Matthew McConaughey doesn’t look like he cares. Daniel Snyder certainly appears to have no cause for concern. Robert Griffin III doesn’t have time to worry. And I don’t really care either.
But, the thing is, it really isn’t up to any of us to decide if the Washington Redskins should change their name.
It’s up to our Native American brethren to decide — maybe, with a little help from some corporate sponsorship (or lack there of) — if the name “Redskins” is offensive.
Is the term offensive to me? Not particularly. I've never lost one minute of sleep over what any of our sports teams, college or pro, are called. But as a white male in this country, it’s not my place to decide if the name is hateful or not.
As Snyder and many others have reported, there is plenty of support for the Redskins name among Native Americans. That is their prerogative and their right and we should all respect that. But that opinion is not one that is shared amongst all Native Americans, and if there is just one cross-section, one group or one tribe who deem this term insulting, then isn’t changing the name the right thing to do?
When Snyder created The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation (OAF), the National Congress of American Indians responded:
“This foundation will only contribute to the problems in Indian Country if it does not address the very real issue of how Native people are consistently stereotyped, caricaturized and denigrated by mascot imagery and the use of the R-Word slur.”
Look up the word “redskin” in any dictionary. The one word that is consistent throughout all definitions is “offensive.” It doesn’t take an Ivy League professor of sociology to understand that the word isn’t meant as a compliment. Even if it is just used to describe a football team.
Imagine how horrific the response would be if “red” was changed to describe any other race of American citizen? We would, rightly so, explode in outrage.
From a moral standpoint, the decision seems pretty clear. Even if I’ve only ever used the word to describe a bunch of grown men running head-first into each other at full speed for millions of dollars.
As much as I don’t want this type of debate to be removed from the court of public opinion and placed into the hands of politicians, unfortunately, it’s the powerbrokers in D.C. and Corporate USA who could control the future of the name. Recently, 50 U.S. Senators signed a letter urging the NFL to formerly support a name change. In a perfect world, these elected officials are representing their constituents. In a perfect world, their motives would be completely pure and for the betterment of the people.
We all know this isn’t a world we live in and that money, not moral obligation, is the driving force behind most major decisions. The NFL won’t be forced into action based on a letter signed by Harry Reid. No, it would formally support a name change if — and only if — the debate begins to impact the bottom line. That means sponsorship dollars.
A recent social media ploy/blunder from the Redskins to garner public support over NOT changing their name completely backfired. If the responses to the below tweet are indicative of how the greater Native American population feels — which may still be up for debate — then the discussion has reached a tipping point.
There is good news, however. Rarely does a perfect solution arise from an imperfect situation but that is what Snyder and his organization are facing. The Redskins were founded in 1932 as the Boston Braves. The organization eventually moved to Washington after changing its name to Redskins. Why not simply go back to Braves?
Or, gasp, change the name all together. The Washington Federals has a nice ring. What about the Washington Presidents? The Washington Senators? Or we could have some fun. The Washington Filibusters? Washington Do-Nothings? (Okay, I digress.)
Is there a legitimate debate to be had about whether or not the Redskins' name is offensive? Certainly, but why not change the name and do away with the need for a debate in the first place. Frankly, a name change would provide extremely lucrative branding and merchandising opportunities for Snyder.
And if there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that NFL owners love money more than pretty much anything else, including tradition.