Are We Seriously About To Start Another NFL Season With A Team Called The ‘Redskins’?
I know: This topic has been covered before. This site in particular has made a point of covering -- some might say harping on --- the fact that the Washington NFL team is called the "Redskins." In fact, SportsGrid decided to stop using that name almost two years ago (we're not unique on that front: other websites, writers and outlets have done the same). We've had plenty of stories on how insulting the name is, and how degrading it must be for Native Americans to suffer the indignity of being told the name means something other than a slur. It's all been done, on this site and all over the web.
But as we approach the start of the 2015 NFL season (just over a month away!) I just can't fucking believe we're going to go another year with a professional sports team -- in the country's biggest and most popular league -- named the "Redskins." Are we really that collectively backwards and dumb?
Change often happens slowly, both on an individual and collective level. I know that growing up, I didn't think twice about the name "Redskins." I also didn't think too hard about using slurs about homosexuality or even race. I would often drop these words among my friends without realizing the ramifications of what I was saying.
That's because I was 13 and about as stupid as you can be while still being considered "a man" in Jewish culture. I have since grown up and learned not to use words that are hurtful, particularly if they pertain to a marginalized group in society that already faces an uphill battle for acceptance. (It's not about being politically correct: It's about not being an asshole. This is, more or less, the most basic tenet of human decency. Not killing, not stealing, not wanting to bang your neighbors wife, not telling your dad to fuck off, not lying -- these all basically boil down to that same idea.)
And sure, people can cite polls that say a certain percentage of American Indians don't find the name offensive. People can say their father-in-law is a Native American and is totally cool with it. People can say whatever they want. Just keep in mind that:
1) These things -- the polls, your father-in-law's sentiments -- may not be an accurate reflection of that little thing we call "the truth." I can find you statistics and comments to the contrary if you'd like.
2) Does the name "Redskins" really require much critical thinking when it comes to deciding whether or not it's offensive?
Let me put it this way: We can't outlaw or ban or discontinue anything that any one person has a problem with. Because you know there's some jerk out there who will say "Everyone is my family is super tall and I take issue with teams being named 'Giants,' hurr de hurr." People often use this argument -- in all seriousness -- for names like the "Vikings" or "Buccaneers." If those team names are allowed, why isn't "Redskins"?
Because "Vikings," for example, refers to a shared culture of people -- not a physical characteristic that has for centuries been used as a slur. As Bob Costas once pointed out, "Redskin" is different from Braves, Warriors, Chiefs, etc. for that same reason. A better analogy would be using the term Whiteskins, Blackskins, Yellowskins. None of these would be acceptable in present-day society -- though they are sometimes utilized satirically to underscore this point -- yet "Redskins," because it refers to a people who have all been wiped from this country and don't have the same kind of marketing arm and public relations help as other oppressed and decimated populations, lives on. That's how Dan Snyder can go on the offensive in defense of his beloved team's moniker and not be thought of, more commonly, as a huge asshole dickhead with no conscious (well... I suppose he is. But that doesn't stop major brands from supporting his business). We lack a certain basic and minimal level of respect for Native Americans. This country always has.
So as training camps begin, and questions once again begin to arise about the state of the Washington football team as it pertains to on-field production, I can't help but be amazed and disgusted by Robert Griffin III -- not for being who he is (a generally despised bust, to this point), but because he's nonchalantly wearing a hat with the logo of a man with a red face and a feather headdress, the way one might have a logo of a Jewish guy with a hook nose and a small hat; a black guy with buck teeth and a bandanna; a woman wearing a short skirt and red lipstick; and so on. The fact that we're going to have to go through yet another season hearing this word on television, reading on our screens and keeping it in the public consciousness is nothing short of sickening.
It's 2015. Are we really still pretending like nothing is wrong here? Are we that afraid of admitting our faults, righting our wrongs and trying to do better going forward? Who are we -- Chris Mortensen? End this charade and rename them the Potato Skins or whatever else you want already.
Like... the Bonercats.
Photo via Getty
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