Blue vs. White: Names like ‘Redskins’ are offsensive to all parties involved
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013 11:02
Is it appropriate to change the name of a sports team or mascot?
Recently, there has been renewed controversy over the name of the Washington Redskins football team. Vincent Gray, the mayor of Washington, D.C., called for the Redskins to change their name before being allowed to return to Washington (they currently play their home games in the suburb of Landover, Md.). Some people have agreed with Gray, calling the name offensive and demanding to be changed, while others have argued for its retention. This controversy has led to broader debate about whether any Native American inspired team names should be allowed, or whether names such as Indians and Braves should be abolished as well.
The term “Redskin” is inherently offensive to Native Americans and therefore the Washington football club should be renamed.
In addition to using an inherently offensive, racist term, the Redskins have a logo that perpetuates racial stereotypes. It features a dark-skinned man with a feathered headdress and war paint. It essentially depicts the “Redskin” as a savage war beast, exactly how they are portrayed in negative stereotypical roles. If the nickname was not bad enough, this logo just makes things worse. However, abolishing the logo is a necessary, but not sufficient, step. The whole name needs to go.
Some people might disagree and argue that the name “Redskin” is not offensive. However, I am sure that if a sports team tried to use the nickname “Yellowskins” in reference to Asians, they would be widely decried as racist. This would be especially true if they featured as their logo a stereotypical Asian man with squinty eyes and a pointy hat. However, as long as they were using terms offensive to Asians, it would be racist. Similarly, if a team tried to use the nickname “Blackskins” and have a stereotypical Uncle Tom caricature as their logo, they would be widely decried as racist against African-Americans. There is no way those two nicknames could exist today.
This is why I am surprised the Redskins nickname has lasted so long. It is just as racist to call a Native American a “Redskin” as it is to call an Asian a “Yellowskin” or an African-American a “blackskin” or a European a “whiteskin.” This is a totally different situation from generic nicknames such as “Braves,” “Indians” or “Chiefs.” None of those terms are inherently offensive. On the other hand, the term “Redskins” is inherently racist and should be eliminated.
Of course, others might accuse me of being “politically correct” and tell me to stop being oversensitive. However, this is not just a case of being politically correct. Although reaction to generic, inoffensive nicknames such as Indians, Braves and Chiefs may be construed as oversensitivity and political correctness, the use of an inherently offensive name is something completely different.
Similarly, I have no problem with San Diego State University taking the nickname Aztecs. However, if they instead took a nickname that was inherently offensive to Mexicans or Latinos, I would call for it to be changed, as would most decent people. “Aztecs” is neither offensive to the indigenous people of Mexico nor to the present day population in general. It is a word that is used to describe a historic group of natives. However, a nickname that was as racist a term as “Redskin” would be inappropriate. When it comes to the Redskins’ name, it is not just “politically correct” to call for the name to be changed – it is flat-out correct.
The club’s nickname will be 80 years old this coming season, dating back to 1933 when the team was still located in Boston. At that time, racism was far more prevalent than it is today, and it could have been considered acceptable to have a racist nickname. However, society has changed and today we no longer tolerate racism – we criticize it when we see it. The use of such a racist nickname by a sports franchise should no longer be considered acceptable.
For their inaugural 1932 season, the Redskins were known as the Boston Braves. Even if they returned to that moniker instead of using one that has nothing to do with Native Americans, it would be acceptable. However, whatever they decide to replace it with, the Washington football club must change its name.
Read the other side of this issue here.