DEBATE: Redskins should change their name

The name of the Washington football team has been an issue of contention for the past number of years. Image by: Keith Allison
The name of the Washington football team has been an issue of contention for the past number of years. Image by: Keith Allison

Racism is something that, as a society, we like to imagine has been eradicated, but the simple fact is that it has not. It is still rampant, and there is no clearer indication of this than the Washington Redskins.

The most frequently used word to justify the use of the term “redskin” as the team’s moniker is ‘tradition’ – so let’s discuss the Redskin tradition.

The Redskins were founded by George Preston Marshall – a well renowned racist, who petitioned the league to excluded black players from its ranks. After the league failed to back the proposal, he ensured that his team remained ‘white-only’ for as long as possible.

He famously quipped that “We’ll [the Redskins] start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.”

Marshall bought the football team when they were a Boston outfit called the Braves. He moved them to Washington and claimed that he didn’t want the association with the previous team so renamed his team the more highly obvious Redskins.

Is that really a tradition that the Washington team and its current owner Dan Synder really want to preserve, or worth preserving for that matter?

Dan Synder recently wrote in a letter defending the team’s name that a recent poll showed that 90 per cent of Native Americans claimed they were not offended by the team’s name. But the fact remains, ten per cent are.

To paraphrase the current NFL commissioner, Rodger Goodell, if one person is offended, let alone one in every ten, then change must be seriously considered.

Many black people, especially those in the music industry, have attempted to claim the n-word as their own. To remove it from a word of hate and instill within it a sense of respect.

Despite the modern-day dilution of the historical racial connotations attached to the n-word, the idea of it being used as a sports name is inconceivable.

Never will a day come that the Baltimore Blacks or the New York Negroes line out in the NFL, so why should it be deemed acceptable by the team’s owners, the league’s upper echelon, or the general public, to have a name derived from hate grace the sport.

Dan Synder, and anyone else who who roots for the name to remain, will argue that the nickname is honorary.

However, this could not be further from the case.

Honorary monikers are those in which celebrate tribes names such as the Braves, the Blackhawks, the Chiefs. The Redskins does not fall into that category.

The term Redskin evolves from the practice of scalping Native Americans to collect a bounty in precolonial America.

The term describes a period in which Native Americans endured horrific and barbaric treatment at the hands of imperialists, in the pursuit of profit. And the exploitation of the Native Americans for profit is still ripe today.

Forbes currently value the Washington Redskins trademark at $1.1 billion – the 8th richest sports franchise trademark in the world.

The only colour that the owners of the Redskins are concerned about is green.

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