Blue vs. White: Politically correct debates have no place with sports teams
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08
Is it appropriate to change the name of a sports team or mascot?
Sports teams in America have often used Native American imagery as their mascot or namesake – from the high school to professional level – for as long they have existed. Native American culture is as American as apple pie. Native Americans, as a people, have been historically portrayed in our society as a strong, brave and rugged group, which is the reason so many teams choose such Native American imagery to associate with themselves. I am sure most people would agree there is nothing wrong with professional sports teams using names such as ‘Indians,’ ‘Blackhawks’, and ‘Braves.’ Athletes and teams often pay homage to the tribal mindset and wish to be thought of as warriors. However, this becomes a controversial issue when, in the Washington Redskins’ case, a professional team uses a derogatory term as its namesake. While I agree that the term Redskin is questionable, I am not sure that alone justifies sufficient reason to pressure the team to change its name.
Let me first say I am in no way attempting to be insensitive to Native Americans. I understand the bloody history involving the uprooting of their people as well as the contemporary importance in melding our cultures while still retaining an appreciation for their unique traditions. However, when I see people who aren’t Native Americans angrily calling for the organization to change its name, I see one more instance in a long pattern of Americans becoming over sensitized to political incorrectness.
I have never heard somebody use the term redskin in conversation and I don’t think it is because people are consciously aware Native Americans find it offensive and therefore substitute a different word. ‘Redskin’ has simply fallen out of our vocabulary. This does not necessarily mean that the term is no longer derogatory, but it does speak to the fact that the term is no longer plaguing the marketplace of ideas with its’racist connotations.
The point I am trying to make is that I am not even sure this was an issue before somebody mentioned it. When the Redskins first named themselves 60 years ago, there is no way they would have chosen an overtly racist term. It is simply not logical to name your team, which is a commercial enterprise, using a term that most people found blatantly derogatory. It’s just not a good business practice. Therefore, I don’t think the team’s name was originally intended to be offensive nor do I believe for the reasons I stated above that the name has become increasingly offensive.
In reality, the term is meagerly offensive to a small group of Americans. And while I sympathize with those Americans, I don’t believe the term is egregious enough for a private enterprise to be forced to change its name (i.e. pressured by the city of Washington DC). I think we have advanced as a society to the point where we should not take anybody who uses a term in a derogatory manner seriously. However, there is a difference in using a derogatory term in a manner that is dismissive of its original intent and using a term derisively. The name of the Washington DC football team was never intended to be used negatively and those who are claiming it is so hurtful that not changing it would be a gigantic transgression against an entire people are grasping at straws.
While we should strive to make all subgroups of our diverse society happy, some people become too preoccupied with political incorrectness. These are the same people who consider calling those who formed this nation, “The Founding Fathers,” sexist.
The Washington Redskins should retain their name until they themselves feel they should change it. Would I personally feel better if they decided to go with something more neutral? Sure. But unlike many, I’m not going to play the political correctness card on an organization that never intended to offend anyone. If we are going to become more accepting as a society, it is going to be through earnest discussion about more important issues, not the name of a football team.
Read the other side of this issue here.