Let me say this from the get-go: I’m a lifelong, avid Washington Redskins fan. Some of my favorite childhood memories come from games I attended, particularly the Skins NFC championship game victory over the Cowboys before moving on to beat the Dolphins for their first Super Bowl ring. My initial reaction to the name-change argument was typical of most fans’ – I thought it was an overblown, PC reaction to a few protesters’ complaints. Over time, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s really no good argument for the team keeping its name and this article offers the best reasoning I’ve seen for changing the name:
To a greater or lesser degree, the casual denigration of Native Americans sullies all the professional sports teams with Indian mascots, including the Braves, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Cleveland Indians. But only the Washington team incorporates that denigration in its very name. When you a pronounce a slur, you affiliate yourself with the attitudes and actions of all the people who have used it before you, whatever your personal feelings about the group it refers to. There’s no exemption for good intentions, or even for ignorance. “Nigger” stings even in the mouth of a child who doesn’t know it’s offensive…
But everything changes when you come to realize that Redskins is genuinely offensive to some. A lot of fans react by getting defensive, decrying the whining oversensitivity of the complainers, railing about PC and the thought police. At that point, though, the game is already up. Once that testy or belligerent note creeps into the chants and songs, they can’t be innocent fun anymore. Best give it up, so the conversation can return to football.
As Terry Bradshaw puts it, “Finally I’ve given it some thought, and if it’s really offending people … Everybody loves the Washington Redskins but they can be the Washington something else.” This was never about PC, just manners.
I recently had someone tell me that he’d like to see the team name changed to the Washington Senators. My reaction to that was, “Well, these days that’s a term that would be denigrating to all but 100 people in this country.”