoked more than dislike. I admit every Native person I knew was from the Midwest. Other parts of the country may be different, but I doubt it. I'd also only include those who are at least 50% Native. Someone who is 1/16, and looks and passes for white (or black) isn't a part of this discussion.

1a) They don't count.

2) I'm not equating it to the N-word. But it would be just as offensive to have a team with the nickname Negroes or any other similar term. As far as the history of the name, it's widely believed that Coach Dietz pretended to be Indian and it is known that his parents were both white. In an early case of identity theft, the FBI found he had taken the identity of a Pine Ridge man who died earlier. His mother backed his claim later by saying it was her husband's baby from an Indian mother. Of course, she didn't want her baby to go to jail for fraud, so that means nothing.

3) This is the equivalent of saying it's ok to talk about colored people because of the NAACP. I don't think so.

4) This is a BS point and you know it.

5) The reason for the entire US Bill of Rights is to prevent tyranny of the majority. The majority may rule. The majority may not oppress. While mistakes have been made from the beginning (enslaving Africans and breaking treaties with indigenous peoples whenever convenient), Americans are slowly creating the more perfect union envisioned by the Founding Fathers. It's a two steps forward one back process, but I believe we are getting there.

I understand the tradition. I grew up in Green Bay in the 60's. Behind my high school was the original City Stadium. I'd be upset if the Packers had to change their name, though even I'll admit it may be one of the corniest in sports. But a corny name isn't like a name that offends people. The Washington NFL franchise name really needs to be changed. And if you are wondering, I'd be fine if it changed to Warriors with the same or similar logo. I think that would be a reasonable compromise. But Redskins is offensive to far too many people to keep the name.

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 8:45am

(1) See http://bit.ly/17zNg9N

(1a) If the public's perception and use of the word doesn't count, then a large part of the argument against using "Redskins" goes away.

(2) The term "Redskin" has a history of use with consistent positive connotations (not exclusively, of course), especially with respect to the very cultural qualities that made it attractive for use as a football name (bravery, the ideal of a warrior, etc.). A true analogue would have to share that property, otherwise you are taking an unfair shortcut.

(3) You missed my point. My point is this: The case against using the term "Redskin" pulling from any and all of American history and usage is murky at best. So, how much more so is it murky with respect to the team, which had specific intentions and received specific cultural approval at the time? The argument needs to be pretty strong.

(4) Of course it isn't. If I say "Look, language changes all the time and you need to recognize that this term is offensive even if it wasn't in the 70s," it's vitally important that I show that trend is real and not my own projection.

(5) People do not have a right not to be offended, so bringing in tyranny is a bit heavy-handed. Nevertheless, the degree to which the name is in fact offensive is often overstated, and the degree to which the name is accepted and seen as positive is often overlooked.

by artmac (not verified) :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 12:20pm

your point 2 (and 3, related) really bugs me b/c it is very disingenuous.

I'm well aware of the term's origins. they're irrelevant, because it's been a slur, and only a slur, for a very long time, at least since the Indian Wars and the following era of dime novels and Wild West shows that created most modern conceptions of the Old West. please, by all means, identify any post-1890 or 1900 positive use of the word redskin, or better yet any in the last 50 years (about how long ago some Native Americans began protesting the name). this isn't a recent trend. the great weight of history is against your argument. I also call b.s. on this "specific cultural approval". from who, exactly? I ain't talking about whether Dietz was really Sioux or not either. I mean, who gave this approval? I wouldn't bring it up but since you did.

also, the burden of proof isn't on this side, it's on yours. the only argument for not changing it is that part of a football team's fanbase is attached to it. not a very good argument. waffling about what the term meant circa 1810 doesn't make it any better.

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 8:17pm

That the team named itself the Redskins is an example of a positive use of the term post-1890.

