A few caveats out of the way up front so later I am not constantly qualifying everything I say. I am an American and when I use the term “football” I don’t mean soccer, I mean American football. I am not a fanatic (which is where the word “fan” comes from) about any team or sport. Also, if I use the term “Indian” I mean Native American, not a citizen of India. I also know there are a few people who will try to insult me and call me a liberal but you can go ahead and call me names. I think this is different than a conservative versus liberal discussion. I consider myself mainly conservative or at least a right-leaning moderate but if this opinion makes me a liberal, well, so be it.
I listened to one of the local talking heads this morning on the radio and they were discussing the fact that the Washington Redskins football team will be considering a name change very soon. This idea has been kicked around more than a soccer ball over the years. Indian/Native American groups and advocates have asked this team and several others to do this for years. I was pretty shocked to hear him say that he didn’t think too many Native Americans were very concerned about this and that they were likely to be a lot more worried about meth and alcoholism on the reservation. To me, that was a pretty shallow, callow thing to say. He obviously doesn’t know too many Native Americans. Of course, it depends on how you word the question, too. “What do you think is the biggest problem on the reservation” is a different question than, “Are you a Washington Redskins fan?”
No, Richard, you got this wrong. Sorry. There isn’t a professional sports team that would call itself by any other derogatory or racially charged name with a cartoonish or stereotypical mascot. Is there a team owner in his or her right mind that would call their team some name and send out a mascot in blackface at halftime doing some stereotypical, racial performance? I know the “Fighting Irish” is a real thing, but how about starting a new team called “The Boston Drunken Irishmen?” Probably not going to happen, right? Richard, did anyone explain to you that the term “Redskin” is as much a racially charged term as the “N” word is(You’ll never see it spelled out in this blog because I was taught it was a bad cuss word, which it is a bad word.)? How about the California Chinks? Or the San Francisco Japs? You’d have to be out of your mind!
It was an issue when I went to Shawano High School back in the seventies. Our team was the Shawano Indians and the cheerleaders would wear “war paint.” Where I grew up there was an Indian reservation 7 miles to the north of town, a different one about 15 miles away and another within 30 miles. There are several more in a couple hundred-mile radius as well. In school, there were the jocks, the rich kids, the farmers, the dirtbags, the stoners, and the Indians. I fit in best with the Indians because I wasn’t good enough to fit in with any of the other groups. I had some friends who were dirtbags and a few who were stoners but other than the one or two really good friends I had, most of them were from the Menominee tribe. They were nice to me and I was never disrespectful to them and we got along. The cheerleaders coming out in their “war paint” and pretend dances and war-hoops was pretty insulting, but most of my friends took it in stride at the time because several of the really good players were from the Rez and were kind of heroes, respected by both groups.
They built a high school up there and some of my friends went there while some decided to finish out with the school they started in. They were the Menominee Eagles. It wasn’t until 1993 that Shawano changed their name to the Hawks and the argument about the Redskins’ name is much older than that.
So, a rumor that I saw around the Internet is that Jeff Bezos is thinking of buying the team. This would be a good thing. Bezos is a marketing genius who would have enough sense to turn the whole thing to his advantage, which current owner Daniel Snyder could still do. Make it your own decision and sell it as such. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” He could say, “After careful consideration, we have decided to rename the team…” Do it this year, when all of your fanatics are at a loss for what to do anyway and you don’t even know if you’re going to get to play. Bezos will do it if he buys. I bet he would use his brand, too. He would just have to make sure that the Washington Amazonians don’t have a seven-foot-tall woman warrior for a mascot.
Oh, yes, I know there are arguments against changing the name but unless you have had your head in the sand or live in some other country, you have to realize that it’s inevitable. That’s why I said it would be a smart marketing move to own it beforehand. Yes, it’s going to cost money and be a pain, even though I have read that there are some announcers who have refused to say the name “Redskins” for years and instead just say, “And Washington is at the ten-yard line,” or whatever. The fans won’t leave. Not the true fanatics. They will grumble and cry and whine and complain, at least until they find out their collectibles and paraphernalia are worth more than they ever expected. And some will get on the bandwagon and buy up as much new merchandise from the team and sell later on down the road. The fans will know that they are all the same players and nothing about the team has changed, except the name. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m not a fan, anyway. Now, if meatpackers from around the world demanded that the Green Bay team change its name…Nah, not too likely.
I could help them rename the team easily enough, though. How hard can it be? We are talking about Washington D.C., right? How about the Washington Scumbags? The D.C. Dirtballs? Or the Thieves, or the Idiots? But wait. Why insult Thieves, Idiots, Dirtballs, or Scumbags? Why not call them the Washington Congress‽