By Jeff Girod
“If I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team, even if they’ve had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it,” Obama said last week in an interview with The Associated Press.
Psst, Mr. President. I’m all for political correctness. But how about we un-cripple our nation’s screeching government shutdown before noodling with logos on NFL helmets? A three- to four-week shutdown could cost our economy about $55 billion, according to Moody’s Analytics.
But Obama isn’t the only one calling foul on the team name of the Washington Redskins. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last month he thinks his league should possibly reconsider the Redskins name. And Peter King, a longtime columnist for Sports Illustrated, has refused to even refer to Washington by the “R” word.
For his part, Daniel Snyder, owner of the Redskins, says he will never, ever change the team’s name. “It’s that simple,” Snyder told the USA Today. “NEVER—you can use caps.”
I don’t have strong feelings for or against the Washington Redskins. The name has been around for 80 years, I like tradition and nostalgia, and I don’t like having to memorize new things.
Then again, I’m a white guy. What do I know about being oppressed? What’s the worst you can call me? Cracker? Honky?
What does “honky” even mean? I looked it up on Wikipedia and nobody is sure where “honky” came from. One theory is “honky” derives from the African language Wolof and literally means “red-eared” or “white person.”
I am both of those things. So literally the worst racial slur you can call me is something I actually am.
I have no way of knowing how offensive the term Redskin is to Native Americans, but I can guess. When European explorers landed in North America, this entire continent was a nature’s paradise of green rolling pastures, crystal blue streams and roaming buffalo. Now it’s covered in stadiums commemorating how we bulldozed the pastures and streams so the Redskins can play the Buffalo Bills.
There was a time when North America was only full of Native Americans. Every new person a Native American met was bound to be another Native American. Now Native Americans make up 0.9 percent of the US population. They don’t even get their own full percentage point. There are quite possibly more Washington Redskins fans in the United States than actual Native Americans.
You can’t pick a name for your team like Redskins or Braves or Seminoles or Chiefs or Indians and not eventually offend somebody. You can’t, so stop arguing. Yes I’m talking to you, ma’am, the one in the Party City headdress, “war paint” and chicken bone necklace.
Between the jerseys, the felt pennants, the big dopey mascots, the cheesy fight songs, the homemade costumes and all of the alcohol being sold and guzzled . . . eventually something is going to turn a wee tiny bit racist.
Just last week, at least three Cleveland Indians fans attended a playoff game with painted red faces and white Al Jolson circles around their mouths and eyes. C’mon, how is that not racist?
I can only imagine how a Native American feels seeing some pasty accountant in $300 box seats with an argyle sweater tied around his neck, chanting like an Indian chief and waving his flabby arms like a tomahawk. Or if the accountant gets tired, he can always pay $15 for a giant Styrofoam tomahawk and plastic peace pipe full of Diet Pepsi.
What part of that is respectful? Why is it even necessary?
I’m actually a fan of the Oakland Raiders, a team named after a group of murdering, pillaging rapists — but somehow that’s not offensive. Or maybe it’s so generally reprehensible as to not offend anyone in particular. Maybe someday a group of Pirate-Americans will demand that the Raiders change its name to something completely generic like the Oakland Mauve.
Win enough games and nobody will care. And we can get back to what sports should really be about: steroids.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org