As for the specific approval: The current logo was developed at the behest of, and with the help of, Walter Wetzel, former chairman of the Blackfoot tribe and former president of the National Congress of American Indians. From the Washington Post, January 26, 2002: "By the early '60s, the Redskins had dropped any reference to Indians in their logo, uniforms and merchandise. Wetzel went to the Redskins office with photos of Indians in full headdress. "I said, 'I'd like to see an Indian on your helmets,'" which then sported a big "R" as the team logo, remembers Wetzel, now 86 and retired in Montana. Within weeks, the Redskins had a new logo, a composite Indian taken from the features in Wetzel's pictures. "It made us all so proud to have an Indian on a big-time team. . . . It's only a small group of radicals who oppose those names. Indians are proud of Indians."

The burden of proof is on those who are calling for the change. The intent to be offensive is clearly not there. The vast majority of those who are allegedly being demeaned say they do not find the team name offensive.

A good first step would be if you stopped pretending that there aren't arguments being made on the other side of this issue.

by dryheat :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 8:35pm

What does any alleged intent from the 60s have to do woth anything? I say alleged because this anecdote seems to have been purchased. Regardless, it doesn't matter if the original intent was to pay homage to area apple or potato growers, nor if the franchise was founded by Hellboy. In the general lexicon, the word is a racial slur. I don't understand any argument to the contrary.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 11:07am

If original and intent don't matter, should we also rename the Packers and Bears?

by dryheat :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 1:07pm


by Never Surrender :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 12:27pm

He asked; I answered.

by Theo :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 8:33pm

I'm white, so I shouldn't take part in the discussion.
It's between the sincerely offended and Dan Snyder.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 9:24pm

I just wish there were more mascots potentially offensive to Greeks so that I could reasonably contribute to the discussion. Sparty just doesn't quite do it for me, though.


by justanothersteve :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 9:35pm

Technically, the Latin American gringo is likely derived from the Spanish word for Greek.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 9:38pm
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 10:23pm

Obviously they're a bit confused.


by ChrisS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 11:24am

That is very funny. Perhaps there is a Troy that is "Home of the Spartans"?

by Bill_Monty :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 9:25pm

I'm a D.C. area native who is a die hard Redskin fan that wouldn't mind a name change as long as it's cool. I'll disagree with one thing about this good article though: We do clamor for the Bullets name to come back. They've already went back to the colors. Not saying they will return, but we'd like for them to.

by batesbruce :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 9:34pm

I'm a fan and would hate to see the name change. However if they are willing to be creative, the Redskins can preserve it. The NFL/Redskins should form a partnership with a group representing Native Americans. They could legally brand the name and change the PR on this in a day. All 3 would make more than they are currently. Underprivileged native peoples could start getting the resources they need. The NFL would get the stigma off its back and Washington fans get to keep their history. Everyone is a winner. This will never happen though as it makes too much sense.

by metalned :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 10:11pm

"Despite your best effort in explaining it, I'm still at a loss in understanding how a word can be offensive" - chadclopper


Nice try. If someone began calling your mother every pejorative slang for a woman, you'd be pissed

by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 10:19pm

I still don't know how anybody could get offended by calling a team the Washington Bullets, unless they sign Plaxico Burress.

by artmac (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 10:57pm

it's an anti-violence, or just not wanting to be associated with violence, thing. a bit silly but in a country w/an endless number of gun deaths I can understand the owner's thinking. of course it would've been nice if they could've come up w/something better than the Wizards.

the best stupid name change is definitely the Tampa Bay Rays, despite the devil ray being an actual animal and having nothing to do with Satan

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:38am

As opposed to the Klan name they adopted instead?

by artmac (not verified) :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 11:51am

redskin has no alternate meanings besides its original meaning and the name of a football team.

wizard has many meanings besides KKK officer. it evokes gandalf, merlin and hogwarts as much as not more than racist idiots in ridiculous hats burning crosses. if it was the grand wizards you might a point, but it's not, and you don't.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 11:12am

The name change was pre-Potter and pre-LotR mania.

One of the other finalist names was the Dragons. The local NAACP chapter did find it odd that a white guy who owned a bunch of black players had two finalist names that were Klan ranks.


by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 1:13am

American Heritage dictionary, taken from thefreedictionary:

wiz·ard (wzrd)
1. One who practices magic; a sorcerer or magician.
2. A skilled or clever person: a wizard at math.
3. Archaic A sage.
1. Chiefly British Slang Excellent.
2. Archaic Of or relating to wizards or wizardry.

red·skin (rdskn)
n. Offensive Slang
Used as a disparaging term for a Native American.

