No room for this in the NFL

     Opinions about the Washington Redskins team name range from important tradition to racial slur, depending on whom you ask. It’s either an 80-year-old tradition meant to honor those of native ancestry or it’s a horrible word what shouldn’t be spoken in polite company.

Former Redskins offensive tackle Jordan Black was quoted saying “People are overly sensitive these days…the Redskins should never change their name.”

Even the great Joe Gibbs, who led the team to team to three Super Bowls and is still an advisor to the team, said in a 2013 interview “I never ever thought of it as anything negative, but it’s all been a positive and I think that’s what I reflect on when I reflect on the song, the games and everybody being loyal Redskin people.”

Current owner Dan Snyder has been the most ardent supporter of keeping the name.

“We’ll never change the name, it’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps,” he said in a USA Today article last year.

Recently, in a Washington Post sports blog, he said “A Redskin is a football player. A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskin fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride. Hopefully winning. And it’s a positive. Taken out of context – you can take things out of context all over the place – but in this particular case, it is what it is. It’s very obvious.” 

Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, has come out in support for it too. So has the legendary Mike Ditka. 

If so many are in support of the name staying the same, why change it? 

Because if any other group had a racial slur as a team name, it would have been changed 40 years ago if it even entered the owner’s mind to use it in the first place.

The pushback against the name from the Native American community is overwhelming. Twenty-three tribes have passed resolutions or issued statements in opposition to the name and 50 Native American ordinations support a change. 

And so does one of biggest names in NFL officiating. For 19 years, Mike Carey was one of the most liked and most respected officials in the game. He was also the first black referee to stand under the pressure of working an NFL Super Bowl game. 

Once he retired, we learned just how much integrity he had. The Washington Post recently quoted Carey as saying “The league respectfully honored my request not to officiate Washington,” Carey said. “It happened sometime after I refereed their playoff game in 2006, I think. 

“Human beings take social stances. And if you’re respectful of all human beings, you have to decide what you’re going to do and why you’re going to do it.”

Others in the NFL have gone on the record to comment on the name as well. 

Marv Levy, said it’s “a crude word, even if not intended to insult.”

Former Washington player, Champ Bailey said, “When you hear a Native American say that ‘Redskins’ is degrading, it’s almost like the N-word for a black person. If they feel that way, then it’s not right. They are part of this country. It’s degrading to a certain race. Does it make sense to have the name?”

And former Washington player Calvin Hill asked “Why do we want to use terms that make people feel bad?”

We are a nation whose roots are tangled in racial conflict and oppression claiming to have grown into a country of equal opportunity, yet we defend this use of deragatory language. Other racial slurs are not socially acceptable terms and would never be considered as appropriate for a team name.We avoid using those clearly offensive terms, and yet we can proudly state that we’re huge Redskins fans and even dress up as their mascot for Halloween, headdress and all. 

It’s just that Native Americans have never had the political or economic might to have their racial slur be something you’re shamed for using. 

If you are still unsure about the name, think of yourself walking up to a Native American, smiling at them, and saying, “What’s up, redskin?” Makes you feel a little queasy, doesn’t it? Good. 

-R.J. Allen

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