So great wailing and gnashing of teeth right now over the Washington Redskins changing or keeping their name. Team owner Daniel Snyder continues to say they won’t change it, even as pressure continues to build to get rid of it.
A recent Washington Post poll showed that 61 percent of D.C. residents approve of the name — a majority, but not a lot in this regard. Can you imagine someone asking Seattle-area residents if they like the name “Seahawks”? Approval would be around 99 percent.
In May, ten members of Congress sent a letter to Snyder urging him to change the name, citing that its offensive to many Native Americans.
Two of those are Darrell Green and Art Monk, the Hall of Fame former Redskins’ cornerback and wide receiver, respectively, who have 10 Pro Bowls and five Super Bowl rings between them. They each spoke with WTOP radio in Washington D.C. recently and came down in favor of changing the name.
“[If] Native Americans feel like Redskins or the Chiefs or [another] name is offensive to them, then who are we to say to them ‘No, it’s not’?” Monk told the radio station.
“It deserves and warrants conversation because somebody is saying, ‘Hey, this offends me,’ ” Green said
On the other side is Joe Theismann, the not-Hall-of-Fame ex-Redskins quarterback who discussed the issue on Sirius-XM Radio last week:
“I wore the Redskins uniform with great pride to represent the Native American nations of this country. When we won the Super Bowl in 1982, I was given a headdress from one of the chiefs, I can’t quite remember the tribe. But I consider it one of the finest things I’ve ever received, as far as an award goes and a presentation.
“So to me, great pride in the football team I played for. I represented the Washington Redskins hopefully in a way that they’re proud [of]. To me, I think we honor the Native American nations by going out and doing everything we can to put the best product out there on the field.”
Um yeah, but remember this, Joe?
In a 1993 story in the Miami Herald about Burger King’s then-new chief executive Jim Adamson, a friend of Theismann’s, Joe said this:
“Jim has an ability to coordinate people around a vision and a goal,” Theismann said in the piece. “He is a consummate competitor.”
That, Theismann adds, is why he sent Adamson a special gift when the BK appointment was announced: an Indian headdress.
“As a former Redskin, it seemed appropriate,” Theismann says. “But the real message was: Now, the chief has his headdress.”
Fun fact: In 1970 Theismann, who played at Notre Dame, came in second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Jim Plunkett of Stanford. Two years later Stanford dropped its “Indians” nickname and replaced it with “Cardinal”.
Forty-one years later, the NFL team in our nation’s capital is dodging brickbats over the same issue. It reminds me somewhat of 1961. You remember ’61, right, Redskins’ fans? That was the last year that your team was the only NFL franchise without a black player.
In a quote that kind of reminds me of Snyder, then-Redskins owner George Preston Marshall said: “We’ll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.”
That changed when Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall threatened to take away the team’s right to use D.C. Stadium (which was on Federal Parks Dept. property, and financed by public money), unless Marshall desegregated the team. Which after much complaining and continued pressure from the Kennedy administration, he did.
Perhaps we’re on that track now with the Redskins name. We’ll see.