Webster's and Collins have similar definitions. And we could do this for every single other nickname you gave as similar to redskin. None will have "offensive" or "disparaging" in the definition.

The man with no sig

by artmac (not verified) :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 10:49pm

100% w/juststeve's comment above. if it was the Washington Negroes - a term that is if anything less offensive than Redskin - it would be changed immediately, simple as that. granted, the Washington football team's stupid name isn't super high on the list of the world's problems. otoh, it's also a much easier fix than a lot of the more serious problems. there's no actually good reason not to change it. also, it's inevitable. might as well get it over now and save yourself years of lingering embarrassment and terrible PR.

and for all those saying they're soooo sick of reading coverage of this, here's a tip: if you see an article about why the Redskins should change their name, don't click on it. there you go, problem solved.

by Joe T. :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 6:47am

Where is the harm in the Redskins name? Point to it? How has a term associated the last 70 years almost exclusively with a professional football team injured an entire group of people? How are Native American people worse off for it?

This is not akin to "retarded" or "nigger". Both words have been used exclusively as derogatory terms the last few generations (the latter though, has some "cultural exceptions").

by Peregrine :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 9:32am

Eureka! I've got it.

Change the team name from Redskins to Federals. The uniform design already exists!

by nat :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:06am

Lone Ranger: Tonto! We're surrounded by Redskins, almost out of ammunition, and out numbered a hundred to one. This is it for us, old friend. We are going to die this time.
Tonto: What do you mean "we", Paleface?

There are other forms of this joke that don't use the term "Redskins". They come off as jokes solely about Tonto's duplicity or cowardice in the face of danger, and imply that he is that way because of his race. Oddly, by demonstrating the Lone Ranger's casual racism, using the derogatory term "redskins" makes this form of the joke less racist, and more about a perverse kind of just deserts for a lifetime of small slights. Oh, and funnier, too.

My point, though, is that I can't think of another derogatory term for Native American that would balance "Paleface" in this joke. And this is an old, old joke.

So don't tell me that "Redskins" isn't a racial slur.

Granted, Redskins fans (myself included) aren't thinking in these terms, and the name itself comes from splitting the difference between the Boston Braves and Boston Red Sox when the football team moved from Braves Field to Fenway Park in 1933. That's not the point, is it? No one is saying that the purpose of the name is to demean Native Americans. Just that "Redskins" is part of generations of small, unthinking, gratuitous slights.

(Note: There are other theories about the name change, such as a need to change names without requiring new uniforms, or to "honor" some Native American players. Whatever. )

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:44am

"Just that "Redskins" is part of generations of small, unthinking, gratuitous slights."

Sort of like teams named the "Indians", right? Especially the Oorang Indians -- imagine a team named after both an ape and an indian.

by nat :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 12:02pm

"Indians" in itself is not a slight, however factually inaccurate it may be. But in context it's about as proper as naming a team the "Asians" or "Africans". If you add in a clownish caricature as a mascot, it can become pretty offensive.

Still, it's not the same issue as "Redskins". The Cleveland Indians name would be less offensive without the insulting Chief Wahoo. But no changes to Washington's mascot could alter the fact that "Redskins" is a racial slur. In 1932, everyone expected and tolerated such casually racist slurs as a matter of course. That is not true today. Thank God.

The Oorang Indians are a special case from history. They were a "novelty team" as the wikipedia article so aptly puts it. They really were Indians, led by the great Jim Thorpe. Oorang was the name of a dog kennel company. I suspect organizing an NFL team on racial lines these days would be considered strange to say the least. It was considered a stunt even back in the day.

by Cadio (not verified) :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 9:43am

What about the Washington Rednecks ?

by Independent George :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:48am

Some years ago, didn't some college team try to change their team nickname to Admiral Akbar? Why not keep the name, and just change the logo to Akbar.

"It's a trap... block!"

by Will Allen :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 11:42am

I can't wait for the annual rivalry with the hated Jar Jars.

by RickD :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 5:25pm

Not exactly. The Rebels of Ole Miss were looking for a mascot to replace Colonel Reb and some students put together a campaign supporting Admiral Ackbar as a candidate. (After all, he was a rebel.)


by Mike G (not verified) :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 1:51pm

I love reading Football Outsiders, because of its ability to go after the facts and stats while leaving emotions and "gut feelings" out of the analysis. Which is why I'm so surprised to see this article on this website. I seriously think you're just trying to troll DC sports fans. There have been several polls out recently asking people about whether or not they want the Redskins to change their name. I haven't seen a single one where more than 25% wanted the name change. So your argument that "[Snyder is] not going to win in the court of public opinion" is invalid.

Also, you mention that people here have gotten over the Bullets-to-Wizards name change. NO. THEY. HAVE. NOT. Everyday people complain about the stupid Wizards name. I have never met a DC professional basketball team fan that likes the name Wizards over Bullets. I'm guessing you're not from around here. I am, and I hear it everyday. I'm not a Wizards or Redskins fan, but when people hear the complaints about the Redskins name they think they'll end up with the Washington Pink Unicorns. You think not? Their basketball team's mascot looks like something out of a fantasy movie for 5 year olds. So of course people think that, why wouldn't they when the evidence is staring them in the face.

Get it through your head, regular fans don't want the team to change their name. Only certain members of the media and political opportunists talk about the name change because it gets them public exposure. So just drop it. It's not going to happen now or anytime soon.

by dryheat :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 3:11pm

The reason those polls skew overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the nickname is because the pollsters are polling fans of the franchise. It isn't hard to believe fans of the team, who have all kinds of emotional ties and physical souvenirs, shirts, and the like, want to keep the team for continuity purposes. So what?

One point that I haven't seen brought up is that for as much as Snyder and the Pro-Ethnic Slur crowd like to cite how many colleges and high schools use the name as the mascot, it shrinks yearly. In my lifetime, UMass, Stanford, St. John's, Syracuse, a couple I've forgotten since I started typing, and dozens of high schools have changed their Native American-oriented nickname, or at least their caricature mascot, to something non-racist. Why? Because Indian, Redmen, Orangemen, etc. were too noble and too honorable to continue using, or because eventually the vast majority of people decide to do the right thing.

As for your last three sentences, I couldn't disagree more. Most sane people who don't have a vested interest in the team want it to change because it's the right thing to do, if not of crucial importance. Nobody's going to drop it. And it will happen. I'll say within 10 years. All it will take is for Congress to rule that Snyder has no trademark protection on the name or logo of his football franchise, and Danny Boy will ride in on the white horse of racial sensitivity christen the team Warriors or some such in the name of protecting his financial interest.

And 30 years from now, people are going to look back and say, "There was once a football team in our nation's capital known as a derogatory racial slur? Really? What was everybody thinking?"

by RickD :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 5:09pm

"The reason those polls skew overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the nickname is because the pollsters are polling fans of the franchise."

No, it's not quite that simple.

by RickD :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 5:13pm

"Also, you mention that people here have gotten over the Bullets-to-Wizards name change. NO. THEY. HAVE. NOT."

I know people who haven't forgiven the Dodgers for leaving Brooklyn, so this doesn't surprise me.

A big problem for the Wizards is that they've been awful for most of the last 3 decades, including the ~15 years since they changed their name. They might be more beloved if they hadn't been so awful.

I live in the DC area and I don't know any team, anywhere, that is respected less by local fans than the Wizards. And fans remember the Bullets of Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes.

by dryheat :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 8:30pm

I also live and work in DC, for nine years now. I have never heard a single person bemoan the loss of the Bullets name. Not one. Not to say it doesn't happen, but I suspect any reminiscence is due, as you suggest, to those Unseld teams and the fact that Wizards is pretty terrible. If the new name was something like Federals or Republic or Nationals or Senators; or if they were more successful now than they were then, there would be no issue with the name change. In any case, it's irrelevant to the football team.

by Lance :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 11:26pm

Kornheiser certainly has spoken against the name change on his radio show.

by jefeweiss :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 2:46pm

As a Washington Football Club fan, I would like to propose that they change the name of the team to the Fighting Fatties, because it's not a racial epithet and it reminds me of all of the brave overweight people in the past. Like Winston Churchill and that one chubby kid on the Little Rascals.

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 3:15pm

I think not all derogatory words are the same and some should be avoided more than others. If the group the derogtory word applies to has been subject to severe oppression, the oppression is fairly recent and the effects of this oppression are stil present to some degree then the word should be avoided. I think in the case of Redskins these criteria apply, shown in the historical ill-treatment of the Native Americans to their current high levels of poverty. These conditions do not apply to such less charged words as Yankees, Vikings, Hoosiers, Micks, ...

by RickD :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 5:06pm

Every few years this issue comes up, polls are taken and it is discovered
a) the vast majority of DC-area Redskins' fans want the team to keep the name

b) a large majority of Native Americans don't give a crap what name the football team in DC has. " A 2004 Annenberg poll reported that more than ninety per cent of Native Americans did not take issue with Washington’s use of the name Redskins."


There are many ways to deal with a word with a pejorative history. One of the ways is to ignore the history and move on, also known as "taking back" the word. For example, "Yankee" was originally a pejorative for American colonists that was then seized with pride by the revolutionaries during the war.

I'm not saying that this is a settled debate. But it is far from being as clear-cut as Rivers makes it out to be.

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 6:51pm


Thank you, sir.

by dryheat :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 10:31pm

Yeah, I'm calling shenanigans. I'd be stunned if 1% of non-bought off Native Americans enjoy having a word that is arguably the worst thing you could call them as the mascot/nickname of a Sports franchise. I'm sure some don't feel strongly enough to protest, I'm sure some see it as a minor issue, but I think the notion of them bring honored by the usage of said slur is bunk. Again, whom are these the polls polling? My seven year old is 1/16th Cherokee and I'm sure if she were asked if Redskin offends her, she'd say no. I wouldn't place much value on the poll though.

I honestly cannot believe intelligent people would claim Redskin isn't a racist epithet, and I have an enormous capacity for belief.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 12:53am

Any evidence contrary to your view is dismissed as "purchased" or "shenanigans." You disagree, and you don't wish to be convinced. Fine. But can you do that without calling everyone else a liar? Or, heck, at least provide some support for those claims.

by dryheat :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 8:10am

There is plenty of evidence out there that most of those polls of native peoples carefully selected the pollees, such as people who have some native blood in them, but don't identify with being Native, and it is well documented that some natives that have spoken in support of the name Redskin have been compensated. Or the poll asks things like "what bothers you the least, the nickname Redskin, the fact that Native Americans are usually portrayed as drunk casino operators, or the systematic extermination of your tribe?"

But let's say every poll is scientifically valid. Sample sizes are significant, the polling is of non pre-selected Americans who identify with being a Native, and not weighed towards Redskin fans. The number given above was 25%. As in only about 25% find the name offensive. Is that not a significant percentage? That's more than enough reason to change the nickname immediately.

by RickD :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 10:22am

So there is "evidence" that the poll I cited is bogus?

I'd be interested in that.

I think the number in the poll of "don't care" was something like 80-90%.

You know, if there were a campaign organized by native Americans to get the name changed then I would respect that. But that doesn't seem to be what's going on here.

And really, who would bother to rig a poll just for the purpose of preserving the Redskins name? No polling firm would be so beholden to the Redskins as to risk destroying their reputation on such a relatively unimportant issue. The thing about polling is that it's a lot simpler to do a poll that is simply randomized than it is to try to rig the results.

by dryheat :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 11:05am

I would imagine that the people who commission poll have a pretty big say in what the findings are going to be. That's just business -- there's nothing repudation-destroying about it. They're doing the job they were hired for. That stuff happens all the time, especially in politics. A good polling outfit can deliver a really meaningful poll, or they can deliver a poll that produces the desired results for the client.

I don't mean to denigrate the specific poll you cited, I haven't yet dived into it.

Edit: I have now. The methodology looks good, and while the results surprised me, it's worth noting that 768 responses is an extremely small sample size. There are other polls, some referenced in the same article, that show opposite results. I think that the bottom line is that there are enough Native Americans who take offense to the term, regardless of the exact percentage, that the nickname should go.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 10:50am

A worthwhile poll generally (or quite possibly always) tells you the exact question(s) asked. I can't see any information about the question on the linked page. The question asked is often a larger determinant of the responses than the views held by the people being asked. If the question was leading (or even push polling) then the poll could be valueless.

by nat :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 11:42am

This is so right.

You can easily pitch the question to get just about any percentages you want.

Do you think many Native Americans would find it uncomfortable or insulting if, for example, President Obama referred to them as "Redskins" in a major speech? (close to 100% of honest responders will say "yes" - a few will concoct odd situations where the term would be okay, such as a joke about racism, for example)

Do you think that a "Redskins" fan is being racist when he calls his team by its traditional name? (close to 100% of honest responders will say "no" - a few will say that such fans should just say "Skins" or "Washington" and are racist to not do so.)

While you'll always find people to argue and parse for any side of a question, you can see that one of these questions "proves" that the term "Redskins" is inherently racist, while the other one "proves" that only a tiny fraction of the population objects to the team's name.

Polls are close to useless unless you know they are well designed and not intended to push an answer.

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 3:55am

I'm a Redskins fan and when SB Nation's Hogs Haven blog ran a piece from some neo-conservative type (trust me, I could tell from his talking points) about how the team MUST keep the name because FREE SPEECH, it sickened me. I've been telling friends of mine for years that regardless of my fandom, I want the name changed and feel that the best way to make it happen is to continue being a fan while also representing my viewpoint loudly and publicly. So it's a real bummer when I am sometimes reminded that a lot of other Redskins fans love the name and are completely ignorant of (or uncaring about) the damage it causes.

Having said all that, I want to thank you for publishing this and once again making me feel like I'm not crazy or alone. Football Outsiders is the only website devoted to this subject matter on the web that I can read without feeling out of place. Thanks for once again providing a voice of reason on a subject that most of the football commentary world is totally stupid about.

by Cadio (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 4:49am

And the site which would not post about Hernandez's misadventures before it impacts the Patriots on the field now has a big article about a name which won't affect the on-field product...
Btw, it's funny to be shocked by the racism of the first franchise winning a SB with a black QB...
Times change.
For me, redskin is more a folklore word (such as paleface) than a slur.

by RickD :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 10:28am

Not seeing how the name of the Washington franchise, an NFL product, is in the same category of unverified rumors regarding an NFL player. I always figured FO was going to post something once a warrant was put out for Hernandez's arrest. But then ABC News kept teasing us with false reports about when that would happen. So if you're waiting for the warrant, suddenly it's four days later than you thought it would be.

"Btw, it's funny to be shocked by the racism of the first franchise winning a SB with a black QB..."

So if a team starts black player, it's OK to slur other ethnic groups?

Just wondering how this logic works.

I honestly don't care about the name. But if you want to make an argument that would make me care more about it, that one might get me started.

by Cadio (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 11:47am

My point is not to justify racial slurs, just that you can't own the bias of one past individual against a whole organization.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 11:20am

I know you said SB, but poor Fritz Pollard.

\QB of the 1920 champion

by Anonymouss (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 11:09am

I could probably find 20 articles written in the past year which says the wizards name is awful and it needs to be changed back.

by Dave Anonymous O'Connell (not verified) :: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 4:18pm

Rivers is missing the big picture: "the greater community of English" has already weighed in on the term "Redskin." They overwhelmingly associate it with a bunch of douchebags playing mostly subpar football in Washington, D.C. That's the common usage of the term. Unless you're a histrionic shrieking liberal, when you hear the term 'Redskins,' you don't think 'racial slur,' you think,'football team,' or if you follow the sport, 'slur against football.' It's so overwhelmingly the common usage that 'redskin' doesn't even work as a racial insult anymore, since it conjures up images of Joe Thiesmann and Dan Synder and not a tan-skinned dude with a headdress and a spear. Given the specific people it conjures images up of, however, it still cuts it as a slur against one's intelligence and sanity.

by LionInAZ :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 12:33am

Oh yes, the logo on the helmet definitely conjures up images of Theismann, Jurgenson, and Snyder.

by LionInAZ :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 12:30am

Given that FedEx Field isn't even in the DC, and Snyder's reputation, they should just rename the team more appropriately the Beltway Bandits.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 2:50am

Landover Lobbyists?

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 6:47am

Good n mes to changd to-

by dryheat :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 8:42am

For whatever reason, this is my favorite post of the thread.

by Sifter :: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 11:59pm

Interesting topic. I'm Australian - an outsider in this debate - but I certainly understand the premise. While we don't have any sporting teams named after Aboriginals, we have similar issues here with recognition vs racism.

After reading through the comments, I have to agree with post #15 Anonymous Bro "Seems more a case of white guilt than any large-scale outrage in the Native American community". Balance of the resarch seems that way to me too, and that's never a good sign for your case when those who are meant to be offended are quieter on the issue than the non-offended. The poll that RickD linked to in #114 is at least one piece of evidence in that wall. Doesn't mean it's not a topic worth discussing by any means...but until those who are offended come out a bit more strongly in protest, I can't see how it's a big issue that needs addressing urgently. It seems more a case of 'hey wouldn't it be nice if we could change this and help out our oppressed brothers...' type of reasoning. Hence the white guilt line being a reasonably accurate one. To my view it's what is happening with the gay marriage debate a bit too, wanna-be do-gooders latching onto the latest issue and raging online about it. That's overly simplistic of course, just my opinion.

Also agree with Dean in #73 "Look, I hate the team, and I won't shed any tears over the name, but the idea that I should feel guilty because of the mistakes of others - no matter how big those mistakes are - is absurd." If Marshall was racist in naming his team, that is sad, but to me it's largely irrelevant. Why? Because 99.9% of people would have no idea of the Redskins history. What people don't know can't hurt them.

Artmac in #67 got me thinking too. Washington Negroes would be changed immediately, I agree. But what if a team called the Negroes had played in the 60s? Can't see that name changing back then, because Negro wasn't a frowned upon word at the time. And why BTW hasn't Cleveland Indians been changed to Cleveland Native Americans? I'm worried that if we start changing team names based on current trends then we are just going to be always chasing our tails, lurching from one 'clean' name to another as trends and words change. eg. to be a little extreme, what if Green Bay Packers suddenly becomes synonymous with fudge packing? Better change it. What if there are a high number of Bear attacks and deaths? Better change the Bears to something else...In the end to be safe teams might just be named after sponsors...and no one wants that!

And #59 batesbruce talks sense. Easiest way to solve this is to get a high profile group of Native Americans to decide the issue. Either by partnering with Snyder, embracing the Redskins name and maybe suggesting a few tweaks to Redskins lore and PR, or by thoroughly rejecting it and fighting it. This is also one way to know this name is not really a big issue. Either Snyder would have paid off said group by now to keep the Native Americans on side, or some big legal actions would have been launched.

by Jerry :: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 6:51am

It's not "a big issue that needs addressing urgently", and I don't think the most passionate proponents of change would claim that it would mean any kind of significant improvement in anyone's life.

Nonetheless, the name is a slur, it's always been a slur, and it's easy to understand why some people would take issue with it.

If the team had changed its name decades ago, we'd now look back at "Redskins" the way we do goofy striped uniforms of the '30s or the head slap - "Can you believe they actually called a team that?" It's a little disappointing to realize that eventually the name will change, and we'll be part of that "they".

by geraldr416 (not verified) :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 10:02am

actually folks still make fun of the wizards name, thank goodness we got rid of the original logo.

the logic they used to change the original name was at the time specious and generally garnered little support from the fans, though the media and politicians loved it.

Of course, using same logic, should now change all the Chicago teams whose names reflect the capacity to do inflict violence as they certainly is why Chicago is now where Washington used to be.

But at base case, it was Mr. Pollins team and he could call it what he wanted. Didn't need a reason.

Similarly with Mr. Snyder.